The Regionalization Process: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:04 Regional Geography
  • 0:46 The Regionalization Process
  • 3:12 Scale
  • 4:14 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

Geography is a broad field of study, so regionalization can really help. In this lesson, we are going to explore the regionalization process and see how it can be used by geographers.

Regional Geography

Imagine being a geographer. That's a big job. You've got to study all the landforms of the world. Think you can do it? Actually, geographers rarely work on a scale that big. Instead, they break the world up into smaller pieces that are more efficient to study. We call these pieces 'regions.' In geography, a region is a conceptual unit; it's a place defined not necessarily by strict physical borders but by whatever criteria the geographer finds to be most useful.

Maybe the geographer wants to study a physical region and looks at the Rocky Mountains. Or maybe the geographer is more interested in a cultural region, and examines the distribution of people who speak Spanish. There are many ways to break apart the world into regions, and it can make geography much more manageable and also a lot of fun.

The Regionalization Process

So how exactly do geographers identify regions? Breaking apart a large area into smaller regions is something known as the regionalization process. This is how geographers identify the parameters of regions within a greater area of space. For it to be useful, regionalization must break areas into practical units. Therefore, the regionalization process isn't about creating regions as much as it is about identifying regions that already exist.

While regionalization can occur based around any topic of study, most of these regions fall into one of three broad categories.

1. Formal Regions

Formal regions are those which are defined by some uniform characteristic. If we wanted to break the United States into regions of major weather patterns, for example, those would be formal regions because everyone within a single region is experiencing the same weather. By that same logic, the West Coast could be a formal region because everyone who lives here shares a geographic place on the continent.

2. Vernacular Regions

A second type of region is the vernacular region. This is a cultural region that people understand to be a product of their society, but they still believe in its importance. It's somehow tied to their local identities, and can be based around a number of cultural factors.

For example, a researcher once conducted a famous survey of the American South, and broke it into regions based on the most popular barbecue recipes. What they found was the barbeque regionalism is a very important part of Southern identity. The sort of barbecue you eat is an important part of who you are. Now, technically not everyone within a barbecue region has to eat that barbecue. It's a choice, and that's the difference between a formal and vernacular region.

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