1.4 What Is Geography? | GEOG 882: Geographic Foundations of Geospatial Intelligence

People use the bible “ geography ” all the fourth dimension. And while it has many uses and meanings, most people would be at a loss to define what “ geography ” is. We are going to examine the definition and scope of geography, but before we do, I want to see how you might define “ geography. ”

Discussion

Without any research or outdoor avail, please hark back to Lesson 01 in Canvas and enter your short definition of “ geography ” in the Lesson 01 – Geography Definitions Discussion Forum. If you see another definition you would like to comment on, feel exempt to post a answer .

Geography Defined

Let us take the parole “ geography ” apart. The word geography can be broken into the two basic elements of “ GEO ” and “ GRAPHY. ” Geo comes from the greek word for Earth ( the bible Gaea, besides meaning worldly concern, derives from the Greek equally well ). The “ ography ” part comes from the greek son graphein, which is literally to write about something. The word “ graph ” derives from the like footing .
therefore GEO + GRAPHY literally means “ to write about the earth. ” We have normally come to understand that the translation might besides be taken as to describe and map the earth. The american Heritage dictionary defines geography as “ the study of the land and its features, inhabitants, and phenomenon. ” I agree with the dictionary, but I like to tell my students that geography truly is the study of how the world works in terms of the physical and human processes that occur everyday.

So for me, Geography is really about how the world works. That is pretty good knowledge for a geospatial analyst to possess.

Breaking it Down

Understanding how the world works is a pretty tall order, so let us break down the study of geography into some accomplishable parts. At the most basic level, think of geography as a mint with two sides .

  • HEADS: On one side, we have Physical Geography or the study of the spatial distribution and attributes of naturally occurring phenomena.
  • TAILS: On the other side, we have Human Geography or the study of the spatial distribution and attributes of human induced/engineered phenomena.

physical geography looks at the lifelike processes that make the open of the earth the way it is. forcible geography includes the three major subdisciplines of Geomorphology, Meteorology, and Climatology .
Geomorphology is the survey of landforms and landform processes. Geomorphologists want to know :

  • What are the different landforms?
  • Where are the different landforms?
  • Why are they where they are?
  • How do they form?
  • What will happen to them over time?

Meteorology is the learn of atmospheric weather processes. Meteorologists want to understand :

  • What are the different atmospheric processes that create our weather?
  • Where do these weather phenomena occur?
  • How and why does the planetary weather system work the way it does?
  • What will happen with the weather in the future so they can forecast the weather?

Climatology is the study of climate, which is basically the hanker term model of temperature and precipitation. Climatology, like meteorology, is a branch of the inter-disciplinary discipline of Atmospheric Science. Climatologists seek to understand :

  • the different climate types found on earth,
  • the processes that cause these different climate types to occur in specific places (i.e. why are there different climate types),
  • the places where these climates occur,
  • how and why climates change over time,
  • and so that they can forecast the effects of climate change, what will happen to the earth’s climate in the future.

Human geography looks at the homo activities that make the surface of the worldly concern the way it is. human geography includes numerous subdisciplines, some of which are :

  • population geography
  • cultural geography
  • economic geography
  • political geography
  • and many others

Human geography is basically synthesizing a spatial perspective with one of the topical disciplines to come up with newly cognition and a new position to understand how the world works .

Discussion

Can you think of some other human geography subdisciplines by combining a topical approach with a spatial position ? Please reappearance to Lesson 01 in Canvas and enter your number of other homo geography subdisciplines in the Lesson 01 – Human Geography Subdisciplines Discussion Forum. Feel dislodge to post comments to other lists you see in the discussion forum .

Geographic Techniques

The universe is fortunate that geographers through the ages have developed a bent of spatial tools to help us understand how the worldly concern works. These tools are much referred to as the geographic techniques and they include the subdisciplines of :

  • Cartography: The art and science of making maps and the oldest of the geographic techniques.
  • Remote Sensing: The art and science of obtaining information about the earth by study from afar.
  • Geographic Information Systems: A GIS is a computer-based system that collects, stores, analyzes, and displays spatial information to solve problems.
  • Global Positioning Systems: The use of a system of satellites, ground stations, and receivers to obtain precise locational information of phenomena on the earth.

