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Chapter One

Chapter 1
Thinking Geographically
Key Issues
1. How do geographers describe where things
2. Why is each point on Earth unique?
3. Why are different places similar?
An In-depth Social Science
• Many people have misconceptions about
geography and think of the discipline as
simply an exercise in memorizing place
Where we find Geography
• Geography exists in the global issues receiving
attention at this time. Things such as…
▫ Population growth
▫ Terrorism
▫ Cultural diffusion.
 Diffusion is defined as the spread of linguistic or cultural
practices or innovations within a community or from one
community to another.
Location, Location, Location
• Geography's importance can also be established by
looking at community issues, such as:
▫ Water supply
▫ Pollution
▫ Growth management
▫ Housing
▫ Retail
 Openings
 Closures
Thinking Geographically
• In addition to political rule, boundaries can be drawn
based on various components of culture including
language, religion, values.
Questions to Ponder
• Where would the most desirable places to live be
• What impacts would this population increase
Every Story Can be approached from a
Geographer’s Perspective
• Consider natural events and natural disasters.
• Do humans choose to live in harm’s way?
Spatial analysis
• Geography by its nature is a spatial science. Geographers
therefore study space in order to locate the distribution of
people and objects.
• Geographers ask two main questions, “where” and “why.”
Spatial analysis is concerned with analyzing regularities
achieved through interaction. Regularities result in a
distinctive distribution of a feature.
• Distribution has three properties:
• Geographers observe that people are being pulled in
opposite directions by two different factors:
globalization and local diversity.
• Tensions between these simultaneous geographic
trends underlie many of the world’s problems that
geographers study.
▫ Political conflicts
▫ Economic uncertainty
▫ Pollution of the environment
• The most important tool for geographers is a map.
▫ Two-dimensional or flat-scale model of Earth’s surface, or a
portion of it.
▫ Cartography: the science of mapmaking.
• Serve two purposes
▫ Tool for storing reference material.
▫ Tool for communicating geographic information.
• Often the best means for showing the distribution of
human activities or physical features, as well as
thinking about reasons underlying a distribution.
• The method of transferring location on Earth’s
surface to a flat map is called projection.
• Earth’s spherical shape poses a challenge for
cartographers because drawing Earth on a flat
surface unavoidably produces distortion.
• Four types of distortion
▫ Shape
▫ Distance
▫ Relative size
▫ Direction between points
Examples of Map Projections
Robinson Projection
Azimuthal Projection
Goode’s Interrupted Projection
Map Scale
• The scale of a map is the relation of a feature’s size on a
map and its actual size on Earth’s surface.
▫ Fraction (1/24,000)
▫ Ratio (1:24,000)
▫ Written statement (1 inch equals 1 mile)
▫ Graphic bar scale
Graphic Scale
• A graphic scale usually consists of a bar line
marked to show distances on Earth’s surface.
• The bar line is used by measuring a distance on
the map, then reading that distance along the
bar line.
• The appropriate scale for a map depends on the
information being portrayed.
Washington State
(1:10 million scale)
Western Washington
(1:1 million scale)
Seattle Region
(1:100,000 scale)
Downtown Seattle, Washington
(1:10,000 scale)
Scale Differences: Maps of Florida
Fig. 1-3: The effects of scale in maps of Florida. (Scales from 1:10 million to 1:10,000)
Spatial Association at Various Scales
Fig. 1-13: Death rates from cancer in the U.S., Maryland, and Baltimore show
different patterns that can identify associations with different factors.
Contemporary Tools
• A geographic information system (GIS) is a highperformance computer system that processes geographic
• Each type of information (topography, political
boundaries, population density, manufacturing, etc.) is
stored as an information layer.
• GIS is most powerful when it is used to combine several
layers, to show relations.
Layers of a GIS
Fig. 1-5: A geographic information system (GIS) stores information about a location in
several layers. Each layer represents a different category of information.
Site vs. Situation
Site: Lower Manhattan
Fig. 1-6: Site of lower Manhattan Island, New York City. There have been many changes to
the area over the last 200 years.
Fig. 1-7: Singapore is situated at a key location for international trade.
World Geographic Grid
Fig. 1-8: The world geographic grid consists of meridians of longitude and parallels of
latitude. The prime meridian (0º) passes through Greenwich, England.
World Time Zones
Fig. 1-9: The world’s 24 standard time zones are often depicted using the Mercator
Formal and Functional Regions
Fig. 1-11: The state of Iowa is an example of a formal region; the areas of influence of
various television stations are examples of functional regions.
Vernacular Regions
Fig. 1-12: A number of factors are often used to define the South as a vernacular region,
each of which identifies somewhat different boundaries.
Vernacular Region
What is Culture?
• Your book defines culture
as a body of customary
beliefs, material trades, and
social forms that together
constitute the distinct
tradition of a group of
• The Latin root of culture is
cultus, which means to care
for. Example Agriculture
(term for growing things)
• Diffusion is the process by which a characteristic
spreads across space from one place to another over
▫ The place of origin of the characteristic is called the hearth.
 For example – US, Canadian, and many Latin cultures can be
traced back to the European Hearth.
• There are two basic types of diffusion:
Relocation diffusion
Expansion diffusion
• Expansion Diffusion includes…
Hierarchical diffusion
Contagious diffusion
Stimulus diffusion
Space-Time Compression (1492–1962)
Fig. 1-20: The times required to cross the Atlantic, or orbit the Earth, illustrate how
transport improvements have shrunk the world.
Cultural Ecology
• Geographers also consider environmental factors as well as cultural
factors, when looking at regions.
• This is cultural ecology.
▫ Basically, this is the geographic study of human-environmental
• In the 19th Century – some geographers said that human actions were
caused by environmental conditions. (environmental determinism)
• This is rejected by modern geographers that say some environmental
conditions limit human actions. (possibilism)
• Of course now we are realizing that humans can actually adjust their
environment. (For good or bad)
Environmental Modification in the Netherlands
Fig. 1-15: Polders and dikes have been used for
extensive environmental modification
in the Netherlands.
Environmental Modification in Florida
View of
The barrier
Island - Orchid
Fig. 1-16: Straightening the
Kissimmee River has had many
unintended side effects.
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