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chpt 1 - Spatial Concepts & Spatial Dynamics .docx

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Ryerson University
GEO 106
Maria Piccioni

Chapter 1: Spatial Concepts & Spatial Dynamics What is Geography? - Systematic geography – it attempts to describe, explain, predict and prescribe what goes on in the world, especially the world as it affects humans and the way humans affect the world - Geography is as much defined by its approach to study as it is by what is studies – humans and environments - One way to consider the approaches used by geographers is to look at what are called Pattison’s (1964) four traditions: 1. The spatial tradition – concern is with the nature of location, space, place, distance, direction and orientation of humans the environments in which they have to function. Geographers are concerned with the geometry of things, their arrangement, movement between them, and why these arrangements and movements arise. The principal goal is to explain general patterns of human settlement and behaviour 2. Area studies tradition – concern is with differentiating regions of places based on given sets of attributes. How does one place differ form another in terms of its culture, demographics, economics, etc. They are concerned with describing regions and comparing them with other regions. Principal goal is to describe the unique attributes of places rather than to explain any general patterns found 3. Human-land tradition – concern with how humans affect environments and how environments affect humans (how we perceive environments, how we use and abuse environments, how we are ultimately affected by what happens in those environments) Principal goal = while involving good description and explanation, is focused on managing the environment and the 2-way impacts between us and it, recognizing that it and we are actually one thing. So, environment can’t be separated from the species (humans) that partially comprise it, and the Human-Land tradition focuses on these interrelationships. 4. Earth studies tradition – concern is with the physical structure of the earth (its atmosphere, hydrosphere, and lithosphere, and biosphere) and the relationships among them. Goal is to describe and explain the physical processes that constitute the planet - Today most geographers follow loose interpretations of the spatial and human-land traditions. Geographers are concerned with how space and distance affect people’s behaviour Absolute and Relative Frames of Reference - The notion of cultural relativity is a spin off from the physical theory of relativity - Cultural relativity states that truths are relative and based on an individual’s interpretation of situations, facts, observations, etc. People make their judgements within a frame of reference – they compare what they perceive with what they know or expect to be the case, they make spatial decisions, and they act - These relative frames of reference are comprised of sets of presuppositions or evaluative criteria within which a person’s perception, behaviour and decision-making take place - So decisions are constrained by these frames of reference: we are as likely to see what we want to see as what actually exists - This process of cognitive filtering is very important and significant in our dealings with the city, and our perceptions of it. o Any event or situation we (Two people) perceive is filtered by (each of) our preconceived sets of suppositions, by (each of) our cultural biases and demographic attributes, and by (each of) our personality traits, to give different (sometimes completely divergent) interpretations of what we (each of us) see o Venn diagram: ellipses (other shapes) indicate one set of topics (what each person believes is the truth about the universe) and the overlap of ellipses (or other shapes) demonstrates what two (or more) topics have in common. The overlap is what we both agree upon, and is, perhaps, the closest we can come to a common reality (this overlap is what we both agree to as real) (Figure 1.1 - pg.3) - Cognitive filtering is the real world through your gender, age, culture, personality, the way you define yourself o You, us (common ground – taxes, healthcare), me - The process of cognitive filtering and relative frames of reference is further complicated by the ability to learn and integrate new concepts and constructs, b/c these things are cumulative, building one upon another as you learn throughout your life - You have limited ability to process info into something meaningful, due to your own unique set of intellectual capacities and the cultural, economic, demographic and gender biases that comprise you The Research Praxis - Know about relativity, simply so that we know better why we make the decisions we do - More objective reason – to ensure that when we do “research” on a project for work, for school, for the house, for ourselves as we try to make it through life – that we do consistent research – will achieve a goal, and can be replicated by whoever chooses to follow our path - We all do research in our professional capacities or as human beings - The basic research praxis (process) is to answer the 6 fundamental questions of journalism: who, what, where, when, why and how - The first 4 are the descriptive questions and require good observation powers - The last 2 are the explanatory questions and are much more difficult to ponder, requiting an analytical mind - All 6 questions are influenced by relativity, and the things you observe are selective b/c you are selective, b/c you are unique – almost - You do research, either formal or informal, b/c 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 - You need, in other words, to describe what is there, in order that you can explain how it got that way, so that you can determine cause and effect, and hopefully emulate or mitigate those causes and effects, depending on whether you want them repeated or not - Also do research in order to decide what life should be like – you are looking for “norms” and the research approach is called normative - Figure 1.2: The Research Praxis o Research question aka problem to be solved o Description, idiographic  who, what, where, when o Explanation, nomothetic  how, why - Figure 1.3 The Research Steps o Describe  explain  predict  prescribe o What does it look like? What happened?  