Futures studies meets human geography

Futures studies meets human geography


Julia Wurm has been supporting the ScMI AG team with current client projects and internal research alongside her studies since summer 2021. Her master's degree in human geography with a focus on economic geography and mobility research opens up an exciting bridge to working with scenarios and future studies. In this article, she talks about her personal experiences from her studies and explains the mutual enrichment of working with ScMI.


When I answer "human geography" to the question of what I study, most people give me a quizzical look. If I go on to mention that I work at ScMI and that we develop future scenarios, the question marks and curiosity in the other person's mind usually get even bigger.


I have been studying human geography (Bachelor's and Master's degree) for 5 years now and still find it difficult to explain my degree program. How do you summarize such an exciting, diverse study program in as few sentences as possible? My explanations often end with the next question: "So, what do you do with that later?". This question is also not as easy to answer as, for example, in the case of teaching, law or medicine. As a geographer, your future career field is hardly defined or limited. One possibility, for example, is my work as a student employee at ScMI AG. I keep noticing how many parallels there are between my studies and the development of future scenarios. But let's start from the beginning...


Geography can initially be divided into two areas. Physical geography, the scientific field of geography, deals with climatology, hydrogeography, geomorphology, soil and vegetation geography and others. The components and structures, processes and households of the landscape are analyzed. The second sub-area is human geography. This consists of a mixture of societal, social, economic and political science elements. Spatial structures and processes are analyzed here in various spatial and temporal dimensions. Research topics include globalization processes, migration flows, location development, development cooperation, the impacts of climate change, the emergence of (global) inequalities or urban planning and mobility research. The list could go on and on.


In addition to the content, you gain many other skills when studying geography. Identifying, describing and analyzing a wide variety of topics teaches you to recognize connections and to approach problems in a multifaceted and interconnected way. Interdisciplinary work also stands out. The broad spectrum of topics and specialization options requires you to constantly deal with new content and thus with other scientific disciplines. In my opinion, this makes geography one of the most future-oriented and relevant degree courses, as you deal with many current social challenges and try to analyze them strategically and look for solutions.


The keyword "future-oriented" leads directly to my work as a student employee at ScMI AG. As in my studies, complex and networked thinking is required for the projects and the development of future-oriented, diverse scenarios at ScMI AG. In terms of content, each customer or internal project involves a new topic and a new sector. First, the environment will be analyzed for influencing factors and presented in a system image. We then look for correlations and dynamics, we interconnect the influencing factors and transform the key factors that emerge into future projections. In these steps, I see many similarities to my studies and can benefit from both content-related and personal skills and contribute these to the projects. I find the subsequent scenario building particularly exciting. In In my university studies, it's mainly about mapping and analyzing structures, processes and interconnections and dealing with the opportunities and challenges of these aspects for the future. Scenario development goes one step further and develops various future scenarios from the combination of future projections, which can then be visualized, evaluated and interpreted in order to draw conclusions about your own company or industry. This makes it possible to derive consequences and strategies on how to position and navigate for the future.


In many scenario projects, knowledge from human geography is irreplaceable. The way we live together, network and interact shapes how we consume and do business, what values we hold, how we act politically and what impact it has on our environment. For example, our mobility routines, values and traditions, as well as a decades-long orientation of our transport infrastructure towards the automobile, shape our traffic and can promote or hinder the changes we are striving for in the mobility transition. This is a human-geographic context that is reflected, for example, in ScMI AG projects on the future of mobility.


Increasing digitalization has an impact on everyday life, but also on companies. How is an increasingly digitalized world changing my product or service and what adjustments do I need to make in marketing and communication in the future? This is another human geographic question that reflects the complex interrelationships of a new phenomenon that is transforming all economic and social aspects and is now discussed in every scenario process.


The questions of how we want to live together, what role urban and rural spaces play, what the city center should look like in the future or how public space should be designed are linked to a wide variety of areas in human geography. For example, the previously mentioned examples of mobility and digitalization also play a major role in these urban development and spatial planning issues. These discussions can be found in projects on the future of city centers, tourism and post-corona scenarios.


These few examples once again illustrate the relevance, complexity and necessity of engaging with human geography issues. The questions challenge us to analyze our present in terms of (spatial) structures and processes and, if necessary, to look at them historically - i.e. from different time dimensions - in order to be able to look strategically into the future. I am happy to be able to use my expertise in a targeted and profitable way. Because the future of human geography is also alive and its topics are extremely relevant for our common future life and need to be explored!


Ultimately, it is a mutually enriching experience for me personally. I can apply the content of my studies and the soft skills I have learned to the work at ScMI AG, but I always take ideas from discussions back into my everyday life at university and can use them in seminars or for term papers. It's a win-win situation that illustrates how human geography and future studies go together!




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