Geospatial intelligence relies heavily on the geographic techniques ( jointly known as geographic Information Science and Techniques ( GIS & T or GIScience ) for the collection, analysis, and communication of results. Your early coursework will involve very detail explorations and applications of the geographic techniques .
Penn State Public Broadcasting has produced an perplex series of webisodes on the “ Geospatial revolution. ”
Please take the fourth dimension to view Episode One of the Geospatial Revolution Series ( 13:45 running time ) and think about how the revolution applies to this example .
Click for Transcript of Geospatial Revolution / Episode One.
[ low static hum ]

[ sprawling atmospheric music ]

Welcome to the geospatial revolution.

In a worldly concern where everybody ‘s texting, geospatial engineering is critical to understanding what ‘s happening at a particular placement.

It ‘s the travel rapidly of the Internet.

It ‘s the capability of distant sensing satellites.

It ‘s software like Google Earth.

Taken altogether, you have an explosion in the way we view the Earth.

Everybody ‘s somewhere, everything ‘s somewhere, and a map is a manner of organizing
all of that data.

It ‘s information from aircraft, from satellites.

It can be a solicitation of information from a column that you ‘ve set up.

We ‘ve been using maps for hundreds and hundreds of years to know where we are.

now that nice dame tells me which way to turn.

Turn correct then turn left.

Virtually all of the data that you ‘re sharing with anybody these days has some kind
of geospatial tag on it.

It ‘s actually the human component.

There ‘s basically this entire information ecosystem that we have access to now.

I can receive information.

I can transmit information.

I can broadcast my location.

And that is revolutionist.

It ‘s perplex. It ‘s up-to-date.

It ‘s — well, changing the world.

In 1/10 mile, turn correctly at diaphragm sign.

Some people will call this a GPS.

It ‘s not. It ‘s a GPS receiver.

It is, I think it ‘s honest to say, a miracle of skill and engineering.

It ‘s able to collect signals from ball-shaped position satellites army for the liberation of rwanda up in space.

Each one of them is, every moment of every day, saying, “ This is the localization that I ‘m at in eye socket around the earth. ”

If you know where you are with deference to three satellite points, you can use mathematics
to determine where you must be on the face of the Earth.

There are millions of coordinates encoded in this box.

Recalculating.

And it can take those coordinates and render a map on the screen for you.

Turn left on Whitehall Road.

then turn left in 0.3 miles.

Where do all those coordinates come from ?

Where do those streets come from ?

Lots and lots of people driving special cars endlessly up and down every one road and digitizing those roads into a database that then can be downloaded into this little box.

[ electronic beep ]

There ‘s nothing modern about map.

You can imagine without being able to talk, person showing where you ‘re going, and draw a line showing where the river is and an x where they are now and an ten where they ‘re gon na go.

Viewing the worldly concern has very been based on technology.

The Babylonians etched the lie down of the estate on clay tablets in 2300 B.C.

And then in the fifteenth century, with the advent of print, they started making maps
using wooden blocks.

Surveyors would map by making measurements in front of them to a reference bespeak and then rear behind to the citation point they had just passed.

That information had to be transcribed into a map.

From in the air, it ‘s as if we sent out thousands of surveyors all at once.

Remotely sensed data provides highly accurate measurements of the Earth and the features upon it.

[ skyrocket rumbling ]

We rely on satellites for pictures of the Earth, for communications, for navigation, for weather.

Geospatial engineering has become weave throughout the fabric of how we live.

About 50 years ago, people came along and started construct on boastful honest-to-god mainframes
geographic information systems which would integrate on a map information about acculturation,
about population, about demographics, about physical environment.

GIS allows us to bring it all in concert.

I used the inaugural commercial GPS receiver.

Took two men to carry it.

Our antenna was a meter-square firearm of aluminum.

We had to have a generator for it, massive batteries.

The census agency in the United States needed to capture all of the channel function for roads, railroads, hydrography, and then boundaries.

That formed the basis of the first TIGER files in the deep 1980s in digest of the 1990 census.

Tiger was an impulse to technical developments like MapQuest, Yahoo, followed by Google.

