Cultural Artifacts & Buildings: Vocabulary

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  • 0:01 Cultural Geography
  • 0:52 Changing Environs
  • 3:12 Cultural Perceptions
  • 4:17 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

Have you ever noticed how cities around the world can look very different from each other? In this lesson, we'll examine the ways that culture can influence the environment, including built environment, cultural landscape, and cultural/environmental perception.

Cultural Geography

Pete is very interested in people. He finds it fascinating that some cultures believe in ghosts and spirits and others reject those ideas. He thinks that the diversity of humans, and the diversity of the cultures that humans belong to, are really interesting.

In school, Pete is studying cultural geography, which is the study of the interaction between humans and the environment. For example, some cultures eat a lot of fish because they live near water, while others live in the desert and very rarely eat fish at all.

This is a good example of how environment can play a large role in shaping a culture, but it's also true that culture can shape the environment. Let's examine how human culture can change the physical world, and how different cultures view the earth differently.

Changing Environs

When Pete thinks about culture, he often thinks about specific items. For example, his grandmother was from Germany, and when he thinks of her culture, he thinks of beers and dirndls, which are traditional German drinks and garb.

An artifact is a material manifestation of culture. Things like tools, clothing, art, and food are all artifacts. So when Pete associates beer and dirndls with German culture, he is thinking of artifacts.

Another physical manifestation of culture can be found in a built environment, which is part of the physical landscape that represents culture. These are things like buildings and roads. They are things that people build, and so they are collectively called the built environment.

When Pete thinks about his grandmother's German heritage, he imagines certain things, like stone buildings and castles built on mountains. On the other hand, Pete's grandfather was Turkish. When he thinks of the built environment in his grandfather's hometown, it is quite different! Instead of building castles, they carved their homes into the side of mountains. They live in a very different built environment than the Germans.

A cultural landscape is an area that includes modification to the environment by humans. A culture's built environment is part of its cultural landscape, but so is something like agriculture. When Pete's grandmother's village planted crops in a spare field, they were not making buildings and roads, and so it wasn't part of their built environment. But they were changing the landscape, so it became part of their cultural landscape, as much so as the buildings and roads that they made.

A culture's impact on its own environment makes sense when you think about it. After all, Pete's German ancestors were in Germany, so it makes sense that they changed the German landscape. But what about when a culture expresses itself in different physical locations?

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