Man, Location, and Behavior: An Introduction to Human Geography

By Kevin R. Cox | Go to book overview

CONCLUDING COMMENTS AND SUMMARY

In this opening chapter three objectives have been followed: (1) to explain what human geography is about; (2) to identify and give some initial interpretation to some of the basic concepts that geographers use in looking at the world around them; and (3) to relate these concerns to the structure of the book.

The idea of location is central to the geographer's task. Geography is concerned with describing the locations of different items at different places on the earth's surface and explaining why things are located where they are. Human geographers confine their attention to the locational expression of humanity and of the works of humanity. In addition to description and explanation geographers have also found themselves increasingly involved in application, that is, applying their ideas to the solution of society's problems.

In order to provide an initial interpretation of basic concepts of description, explanation, and application, we proceeded via two geographic case studies: locational change within the Western city and metropolitan in-migration fields in the United States. These led to the application of concepts of locational pattern such as centralization and excentricity and also allowed us to demonstrate the type of explanatory strategy employed by the human geographer.

Concepts of locational pattern have two components: a locational component, such that a concept of locational pattern cannot be defined without reference to relative location, and a pattern component signifying a predictability in the occurrence of items across a set of locations.

In seeking explanations for locational patterns, the human geographer must ultimately go to the decisions that men make about their movements, about their residential sites, etc. At a lower level of abstraction many patterns can be interpreted in terms of locational processes of interlocational transaction: processes of message flow, migration, trade, etc. Such processes, however, can also be viewed as patterns and as such form an important ingredient of the locational context with reference to which locational decisions are made. The locational context is the environment of places, their characteristics and their locational relations, which affect man's locational decisions.

Important concepts employed by human geographers to describe the locational context include site and situation. Situation refers to the relative location of a place; particularly critical here are the costs of moving from one place to another. Site refers to nonlocational attributes of places such as their attractiveness.

Decisions, however, are based on information about the locational context and such information is variable with respect to amount, accuracy, and evaluative connotation. More profoundly, decisions are the result of human preferences for various goods, services, and benefits, and the locations at which they can be secured in a more or less efficient manner.

In addition to description and explanation in human geography we have also considered the application of such knowledge to the solution of social problems. In such application, however, locational decision makers are responsible to others and there is, therefore, a clear need for an accurate accounting of the welfare and illfare implications of alternative policies.

Finally, we have briefly outlined the content of the remainder of the book demon-

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