GEOG 597i
Critical Geospatial Thinking and Applications

The Concept of Region

For geographers and others, regionalizing space on the face of the earth serves as a tool of spatial analysis. Whereas it would be impossible to effectively study the earth without any formal organizational structure, regions make it possible to organize information about the spatial realities of the earth into meaningful categories. Thus, regions may be based on climatic, political, economic, cultural, and a host of other defining characteristics. For example, