Intro Unit (Unit 1) Vocabulary


The study of geographic phenomena by visiting places and observing how people interact with and thereby change those places.

human geography

One of the two major divisions of geography; the spatial analysis of human population, its cultures, activities, and landscapes.


The expansion of economic, political, and cultural processesto the point that they become global in scale and impact. They transcend state boundaries and have outcomes that vary across places and scales.

physical geography

One of the two major divisions of systematic geography; the spatial analysis of the structure, processes, and location of the Earth's natural phenomena such as climate, soil, plants, animals, and topography.


Pertaining to space on Earth's surface; sometimes used as a synonym for geographic.

spatial distribution

Physical location of geographic phemonena across space.


The design of a spatial distribution (scattered or concentrated).

medical geography

The study of health and disease within a geographic context and from a geographical perspective. Among other things, this looks at sources, diffusion routes, and distribution of diseases.


An outbreak of disease that spreads worldwide.


A disease that is particular to a locality or region.

spatial perspective

Observing geographic phenomena across space.

five themes (of geography)

Developed by the Geography Educational National Implementation Project (GENIP), these are location, human-environment, region, place, and movement.


The first theme of geography and defined by the Geography Educational National Implementation Project; the geographical situation of people and things.

location theory

A logical attempt to explain the loctional pattern of economic activity and the manner in which its producing areas are interrellated. The agricultural location theory contained in the von Thunen model is a leading example.

human-environment (interaction)

The second theme of geography as defined by the Geography Educational National Implementation Project; reciprocal relationship between humans and environment.


The third theme of geography as defined by the Geography Educational National Implementation Project; an area on the Earth's surface marked by a degree of formal, functional, or perceptual homogeneity of some phenomenon.


The fourth theme of geography as defined by the Geography Educational National Implementation Project; uniqueness of a location.

sense of place

State of mind derived through the infusion of a place with meaning and emotion by remembering important events that occured in that place or by labeling a place with a certain character.

perception of place

Belief or "understanding" about a place developed through books, movies, stories or pictures.


The fifth theme of geography as defined by the Geography Educational National Implementation Project; the mobility of people, goods, and ideas across the surface of the planet.

spatial interaction

See complementarity and intervening opportunity.Complementarity--A condition that exists when two regions, through exchange of raw materials and/or finished products, can specifically satisfy each other's demands.Intervening opportunity--The prescence of a nearer opportunity that greatly diminishes the attractiveness of sites farther away.


Measurement of the physical space between two places.


The degree of ease with which it is possible to reach a certain location from other locations. This varies from place to place and can be measured.


The degree of direct linkage between one particular location and other locations in a transport network.


The overall appearance of an area. Most are comprised of a combination of natural and human-induced influences.

cultural landscape

The visible imprint of human activity and culture on the landscape. The layers of buildings, forms, and artifacts sequentially imprinted on the landscape by the activities of various human occupants.

sequent occupance

The notion that successive societies leave their cultural imprints on a place, each contributing to the cumulative cultural landscape.


The art and science of making maps, including data compilation, layout, and design. Also concerned with the interpretation of mapped patterns.

reference maps

Maps that show the absolute location of places and geographic features determinedby a frame of reference, typically latitude and longitude.

thematic maps

Maps that tell stories, typically showing the degree of some attribute or the movement of a geographic phenomenon.

absolute location

The position or place of a certain item on the surface of the Earth as expressed in degrees, minutes, and seconds of latitude, 0 to 90 degrees morth or south of the equator, and longitude, 0 to 180 degrees east or west of the Prime Meridian passing through Greenwich, England (a suburb of London).

global positioning system (GPS)

Sattelite-based system for determining the absolute location of places or geographic features.


A hunt for a cache, the Global Position System (GPS) coodinates of which are placed on the Internet by other geocachers.

relative location

The regional position or situation of a place relative to the position of other places. Distance, accessibility, and connectivity affect this.

mental map

Image or picture of the way space is organized as determined by an individual's perception, impression, or knowledge of that space.

activity space

The space wthin which daily activity occurs.

generalized map

The process of selecting and representing information on a map in a way that adapts the information to the scale of the display medium of the map. (definition form not in book.)

remote sensing

A method of collecting data or information through the use of instruments (eg sattelites) that are physically distant from the area or object of study.

geographc information systems

A collection of computer hardware and software that permits spatial data to be collected, recorded, stored, retrieved, manipulated, analyzed, and displayed to the user.


Involvement of players at other scales to generate support for a position or an initiative (eg., the use of the Internet to generate interest on a national or global scale for a local position or initiative).

formal region

A type of region marked by a certain degree of homogeneity in one or more phenomena; also called uniform region or homogeneous region.

functional region

A region defined by the particular set of activities or interactions that occur within it.

perceptual region

A region that only exists as a conceptualization or an idea and not as a physically demarcated entity. For example, in the United States, "the South" and "the Mid-Atlantic region" are perceptual regions.


The sum total of the knowledge, attitudes, and habitual behavior patterns shared and transmitted by the members of a society. This is anthropologist Ralph Linton's definition; hundreds of others exist.

culture trait

A single element of normal practice in a culture, such as the wearing of a turban.

culture complex

A related set of cultural traits, such as prevailing dress codes and cooking and eating utensils.

cultural hearth

Heartland, source area, innovation center; place of origin of a major culture.

independent invention

The term for a trait with many cultural hearths that developed independant of each other.

cultural diffusion

The expansion and adoption of a cultural element, from its place of origin to a wider area.

time-distance decay

The declining degree of acceptance of an idea or innovation with increasing time and distance from its point of origin or source.

cultural barrier

Prevailing cultural attitude rendering certain innovations, ideas, or practices unnacceptable or unadoptable in that particular area.

expansion diffusion

The spread of an innovation or an idea in such a way that the number of those influenced grows continuously larger, resulting in an expanding area of dissemination.

contagious diffusion

The distance-controlled spreading of an idea, innovation, or some other item through a local poulation by contact form person to person--analogous to the communication of a contaigious ilness.

hierarchical diffusion

A form of diffusion in which an idea or innovation spreads by passing first among the most connected places of peoples. An urban hierarchy is usually involved, encouraging the leapfrogging of innovations over wider areas, with geographic distance a less important influence.

stimulus diffusion

A form of diffusion in which a cultural adaption is created as a result of the introduction o a cultural trait from another place.

relocation diffusion

Sequential diffusion process in which the items being diffused are transmitted by their carrier agents as they evacuate the old areas and relocate to new ones. The most common form of relocation diffusion involves the spreading of innovations by a migration population.

geographic concept

Ways of seeing the world spatially that are used by geographers in answering research questions.

environmental determinism

The view that the natural environment has a controlling influence over various aspects of human life, including cultural development. Also referred to as environmentalism.


Line on a map connecting points of equal temperature values.


Geographic viewpoint--a response to determinism--that holds that human decision making, not the environment, is the crucial factor in cultural development. Nonetheless, possibilists view the environment as providing a set of broad constraints that limit the possibilities of human choice.

cultural ecology

The multiple interactions and relationships between a culture and the natural environment.

political ecology

An approach to studying nature-society relations that is concerned with the ways in which environmental issues both reflect, and are the result of, the political and socioeconomic contexts in which they are situated.