This week’s reading, Social Geographies: Space and Society by Gill Valentine, explores social geography. Chapter 5 was intriguing with its exploration of various institutions such as schools, prisons and asylums. Valentine begins the chapter by explaining that institutions, “are no longer defined just as fixed break and motor buildings, but have evolved to include networks of individuals, which may include resources, knowledge, and power.” This is a new theory for me as many people of my generation and earlier grew up with defined perimeters of what a school, hospital, town hall, etc… were and how society utilized their resources.
When I decided to go back in 1996 and get my undergraduate degree, I was working full time work and knew I would not be able to attend college in the traditional way. During this time colleges were experimenting with a new distance-learning concept for working adults to earn the bachelors degree in business. Mount Vernon Nazarene University had a program called Excel. This was one of the first distance learning programs for adults. It was structured where you attend class one night a week and did the rest of the work outside of class. There were no programs for graduate level work.
Fast-forward 14 years – distance learning is commonplace in our educational circles. Traditional college programs are declining and online and accelerated programs are growing because of the flexibility they offer to individuals in the fast paced environment we operate in. You can earn your doctorate degree without ever attending an in-seat class. I have never attended a traditional college program in my educational journey.
Based on what the author has expressed and my own experience with the changing landscape, I agree with Valentine that we can no longer accept the traditional definition for institutions. The shortcoming of the book is that it does not address religion and how this particular institution has evolved within social geography. Throughout history, the means in which the gospel message has been presented has changed to meet the culture of that time period. In the 1st century, individuals journeyed out to the surrounding areas to speak to people. There were no churches during this period in history. Over the centuries the church evolved into what we have today. They church built buildings and worship became centralized and structured. But the institution of the church is changing and is no longer confined to the brick and mortal buildings. Churches can become virtual and an individual church can now have a global presence.
 Gill Valentine: Social Geographies: Space and Society (Essex, England: Pearson Education Ltd., 2001), 142