Google Earth introduced people to the coolness of position.

” I am here. Where ‘s the nearest Starbucks ? ”

Or, “ Where ‘s the nearest hospital ? ”

now we ‘re all carrying around GPS.

We ‘ve got truly ample interfaces that allow us to do things that we would merely imagine
previously.

On a mobile device, you are the center of the function, and the city is around you, not you see a city and then look for yourself on the map.

It ‘s putting you in the map.

[ electronic tone ]

[ horn honks ]

[ phone rings ]

Say you find yourself in a placement that you do n’t know identical well.

You might want to find a place to have dinner.

Well, what places are around ?

And which places have other people rated very highly ?

possibly you want a particular kind of food within a 15-minute walk of life.

I ‘ve got not entirely a restaurant, but I ‘ve got the map.

I can find the reviews of it.

I can find out what the menu is.

We ‘re moving away from me having to actively search for something to now search is telling me what I should check out that might be interesting to me.

These are the things where location and search depart to come together.

We ‘re becoming individual sensors.

We ‘re creating this huge detector network of people holding these mobile devices.

And that information is bipartite.

[ electronic honk ]

It ‘s not barely passive voice collection, listen to your GPS engineering tell you how to get to some seat.

You ‘re gon na say, “ Wait a minute.

” I see a problem.

” I want to report that problem.

I want to see that person ‘s going to respond to that. ”

We were playing basketball.

We see, like, the ground keep on moving.

I see a lot of people, some of them dying, like the ceiling, like, killed them.

I have both extended syndicate members and close kin members who live in Haiti, and the first reaction was more, like, surreal, “ Is this very happening ? ”

We needed to know where we could go in, and so we used geospatial engineering to prepare the area with data before we evening got there.

approximately 2/3 of the cell towers stayed active.

And care workers and haitian nationals were posting data saying that they needed help.

I was watching CNN and immediately called our USHAHIDI technical school head in Atlanta.

I told him that we actually need to move and set up an USHAHIDI platform for Haiti.

USHAHIDI is an open-source platform for crowd-sourcing crisis information.

Basically, that means you are following local media, Twitter, Facebook, text messages, any classify of information you can get.

Once you aggregate this information, you map it, you have a real-time video of the actual situation on the ground.

This information can be used by rescue workers or anyone.

With an USHAHIDI platform, you can decide what kind of map you want to use.

OpenStreetMap uses crowd-sourcing to do street map.

And within a few days, OpenStreetMap had the most detailed map of Haiti that was available.

There were maps of Haiti before the earthquake, but they fair were n’t up-to-date anymore.

So people started using donated satellite imagination to trace in OpenStreetMap collapsed buildings, clinics, hospitals.

Within a week or then, we had trained over 100 individuals at Tufts University to map the incidents and the alerts.

And then a text number, 4636, was set up for report.

But these text messages were all going to be in Creole.

So we started getting as many Creole-speaking volunteers as potential.

And you go to …

I found out about the 4636 effort through a friend of mine.

So I got on-line, started getting involved, basically staying up belated after putting the kids to bed, try to translate as many textbook messages as I could.

Our top precedence is Port-au-Prince.

It ‘s commodity.

It ‘s got translations.

There was this energy.

Today ‘s SMS.

People from basically all over the universe creating this sort of, like, patronize system over the internet.

A soccer stadium was serving as a camp for displace persons.

But we did n’t know it was there.

Through USHAHIDI ‘s map ability, we knew that that would be a placement to take aid.

We would n’t have seen it without them.

USHAHIDI alerted the world that if you ‘ve got needs in Haiti or you ‘re trapped in a construct or you ‘re out of food or you ‘re injured and you need help that you can alert us.

Whether you are that person in Des Moines, Iowa, who ‘s reading Twitter or Facebook or you ‘re a haitian on the ground, with mobile technology and open-sourcing of information, you ‘re abruptly empowered.

I work from California.

Being able to stay on-line translating those text messages, and you know that that data will be forwarded directly to a specific help administration.

That made it feel like about I was on the ground helping.

A map is worth a million words.

Maps communicate with everybody.

That ‘s mighty.

You know, you can make a difference.

