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1 parent 324838b commit 374b4c8ab0306e361e57c58f16609bc3448c2d8d Bruce D'Arcus committed Jan 17, 2013
Showing with 104 additions and 13 deletions.
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@@ -10,7 +10,7 @@ important dates. Just as the significance of a historical perspective
lies in understanding how a sequence of events adds up to important
changes in the way we live our lives, the significance of geography
lies in understanding how the relationships across space shape our
-lives. The study of human geograpy, then, is about people and place:
+lives. The study of human geography, then, is about people and place:
about where we live, work, and socialize, and how these local lives
are tied into distant worlds.
@@ -47,33 +47,117 @@ two sides to the contemporary geography of the world.
# Basic Geographic Concepts
+So how do geographers operationalize these concerns? Like other
+disciplines, we use a set of concepts. In the following, I introduce
+you to some of the basic concepts we use in human geography.
## Location
-So how do geographers operationalize these concerns? Like other disciplines,
-we use a set of concepts. Perhaps the most basic concept in geography is
-_location_: simply and most basically _where_ something
-is. But even this simple concept has some nuances. Nothing of significance
-exists in a vaccuum, but rather takes on significance by its relation
-to what surrounds it. This gets at the distinction between _absolute
-location_ and _relative location_. Absolute location refers to an
-objective description of where something is that does not change
-depending on context; it is the same _everywhere_. The most common way
-we describe such locations is through _latitude_ and _longitude_.
+Perhaps the most basic concept in geography is _location_: simply and
+most basically _where_ something is. But even this simple concept has
+some nuances. Nothing of significance exists in a vaccuum, but rather
+takes on significance by its relation to what surrounds it. This gets
+at the distinction between _absolute location_ and _relative
+location_. Absolute location refers to an objective description of
+where something is that does not change depending on context; it is
+the same _everywhere_. The most common way we describe such locations
+is through [_latitude_ and _longitude_][latlong].
![This is an image of an absolute location marker for an historical
monument in Kosovo, a place that people have fought over for
literally centuries. While its absolute location is certainly
significant, its relative historical location helps explain why it is
- memorialized in the first place. Photo countesy Quinn Dombrowski](
+ memorialized in the first place. Photo courtesy Quinn Dombrowski](
+Relative location, by contrast, depends on context, and
+perspective. If I say "the restaurant next to that coffee shop," the
+location of that restaurant only has meaning in relation to something
+else: the coffee shop. It is therefore a description of _relative
+location_. We will come back to the importance of this in a minute.
## Distance
+Distance can be described simply as the space between two
+locations. But as with location, distance can also be described in
+absolute and relative terms. In geography, we typically describe
+absolute distance using units such as _miles_ and _kilometers_. As
+with absolute location, the notion of an absolute distance does not
+change depending on context. Ten miles is the same in Africa as it is
+in Asia; the same in 500 BC as in 2010.
+Relative distance, on the other hand, can change substantially
+depending on historical and other context. Consider a question like
+"how far is Cincinnati from Chicago?" In the 21st century, we tend to
+implicitly assume a particular mode of travel when answering that
+question: most likely a car, or potentially a plane, or even perhaps a
+train. Each of those modes of transportation will take different time,
+but the time will be measured in hours regardless. But consider if we
+were to ask the same question in 1820? At that time, the most likely
+mode of transportation would be horseback, and the time measured in
+days. While the absolute distance does not change, the relative
+distance does quite dramatically. In essence, in the 21st century,
+Chicago is relatively much closer to Cincinnati than it was in 1820.
## Scale
+We tend to use _scale_ in two ways in geography. The first, which we
+will focus less on here, is as a [ratio in map-making][map-scale] to convert a
+distance on a map to a (much larger) distance on the earth's
+surface. The second way we use scale in geography is as a description
+of the relative size of a pattern or process. In common language, the
+following are all descriptions of scale:
+ * global
+ * regional
+ * national
+ * urban
+ * neighborhood
+ * street
+ * body
+When we use a term like _globalization_ to describe contemporary change,
+we are really describing a change in the relative relations among
+these geographic scales; perhaps implicitly suggesting that processes
+operating at larger scales are taking increasing precedence over those
+at smaller scales.
## Diffusion
+So far, we have been dealing with fairly static concepts. Diffusion is
+inherently dynamic, and about the movement over space of things
+(ideas, practices and innovations, people, etc.) from one place to
+another. Again: let's distinguish two ways to understand
+diffusion. The most basic we can call _spatial diffusion_ or
+_contagious diffusion_. This ideas describes a process where things
+move much like a virus: from one place to a place that is absolutely
+_Hierarchical diffusion_, by contrast, involves movement between
+places that are most intensely connected. Consider, for example, that
+there is massively more travel of people between Los Angeles and
+Manhattan, than there is between a small town in upstate New York and
+Manhattan, despite the fact that the latter two places are absolutely
+much closer. Why? Well, one obvious factor is LA and New York are two,
+very large, intensely-connected, cities.
+In practice, though, in the 21st century, much diffusion involves both
+hierarchical and spatial aspects. Ask yourself: how does the flu, or
+new fashion styles, diffuse?
## Site and Situation
+Last pair of concepts: _site_ and _situation_. _Site_ refers to the
+objective physical characteristics of a place: its location, its
+physical features, and so forth. _Situation_ refers instead to the
+particular context a site exists in at any particular time. New York,
+for example, exists at a particular latitude and longitude, at the
+confluence of some major rivers, with a fantastic natural harbor. That
+fact alone cannot explain why it has become the major global city that
+it is. The natural harbor is mostly meaningless without the technology
+of ships, and global trade that has, for the past few centuries, been
+heavily-dependent on shipping.
# Basic Geographic Arguments
With these basic concepts in hand, we can begin with some basic
@@ -84,4 +168,11 @@ with each other
2. nevertheless, the quantity and quality of interactions between places differs
3. places that are closer together, and therefore separated by
-less relative distance, tend to interact more
+less relative distance, tend to interact more; those farther away tend
+to interact less
+4. the scales of connection we are exposed to on a daily basis today
+are larger and more intense than they were in the past

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