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Chapter 1 “Basic Concepts” A general introduction to Human Geography. Why Geography Matters! Let’s look at some interesting quotes:.

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Chapter 1

“Basic Concepts”

A general introduction to Human Geography


Why Geography Matters!

Let’s look at some interesting quotes:

  • Geography matters because specific places provide the settings for people’s daily lives. It is in these settings that important events happen, and it is from them that significant changes spread and diffuse.
  • Places and regions are highly interdependent, each filling specialized roles in complex and ever-changing networks of interaction and change.

Some of the most important aspects of the interdependence between geographical scales are provided by the relationships between the global and the local.

  • Human geography provides ways of understanding places, regions, and spatial relationships as the products of a series of interrelated forces that stem from nature, culture, and individual human action.
The first law of geography is that "everything is related to everything else, but near things are more related than distant things."
  • Friction of Distance - Distance Decay
  • Distance is one aspect of this law, but connectivity is also important, because contact and interaction are dependent on channels of communication and transportation.

Why Geography and Places Matter!

Geographic knowledge is important because the world is increasingly characterized by:

  • instant global communications – news travels fast
  • unfamiliar international relationships – dealing with cultures that we do not fully understand
  • unexpected local changes – events that occur day to day
  • growing evidence of environmental degradation – climate change, pollution etc.

Geographers ask two basic questions:

  • Where?
  • Why there?

Geography is a Greek word first used by a scholar by the name of Eratosthenes.

Geo – Earth

Graphy – To Write


When answering the question ‘Where’ –

  • 5 Geographical themes have to be considered:
  • LOCATION: …Site
  • PLACE: …Situation
site and situation singapore
Site and Situation: Singapore

Site – actual location of a place

Situation – the location of a place in relation to its surrounding area. How the site interacts with the surrounding area. What is Toronto’s site and situation?


REGION: …Transition Zone

  • MOVEMENTS: …Communication and Transportation
  • HUMAN-ENVIRONMENTAL INTERACTION: … Possibilism and Determinism

Cultural Ecology – The geographic study of human-environment relationships

Environmental Determinism – “The environment determines how humans adapt. Climate and Terrain are the dominant forces in determining Cultural directions.” Carl Ritter

Possibilism – Humans have choices in the way they interact and respond to their physical settings. The environment provides its human occupants with a range of opportunities for action and with a set of choices to make in responding to their immediate physical setting. “There are no necessities, but everywhere possibilities; and man, as master of the possibilities, is the judge of their use.” Febvre


A word about - Distance

  • Absolute distance
  • Relative distance
  • Social distance
    • - …
  • Cognitive distance
    • - …
  • Why is it that sometimes it seems to take longer getting there than coming back!
  • When you have something to do in the car - the time passes quicker!

These five themes depend on the main Geographer’s tool – THE MAP!

A MAP is said to take the observer from reality to artificial. A map is a two dimensional representation of the surface of the earth.How can we show the third dimension of height?

No map can perfectly represent reality.(especially Altitude and Projection) Explain this!

Maps can alter your perception of what you see.(You can lie with maps) Expand on this!


When creating a map, the cartographer must select the objects to be shown, evaluate their relative importance, and find some way to simplify their form. In attempting to generalize the data, the cartographer is limited by the purpose of the map, its scale, the methods to produce it, and the accuracy of the data.


Map Projections - …

  • Simplification - …
  • Scale - …
  • Aggregation - …
  • Classification - …
  • Symbolization - …
  • Induction - …
  • Types of Maps - …

Large Scale

Small Scale

u s a elections 2000 2008 aggregation
U.S.A. Elections 2000/2008: Aggregation!

Presidential elections by county and by state. What do you see?


Types of Maps – There are many types of Maps to choose from:

    • Reference Maps
    • Choropleth Maps (Thematic)
    • Isoline Maps
    • Proportional Symbol Maps
    • Dot Maps
    • Statistical Maps
    • Mental Maps

Cartograms or Isodemographic Maps – …

Below is a CRQ question that appeared on an AP exam based on a Cartogram:

Shown above is a special type of graphic used by geographers.

1. Identify the type of graphic by name.

2. What qualities does it have that qualify it as a graph?

3. What qualities would qualify it as a map?


Now comes an important point. The Geographer must now analyze the map. The geographer looks at the map for Distributions, Densities, Concentrations, Inter-relations and Patterns!

density concentration and pattern the above are types of distributions
Density, Concentration, and Pattern- the above are types of distributions

Density – the frequency that something occurs in space

a. Arithmetic Density b. Physiological Density

c. Agricultural Density

All – 82 Acres

Concentration – The extent of a feature’s spread over space – clustered or dispersed

24 houses

Pattern – the geometric arrangement of objects in space

Linear, circular, square, grid or radial patterns

32 houses

The top plan for a residential area has a lower density than the middle plan. Both are dispersed concentrations. The middle and lower plans have the same density but the houses are more clustered in the lower plan. The lower plan preserves more woods and fields, where as the middle plan provides more private yard space for each house.

32 houses

density and concentration of baseball teams 1952 2000
Density and Concentration of Baseball Teams, 1952–2000

The changing distribution of North American baseball teams illustrates the differences between density and concentration. Explain this statement.


If a geographer were to visit a particular place – they would be looking at the Landscape of that place.