Why does it look that way? Why did it happen?  What is going to happen?  What can we do about it? o Descriptive tools & observation  theory and concept  forecasting and modeling  needs assessment goals setting Space, Location, Place - Geographers have their own “culture” and perspectives, thus when you work in the spatial tradition in geography, space, location, and place are important concepts to know Space - Space has components of distance and direction and each of those concepts can be thought of in concrete (or absolute) or in abstract (or relative) terms - Space refers to an extent or area on the earth’s surface. Space may be thought of as concrete, that is the actual surface of the earth with all its complexities - Research of concrete space is often descriptive - Space may be generalized with all its complications smoothed out - Abstract space is often used for prescribing how things should be and for developing normative models - Distance and direction are important aspects of space Distance - Distance is the spatial dimension of separation, thus it’s seen as a barrier to interaction, which may be good or poor depending on what wants to interact - Distance is measured in terms of the cost to overcome distance or the friction of distance - Distance can be considered objectively, absolute distance, is measured in standard units such as cm or km o Absolute distance has the property of symmetry, a km is a km no matter what direction, time of day or mood you are in - Distance can also be thought of subjectively, relative distance, and it doesn’t necessarily have symmetry o Relative distance is measured by time, effort, dollar cost, or psychological hassle o Ex. Driving 10 km on hwy401 is a very different experience at 3pm rush-hour than 3am; takes longer, less relaxed, likely accidents - 5 types of distance: o Linear distance – straight line or mileage measurement (Hamilton to Toronto = 65km) o Time distance – distance in terms of travel time (Hamilton to Toronto = 1-2 hour depending on time of day travelling) o Cognitive distance – distance in terms of your perception of the travel (Hamilton is not far enough away, it is a hassle to drive there) o Cultural distance – the separation between you and others due to socioeconomic, ethnic, and other characteristics. You are closer to people you like and more distance from people unlike you. Thus, your neighbours are likely to be of the same class as you, and ethnic neighbourhoods are found in most cities o Social distance – in proxemics this refers to physical distance between people during interactions Direction - Direction refers to the relative position of 2 places or objects in space - It can be absolute when it’s 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-northeast of toronto) - Can be relative as when we say down east, or refer to the far east, east Asia, and southeast Asia Location - Location refers to a particular position within space - May be absolute when the position is defined in terms of standard coordinates, such as latitude and longitude (Ex. 43 degrees 10 mins north latitude, 79 degrees 23 mins west longitude = location of Toronto) - May be relative when position is given with respect to other locations (ex. Toronto is closer to Hamilton than to London) o Relative locations refers to connectedness and accessibility, so that my house has an absolute latitude-longitude location, and it’s close to a subway station and to a high school - For any piece of land, characteristics related to the absolute location are called site characteristics (soil fertility, size of building, land use zoning designation) - Characteristics of relative location are called situation characteristics (ex. Close to market, surrounded by low income housing, near a major highway) Place - Place refers to a position with a unique set of attributes - The attributes make the location into a place; every location has a longitude and latitude, but only Toronto is Toronto - The attributes can be absolute – Toronto’s population or relative – Toronto is a wannabe world class city - Space, location and place can also be interpreted using relative frames of reference to give meaning to environments - Both place and location are relative to other places or locations - A place is close to some places, distant from others - A place may be where the action is, or it may be a backwater. - It may be large or small. Large and small are themselves relative. Ex. Your classroom is large? Absolute dimension to it – its size in sq/cubic feet or metres. Relative terms – for a bathroom it’s huge, for a ballroom its tiny - The room is a social space, students are separated into groups based on friendship or program, you may chose your location based upon your attraction to someone in the class (sit in close proximity to them) - Also a theatre of sorts, instructor on stage as performer occupying a dominant and visible central location, and you are the audience who have chosen your seas according to your desire not to be singled out for questioning – or perhaps you got stuck in the front for being late - Sommer – frequency of participation in class varies with visual proximity to the instructor, in front and the centre participate more than those on the sides and rear. - Space is subjectively partitioned to your personal habits depending whether we are “on stage” or “off stage”. This relates to the concepts of front and back country behaviour Front Country and Back Country Behaviours - On a personal level, we are on our best behaviour when we are in front country or those areas where we have to deal with the public or possibly our friends o Dress and act according to what would be expected by us; peer groups, parents if at home visiting, society if in Eaton Centre, or culture if in a mosque
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