Space & Place
You might think you already know what the words 'space' and 'place' mean. Dustin does. He thinks, 'I've used those words my entire life! Why should I have to study them now? I'm much more interested in studying something else.'
But in geography, space and place have specific definitions and it's important for Dustin and other students to know what they mean. To geographers, a space is a general, objective location or area. For example, when Dustin is studying the languages humans speak, he might look at America or he might compare residents of Texas to residents of Nevada or Massachusetts. The U.S., as well as the states of Texas, Nevada, and Massachusetts, are all spaces. That is, they are areas that are objectively defined.
A space can be a country or state, as we've seen, or it could be something else, like a national park or a mountain range. The point is that when you are talking about a space, people know what it is because there is a specific way of defining that location.
On the other hand, a place includes both subjective and objective aspects of a location. For example, let's say that Dustin wants to look at the language abilities of people along the American-Mexican border and compare those with the people who live in the Midwest and those who live along the border with French-speaking Canada. That seems pretty straightforward, right?
But wait! We have to figure out what areas are encompassed by all of those places. For example, which states are part of the Midwest? Is Missouri part of the Midwest, or is it part of the South? What about Kentucky? Is Colorado too far west to be part of that place?
The borders between America and Mexico or between America and French Canada seem a little easier to define, right? But remember that Dustin wants to study people who live along those borders. So how far into America does he go? Is it just people whose backyards touch the actual border between the countries? People who live within ten miles of the border? People who live within a hundred miles of the border?
As you can see, defining a place can get complicated. And many geographers have to make subjective decisions about how they will define a specific area for the study they are conducting. But with a place, they will have objective material, like the border, to help them and add in some subjective information, like how far away from the border people can live and still be considered 'on the border', to come up with a definition.
On the other hand, for a space, there is only objective information; no subjective aspect to the definition.
Dustin is studying how many languages people speak and how where they live might impact that number. So far, he's figured out that he wants to look at people in the Midwest and compare them to people who live along the borders with Mexico and French-speaking Canada.
In order to write up his report, he wants to include some maps that show how language is different in different regions of the U.S. He'll color in, for example, the concentrations of people who speak languages other than English.
So Dustin goes to draw up a map to show the places he studied. He shades in the areas he studied - the Midwest and the borders. But after he shades in the border lines, he notices something. In his study, he looked at people who lived within 100 miles of the border. But when he colored in his map, it looks like the area along the French Canadian border is a wider area than that of the border with Mexico. What's going on?
The problem is that Dustin just shaded in an area that looked about right. He neglected to use scale, or the proportion of an area on a map that relates to the area in real life. For example, Dustin could have shaded in one inch for every 100 miles, which would mean that on both borders, the shading would extend in one inch from the border. The proportion of area on the map (one inch) is equal to a specific area in real life (100 miles). For every inch on Dustin's map, in real life there would be 100 miles.
Scale helps geographers draw maps that accurately represent the places they are studying. Without his scale, a place on Dustin's map makes it look like the area along the French Canadian border that he studied is deeper than the area along the Mexican border, even though they were the same area in his study.
Cultural geography is the study of how the environment affects humans and vice versa. In cultural geography, space is an objectively defined area, whereas a place is defined with both subjective and objective data. To help convey the places they study, geographers often use scale, or the proportion of the area on a map that relates to the area in real life.
After watching this video on cultural geography, make an effort to:
- Define cultural geography
- Determine what space and place mean in regards to cultural geography
- Understand the importance of using a scale