“The material character of a place, the complex of natural features, human structures, and other tangible objects that give a place a particular form.” de Blij


“The appearance of an area, the assemblage of objects (both Natural and Built) used to produce that appearance” Johnston

“an area made up of a distinct association of forms, both physical and cultural” Sauer


Cultural Landscape – the visible imprint of human activity on the landscape. Any cultural landscape has layers of imprints from years of human activity. As successive occupiers arrive, they bring their own technological and cultural traditions and transform the landscape.


“Culture is the agent, the natural area is the medium, the cultural landscape is the result’- Carl Sauer

Culture – the body of customary beliefs, material traits, and social forms that together constitute the distinct tradition of a group of people.


Recently Geographers have also had to deal with two new ‘buzz’ words when looking at a place and its inter-relations.

  • Globalization – cultural and economic interaction amongst the world.
  • Local Diversity – cultural traditions and economic practices within a community.

What does this say about Culture?

What does this say about Globalization and Localization?


Modern technology has helped the cartographer in the way data is collected, displayed and analyzed.

  • G.I.S. Geographic Information Systems
  • Remote Sensing
  • G.P.S. Global Positioning System

Geographic Information Systems - G.I.S.

ArcMap is an example

A computer program that combines Spatial co-ordinates (eg. latitude and longitude) data with attribute (values for the above locational points.

Prior to GIS, a table of numbers could be analyzed statistically and the results created another table. GIS allowed the tables to be seen spatially. Suddenly regions and patterns could be seen.


Another important aspect of GIS is its ability to create a map using separate layers. One layer could be rivers, another roads and yet another could be human settlement. This layering gives the cartographer a lot of analytical power.

What is Raster? What is Vector?


Remote Sensingis the gathering of data above the Earth’s surface from a satellite. Remote Sensing allows the cartographer to gather information about a place without actually going there.


Global Positioning Systems - GPS

A GPS is a simple hand held receiver that can (with the use of orbiting satellites) determine your exact location and height on the earth.

GPS and GIS go hand in hand.

formal and functional regions
Formal and Functional Regions

The state of Iowa is an example of a formal region; the areas of influence of various television stations are examples of functional regions. Define Formal and Functional Regions.

vernacular regions
Vernacular Regions

A number of factors are often used to define the South as a vernacular region, each of which identifies somewhat different boundaries. Define Vernacular region.

environmental modification in the netherlands
Environmental Modification in the Netherlands

This modification was very successful!

Polders and dikes have been used for extensive environmental modification in the Netherlands.What is a Polder?

environmental modification in florida
Environmental Modification in Florida

This modification was not successful!

Straightening the Kissimmee River has had many

unintended side effects. What could they be?

space time compression 1492 1962
Space-Time Compression, 1492–1962

The times required to cross the Atlantic, or orbit the Earth, illustrate how transport improvements have shrunk the world. What is Space-Time Compression?


One of the most important words in AP Human Geography is Spatial Diffusion. Diffusion is the process by which a characteristic spreads across space from one place to another over time.

Define the following:

1. Relocation Diffusion

2. Expansion Diffusion: Hierarchical Diffusion

Contagious Diffusion

Stimulus Diffusion

airline route networks
Airline Route Networks

Delta Airlines, like many others, has configured its route network in a “hub and spoke” system. This is Nodal!


Spatial Diffusion: Think of the H1N1 virus or even a gaming system like the PS3 or the Xbox.

How about the virus making a comeback!


Economies of Scale

The more you buy or the more you make the cheaper it is!


Vocabulary List for Chapter 1

“The following list is an extensive list from the College Board - our goal is to cover as many as possible!”


Unit I. Geography: Its Nature and Perspectives - Basic Vocabulary and Concepts

  • Basic Concepts
  • Changing attributes of place (built landscape, sequent occupance)
  • Cultural attributes (cultural landscape)
  • Density (arithmetic, physiological)
  • Diffusion (hearth, relocation, expansion, hierarchical, contagious, stimulus)
  • Direction (absolute, relative)
  • Dispersion/concentration (dispersed/scattered, clustered/agglomerated)
  • Distance (absolute, relative)
  • Distribution
  • Environmental determinism
  • Location (absolute, relative, site, situation, place name)
  • Pattern (linear, centralized, random)
  • Physical attributes (natural landscape)
  • Possibilism
  • Region (formal/uniform, functional/nodal, perceptual/vernacular)
  • Scale (implied degree of generalization)
  • Size
  • Spatial (of or pertaining to space on or near Earth’s surface)
  • Spatial interaction (accessibility, connectivity, network, distance decay, friction of distance, time-space compression)

Geographic Tools

  • Distortion
  • Geographic Information System (GIS)
  • Global Positioning System (GPS)
  • Grid (North and South Poles, latitude, parallel, equator, longitude, meridian, prime meridian, international date line)
  • Map (Maps are the tool most uniquely identified with geography; the ability to use and interpret maps is an essential geographic skill.)
  • Map scale (distance on a map relative to distance on Earth)
  • Map types (thematic, statistical, cartogram, dot, choropleth, isoline)
  • Mental map
  • Model (a simplified abstraction of reality, structured to clarify causal relationships): Geographers use models (e.g., Demographic Transition, Epidemiological Transition, Gravity, Von Thünen, Weber, Stages of Growth [Rostow], Concentric Circle [Burgess], Sector [Hoyt], Multiple Nuclei, Central Place [Christaller], and so on) to explain patterns, make informed decisions, and predict future behaviors.
  • Projection
  • Remote sensing
  • Time zone