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Geography is the study of the earth and its features, inhabitants, and phenomena.[1] A literal translation would be "to describe or write about the Earth". The first person to use the word "geography" was Eratosthenes (276-194 B.C.). Four historical traditions in geographical research are the spatial analysis of natural and human phenomena (geography as a study of distribution), area studies (places and regions), study of man-land relationship, and research in earth sciences.[2] Nonetheless, modern geography is an all-encompassing discipline that foremost seeks to understand the world and all of its human and natural complexities-- not merely where objects are, but how they have changed and come to be. As "the bridge between the human and physical sciences," geography is divided into two main branches - human geography and physical geography.[3]

File:World-map-2004-cia-factbook-large-1.7m-whitespace-removed.jpg

Introduction

Traditionally, geographers have been viewed the same way as cartographers and people who study place names and numbers. Although many geographers are trained in toponymy and cartology, this is not their main preoccupation. Geographers study the spatial and temporal distribution of phenomena, processes and feature as well as the interaction of humans and their environment.[4] As space and place affect a variety of topics such as economics, health, climate, plants and animals, geography is highly interdisciplinary.

mere names of places...are not geography... know by heart a whole gazetteer full of them would not, in itself, constitute anyone a geographer. Geography has higher aims than this: it seeks to classify phenomena (alike of the natural and of the political world, in so far as it treats of the latter), to compare, to generalize, to ascend from effects to causes, and, in doing so, to trace out the great laws of nature and to mark their influences upon man. This is 'a description of the world'—that is Geography. In a word Geography is a Science—a thing not of mere names but of argument and reason, of cause and effect.
 


Geography as a discipline can be split broadly into two main sub fields: human geography and physical geography. The former focuses largely on the built environment and how space is created, viewed and managed by humans as well as the influence humans have on the space they occupy. The latter examines the natural environment and how the climate, vegetation & life, soil, water and landforms are produced and interact.[6] As a result of the two subfields using different approaches a third field has emerged, which is environmental geography. Environmental geography combines physical and human geography and looks at the interactions between the environment and humans.[4]

Branches of geography

Physical geography

Main article: Physical geography

Physical geography (or physiogeography) focuses on geography as an Earth science. It aims to understand the physical lithosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, pedosphere and global flora and fauna patterns (biosphere). Physical geography can be divided into the following broad categories:

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Biogeography Climatology & paleoclimatology Coastal geography Environmental geography & management Geodesy Geomorphology Glaciology
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Hydrology & Hydrography Landscape ecology Oceanography Pedology Palaeogeography Quaternary science

Human geography

Main article: Human geography

Human geography is a branch of geography that focuses on the study of patterns and processes that shape human interaction with various environments. It encompasses human, political, cultural, social, and economic aspects. While the major focus of human geography is not the physical landscape of the Earth (see physical geography), it is hardly possible to discuss human geography without referring to the physical landscape on which human activities are being played out, and environmental geography is emerging as a link between the two. Human geography can be divided into many broad categories (for a comprehensive list see human geography), such as:

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Cultural geography Development geography Economic geography Health geography Historical & Time geography Political geography & Geopolitics Population geography or Demography
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Religion geography Social geography Transportation geography Tourism geography Urban geography

Various approaches to the study of human geography have also arisen through time and include:

Environmental geography

Main article: Environmental geography

Environmental geography is the branch of geography that describes the spatial aspects of interactions between humans and the natural world. It requires an understanding of the traditional aspects of physical and human geography, as well as the ways in which human societies conceptualize the environment.

Environmental geography has emerged as a bridge between human and physical geography as a result of the increasing specialisation of the two sub-fields. Furthermore, as human relationship with the environment has changed as a result of globalisation and technological change a new approach was needed to understand the changing and dynamic relationship. Examples of areas of research in environmental geography include disaster management, environmental management, sustainability and political ecology.

Geomatics

Main article: Geomatics
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Geomatics is a branch of geography that has emerged since the quantitative revolution in geography in the mid 1950s. Geomatics involves the use of traditional spatial techniques used in cartography and topography and their application to computers. Geomatics has become a widespread field with many other disciplines using techniques such as GIS and remote sensing. Geomatics has also led to a revitalisation of some geography departments especially in Northern America where the subject had a declining status during the 1950s.

Geomatics encompasses a large area of fields involved with spatial analysis, such as Cartography, Geographic information systems (GIS), Remote sensing and GPS.

Regional geography

Main article: Regional geography

Regional geography is a branch of geography that studies the regions of all sizes across the Earth. It has a prevailing descriptive character. The main aim is to understand or define the uniqueness or character of a particular region which consists of natural as well as human elements. Attention is paid also to regionalization which covers the proper techniques of space delimitation into regions.

Regional geography is also considered as a certain approach to study in geographical sciences (similar to quantitative or critical geographies, for more information see History of geography).

Related fields

  • Urban planning, regional planning and spatial planning: use the science of geography to assist in determining how to develop (or not develop) the land to meet particular criteria, such as safety, beauty, economic opportunities, the preservation of the built or natural heritage, and so on. The planning of towns, cities and rural areas may be seen as applied geography.
  • Interplanetary Sciences: While the discipline of geography is normally concerned with the Earth, the term can also be informally used to describe the study of other worlds, such as the planets of the solar system, and even beyond. The study of systems larger than the earth itself usually forms part of Astronomy or Cosmology. The study of other planets is usually called planetology. Alternative terms such as areology (the study of Mars) have been proposed but are not widely used.

Geographical techniques

As spatial interrelationships are key to this synoptic science, maps are a key tool. Classical cartography has been joined by a more modern approach to geographical analysis, computer-based geographic information systems (GIS).

In their study, geographers use four interrelated approaches:

  • Systematic - Groups geographical knowledge into categories that can be explored globally.
  • Regional - Examines systematic relationships between categories for a specific region or location on the planet.
  • Descriptive - Simply specifies the locations of features and populations.
  • Analytical - Asks why we find features and populations in a specific geographic area.


Geographic qualitative methods

Main article: Ethnography

Geographic qualitative methods, or ethnographical; research techniques, are used by human geographers. In cultural geography there is a tradition of employing qualitative research techniques also used in anthropology and sociology. Participant observation and in-depth interviews provide human geographers with qualitative data.

See also

References

  1. Geography. The American Heritage Dictionary/ of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company.
  2. Pattison, W.D. (1990). The Four Traditions of Geography. Journal of Geography 89 (5): pp. 202-6. ISSN 0022-1341. Reprint of a 1964 article.
  3. web.clas.ufl.edu/users/morgans/lecture_2.prn.pdf.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Hayes-Bohanan, James What is Environmental Geography, Anyway?.
  5. Hughes, William. (1863). The Study of Geography. Lecture delivered at King's College, London by Sir Marc Alexander. Quoted in Baker, J.N.L (1963). The History of Geography, p. 66, Oxford: Basil Blackwell.
  6. What is geography?. AAG Career Guide: Jobs in Geography and related Geographical Sciences. Association of American Geographers.

External links


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