You can look at relationships and patterns and processes and models, avail save the worldly concern.

I do n’t think we can project 50 years come out of the closet, but given what we ‘re seeing nowadays, it ‘s just a antic explosion of location engineering.

And location-based data.

And now we have the devices to read it and capture it and visualize it.

And that ‘s something that ‘s in truth helping the geospatial revolution sincerely explode.

Revolutions rarely end up the room they started.

That ‘s about the definition of a revolution.

[ dramatic musical crescendo ]

The Relationship of Physical Geography to Human Geography

In an initiation to Geography classes ( normally for freshmen and sophomores ) a chap teacher likes to stress the point that physical and human geography are completely distinguish disciplines and that there can be NO mixing between the two. In fact, he makes a big deal that they must write this down and put stars by it in their notes as this authoritative distributor point will most surely be on the test. He then stops and lets them think about this affirmation as they dutifully write it down .
now you might be thinking that this controversy that physical and homo geography are completely separate and can never be interracial seems nonsensical—and you would be correct. finally, a few of the students start to grin and possibly a boldface one might challenge the teacher ( not very much though ) .
The teacher then gets to point out to the students the fallacy of such a contention and makes the luff that physical and homo geography, like the sides of a mint, are absolutely inseparable. We know that physical systems can have enormous impacts on homo systems ( ask the survivors of Hurricane Katrina ). We besides know that homo impacts on the environment have been great, as humans have always modified the open of the planet to scratch out a living or to build great civilizations ( western Europe had a culminate vegetation of forest—consider the landscape there now—forests are rare, protected, and highly valued ) .
I think that the geographic subdiscipline of Environmental Geography occupies the outer space in the kernel of the mint gluing human and physical geography together. A trouble in many advanced geography programs is that students specialize in either human or physical geography with inadequate cognition of the other side of the coin. The even greater problem is for students who specialize in the geographic techniques ( I dearly call them “ Techno-Geeks ” ) and lack the necessary background in human and physical geography .

Here is the fundamental contention that justifies this whole course:

All of the geospatial technology in the world can tell you what is happening where and when. It may even tell you something about how it is happening. The engineering, however, will NOT tell you why it is happening. To understand the why you must understand how the populace works—and that is the value of human and physical geographic cognition.

Required Reading

immediately that you have a basic agreement of the definition and telescope of geography, study the Wikipedia article on Geography linked from the Lesson 01 Checklist. Compare and contrast what I have said with the article. Are there any significant differences, and if so, why ?

The Four Traditions of Geography

There are some other ways to conceptualize the field of geography. Parkinson suggested that geography has four traditions : The Earth Science Tradition, Culture-Environment Tradition, Locational Tradition, and Area Analysis Tradition. Geographic techniques support these traditions. The graph below shows how choose subdisciplines fit within these four traditions .
Geotechniques: Earth Science (ex Climatology) Culture-Environment (ex Culture) Locational (ex Urban) & area analysis (ex Regional approach)
human body 1 : The Four Traditions of Geography .
credit rating : Corson, 2007 .
All of the subdisciplines with the exception of the Regional Approach are topical approaches. The regional access breaks the earth down into areas that share certain consistent cultural and physical characteristics. regional geographers then study the human and physical geography of that detail region. We typically break the world into the cultural regions of : North America, South America, Europe, Russia and the Slavic World, the Middle East and North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, East Asia, Southeast Asia, and Australia and Oceania .

