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19 JUN 2019 (WED) 10:00-12:00 | 25 JUN 2019 (TUE) 11:30-12:15

Updated: Sep 15, 2020

Economic Geography

MAP Library, Rm10.10, 10/F, Jockey Club Tower, Centennial Campus, HKU


19JUN2019(WED) 10:00-10:45am

A Tale of Three Forces: Geography, Collaboration and Innovation

Dr Frank van der Wouden

About the Speaker:

Dr Frank van der Wouden is an economic geographer interested in the spatial uneven distribution of economic activities and networks of collaboration that link together people and places. His work uses data-mining tools, machine learning techniques, methods from social network analysis and econometric models. Currently, he is working as a post-doctoral research fellow at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and the Northwestern Institute on Complex Systems. He holds a PhD in Economic Geography form the University of California, Los Angeles – supervised by David Rigby, Michael Storper and Eric Sheppard – and Research Master’s degree in Economic Geography from Utrecht University working with Ron Boschma.


Innovation is seen as a key driver of economic development, but is unevenly distributed across space, giving rise to patterns of regional disparities in economic fortunes. Recent evidence shows that the production of knowledge – the key ingredient of innovation – is increasingly being dominated by collaboration and teamwork. The interactions of collaboration can provide a platform over which resources flow between regions, boosting opportunities for knowledge sharing and learning, promoting a globalizing world economy. However, collaborating across geographical distance is costly – especially when frequent face-to-face interactions are required. Yet, there is very little empirical evidence on the complex interplays between collaboration, innovation and geography. This research seminar is an overview of my work on the relationships between these three forces. In the first part I introduce a novel inventor-patent data constructed using data-mining and machine learning tools. This data holds geographical and technological information on all (co-)inventors on more than 3 million US patents between 1836-1975. I investigate the relationship between complexity and collaboration in innovation, and how geography impacts this relationship. In the second part, I examine whether inventors moving between cities and/or firms have greater productivity than similar non-mobile inventors. I will end by highlighting three exciting future research areas in economic geography.


19JUN2019(WED) 11:15am-12:00pm

The Multi-scalar Spatiality of Digital Economy in China:

Contemporary Patterns and Future Prospects

Dr Xiang Zhang

About the Speaker:

Dr Xiang Zhang is a faculty member from the Department of Global and Intercultural Studies at Miami University of Ohio in the US. He is an economic geographer focusing on the social impact of digital economy and the Internet and the geography of economic development in the Global South. His research is solidly grounded by social theories and post-structuralist epistemology, which covers contemporary socioeconomic issues related to the spatial interaction of economic activities in the Asia-Pacific Region.

Dr. Zhang completed his PhD in geography from the University of Kansas under the guidance from Barney Warf. He is also an HKU alumnus with an honours bachelor’s degree in economics.


In recent years, digital economy has become a phenomenal symbol for the ongoing socioeconomic transformation in China. Driven by the growth of the Internet and cyberspace, digital economy changes both the traditional patterns of economic transactions and the social relations embedded in social activities. Digital economy is a new catalyst for economic growth in China as it reduces restrictions to market access and the costs of transaction. Under the ontological framework of a multi-scalar and multi-dimensional analysis towards the spatial structure of economic geography in China, this seminar examines the geography of digital economy in China within a theoretical framework grounded by poststructuralism theory and neoclassical economics. This research refers to one widely perceived instrument, e-commerce, as an evaluator for the digital economy to assess the impact of digital economy in the production of new economic space in China. After briefing the background of the development of digital economy in China, the spatiality of digital economy and its correlation to socioeconomic variables are inspected by a mixed method approach including qualitative, quantitative and geovisualization techniques. Results of this research address that the growth of digital economy in China presents a complex pattern of inequality constrained by local economic, politic, and infrastructure conditions. The growth of digital economy in China illustrates a hybrid feature in terms of spatiality, which relies on structures in both cyberspace and physical space. Moreover, identifying these contemporary patterns ignites further discussions on the role of digital economy in the process of growing multiplicity and hybridity of economic geography. Therefore, various aspects of future pathways for both empirical and theoretical research on economic geography in the Internet era will also be introduced.


25JUN2019(TUE) 11:30am-12:15pm

From Idea Exploration to Policy Formation:

Exploring the Applications of Big Data in Urban Research

Dr Mi Diao

About the Speaker:

Dr Mi Diao received his Bachelor and Master degrees of Architecture from Tsinghua University, China; and Master of City Planning and Ph.D. degrees from the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). After his graduation from MIT, he joined the Department of Real Estate in the School of Design and Environment at the National University of Singapore (NUS) as an assistant professor. He is now a senior research fellow at the Institute of Real Estate and Urban Studies at NUS. His research focuses on big data analytics, infrastructure and economic development, transport policy and travel behavior, real estate and housing policy, and agent-based microsimulation models for integrated land use, transport, and environmental planning.


Emerging big data have provided enormous opportunities for researchers and policymakers to monitor, understand, plan, and manage cities in a more efficient and responsive manner. In this seminar, the speaker will present his explorations in big-data-based urban research. Three layers of applications, including visualization, measurement, and modelling, will be illustrated with examples, which cover a broad range from idea exploration to policy formation. The examples presented include: 1) visualizing the spatial patterns of mobility demands with multiple types of big data; 2) understanding individual mobility and activity patterns from mobile phone traces; and 3) modelling the labor supply decisions of cabdrivers with taxi GPS data.


Places are limited & prior registration is encouraged.



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