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Chapter 1

GEO 106 Chapter Notes - Chapter 1: Scarborough Town Centre, Ontario Highway 401, Mental Mapping

Course Code
GEO 106
Elizabeth Carlson

of 6
Chapter One: Spatial Concepts and Spatial Dynamics
The Nature of Geography:
- Defined by its approach to study as it is by what it studies humans and environments
- Four Traditions:
The Spatial Tradition
Concerned with the nature of location, space, place, distance, direction and orientation
of humans and the environments in which they have to function
Concerned with the geometry of things, their arrangement, movement between them
and why these arrangements and movements arise
Principal goal is to explain general patterns of human settlement and behaviour
Areas Studies Tradition
Concern is with differentiating regions of places based on given sets of attributes
How does one place differ from another in terms of its culture, demographics,
economics, etc?
Geographers are concerned with describing regions and comparing them with other
Principal goal here is to describe the unique attributes of places rather than to explain
general patterns found
Human-Land Tradition
Concern is with how humans affect environments and how environments affect humans
How do we perceive environments and how we are ultimately affected by what
happens in those environments
Managing the environment and the two-way impacts between us and it
Recognizing that we and it are one thing
Environment cannot be separated from species (such as humans)
Earth Studies Tradition
Concern is with the physical structure of earth(such as the atmosphere, hydrosphere,
lithosphere, and biosphere) and the relationships among them
Goal here is to describe and explain the physical processes that constitute the planet
Absolute and Relative Frames of Reference:
- Cultural Relativity: states that truths are relative and based on an individual’s interpretation of
situations, facts, observations, etc.
- People make their judgments within a frame of reference they compare what they perceive
with what they know or expect to be the case
- Relative frames of reference are comprised of sets of presuppositions or evaluate criteria within
which a person’s perception, behaviour and decision-making take place
- We are likely to see what we want to see as what actually exists
- No guarantee that any single “correct” interpretation of an event actually exists at all
- This is called the process of “cognitive filtering” is very important and significant in our
dealings with the city and our perceptions of it
- Venn Diagram: ellipses (or other shapes) indicate one set of topics and the overlap of ellipses
demonstrates what two (or more) topics have in common. Overlap is what both sides agree
upon and thus is, perhaps, the closest we can come to a common reality
The Research Praxis:
- A reason for knowing about relativity is simply so that we know better why we make the
decisions that we do
- Reason to ensure that we do “research” is because it will achieve a goal and can be replicated by
whoever chooses to follow our path
- Basic research praxis is to answer six fundamental questions of journalism: who, what, when,
where, why and how?
- First four are descriptive questions and require good OBSERVATION powers
- Last two are the explanatory questions and are much more difficult to ponder
- All six are influenced by relativity and thus the things that you observe are selective
- You are interested in doing research because you wish to be able to solve problems
- Research: informal or formal because you need to shape your lives and/or decisions
- You need to describe so you can explain, so you can predict, so you can prescribe
- In other words, you need to describe what is there, in order that you can explain how it got that
way so that you can determine the cause and effect
- We also do research in order to decide what life should be like
Space, Location, Place:
- Space has components of distance and direction and each of those concepts can be thought of
in concrete (or absolute) or abstract (or relative) terms
- Space refers to an extent or area on the earth’s surface
- Space may be thought of as “concrete”. Research of concrete space is often descriptive
- Abstract space is often used for prescribing how things should be and for developing normative
- Important aspects of space include direction and distance
- Distance is the spatial dimension of separation
- Distance is measured in terms of the cost to overcome distance or the friction of distance
- It can be considered objectively, in which case it is called absolute distance measured in
standard units such as centimetres or kilometres
- Absolute distance has the property of symmetry: a kilometre is a kilometre no matter what
direction, time of day or mood you are in
- Distance can also be thought of subjectively; in which case it is termed relative distance and it
does NOT necessarily have symmetry relative distance is measured by time, effort, dollar cost,
or psychological hassle
- Five types of distance:
Linear distance: straight line or mileage measurement (eg: Hamilton to Toronto is 65 km)
Time distance: distance in terms of travel time (eg: Hamilton to Toronto is 1 to 2 hours
depending on time of day travelling
Cognitive distance: distance in terms of your perception of the travel (eg: Hamilton is not far
enough away! It is a hassle to drive there)
Cultural distance: the separation between you and others due to socioeconomic, ethnic, and
other characteristics. You are closer to people like you and more distant from people unlike you.
Social distance: in proxemics this refers to physical distance between people during interactions
- Direction refers to the relative position of two places or objects in space can be absolute
when it is given with reference to a specific coordinate system such as latitude and longitude
(the runway is 240 degrees) or in compass directions (the town is north-north east of Toronto),
also can be relative when we say “down east” or refer to the Far East, East Asia and Southeast
- Location refers to a particular position within space it is absolute when the position is defined
in terms of standard coordinates such as latitude and longitude (43 degrees 10 minutes north
latitude, 79 degrees 23 minutes west longitude defines the location of Toronto) and it is relative
when position is given with the respect to other locations (Toronto is closer to Hamilton than to
London often relative location refers to connectedness and accessibility so that my house has
absolute latitude-longitude location and it is close to a subway station and close to a high
- Site characteristics: soil fertility, size of building, land use zoning designation
- Situation characteristics: close to market, surrounded by low income housing, near a major
- Place refers to position with unique set of attributes
Front Country and Back Country:
- On personal level, we are on our best behaviour when we are in front country (areas which we
have to deal with the public or possibly our friends)
- We dress and act accordingly to what would be expected of us by: our peer group, our parents if
we were at home visiting, society if we are in the Eaton Centre shopping, or our culture if we are
in a mosque
- It is frowned upon if one indulges in unacceptable behaviour in front country
- You don’t openly sing on the subway unless you wish to flaunt convention: society and TTC
frown upon this and might even throw you off the train but if you sing outside the train, no one
will bother you and you might even make some money
- Front country behaviour varies with culture
- You may sing in the shower but not in the elevator
- Front country exists in classrooms, living rooms, restaurants, theatres, streets, malls, etc
- Back country exists in bathrooms, bedrooms, and sometimes even whole houses