Geographic Systems Theory

so far another approach to understanding the setting of geography is geographic Systems Theory. A system is a series of components such that when you add department of energy to it the components work together to produce an output signal. Take for example a stereo system. A high-end stereo system includes multiple components like a tuner, turntable, CD player, amplifier, and speakers ( possibly headphones ). You must plug the stereo in ( add energy to it ) to get an end product of true hi-fidelity music. Open systems exchange both energy and matter with the outside universe. Closed systems exchange merely energy .
The land is a system. Is it a closed system or an open system ? The solution is the worldly concern is a close system in that it exchanges energy with the universe but it does not exchange any significant sum of matter ( outer space junk and meteorites are insignificant—if earth is destroyed by an asteroid I will admit I was amiss ) .
According to Geographic Systems Theory the earth has two major sub-subsystems, which are the Physical Subsystem and the Human Subsystem. The physical Subsystem has four major part subsystem of the Atmosphere, Hydrosphere, Lithosphere, and Biosphere. The Human Subsystem has the three major components of Beliefs, Institutions, and Technologies .
The two major sub-subsystems of the earth. Physical and Human See text above image.
number 2 : The two major sub-subsystems of the earth .
credit : Corson, 2007 .
The atmosphere is the gaseous envelope that surrounds the earth and sustains air-breathing animals. The lithosphere is the solid rock and dirt that comprises the outer solid level of the satellite. The hydrosphere includes all the liquid and solid water ( water system vaporization is in the atmosphere ). These three spheres are “ abiotic ” in that they are inanimate. The concluding sphere is the biosphere containing all biography. The biosphere relies on the other three abiotic spheres to function for it to sustain biography .
A critical contribution of systems hypothesis is understanding that if one system is significantly degraded then the system serve as a solid take down. And if one system fails, then the unharmed system fails. If you consider that Planet Earth is the starship for the human raceway, and that we rely on all of its systems to function properly, you start to contemplate why we do not take better manage of it. It is the only spacecraft we have and there are no lifeboats .

Geography as Synthesis

Geography is a synthesizing discipline in that geographers take topical subjects and analyze them through the spatial filter, frankincense seeing the world in new ways. This synthesis is identical excite and liberating in that geographers have the exemption to explore many unlike subjects and apply topical, chronological, and spatial approaches while integrating both the human and physical universe. No other academician discipline takes such a holistic overture, and that makes geography particular .

The Necessity for Geographic Literacy

The earth is getting smaller, more crowd, and more integrated as the population expands, resources diminish, and globalization brings us all closer in concert. The US is a “ hyper-power ” with unprecedented influence around the earth. For the citizens of such a country that is besides a democracy comes a duty to be geographically literate—to understand how this planet works in terms of its forcible and human geographies. Geographically illiterate citizens will at best be ignorant of what their government is doing globally, and at worst support their government in making bad decisions that are damaging to national, regional, and global stability and well being .
globalization means that America will interact with its global neighbors through combinations of cooperation, competition, and ( unfortunately ) casual conflicts. Thus it is all-important that american citizens be geographically literate so that they may hopefully cooperate most of the clock time, compete some of the time, and occasionally engage in conflict. Viewed this manner, geographic illiteracy might be seen as a terror to national security. Of course this is dependable for citizens of other nations as well, however national rankings of geography literacy display that our neighbors abroad understand the importance of geographic cognition and do not suffer our illiteracy .
Geographic literacy for intelligence professionals ( particularly analysts and managers ) is specially significant. The geospatial news professional must be geographically literate to amply leverage the baron of geographic techniques. To reiterate the cardinal and rationale for this class :
All of the geospatial engineering in the universe can tell you what is happening where and when. It may flush tell you something about how it is happening. The technology, however, will NOT tell you why it is happening. To understand the why, you must understand how the global works—and that is the measure of human and physical geographic cognition .
A geographically illiterate analyst or director is likely to produce flawed analysis and poor decisions. In the national security arena, this could result in black policy decisions. In the calamity relief/international human-centered care sphere, this might result in waste resources and lost lives .
If you get the feeling I am passionate about this topic—you are right. I am on a mission to stamp out geographic illiteracy one classroom full of ignorant people at time. That is a major motivation for me to teach this course to current and future geospatial intelligence professionals .

Required Reading

Why Geography Matters More than Ever ( De Blij, Harm J. )

I nowadays want you to read your second reading assignment by the notice geographer Dr. Harm de Blij. Dr. de Blij is an particularly well known public figure because he served as the house physician geographer of ABC ‘s Good Morning America for several seasons. His ledger on Why Geography Matters More than Ever is worth your clock to read. For our purposes, you will merely read chapter one, but if it piques your concern I encourage you to read the wholly book .
register students can access a PDF of the reading in Lesson 01 in Canvas .
Click the follow connect to access a PowerPoint Presentation with a review of the Definition, Nature, and Scope of Geography .

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Category : Education

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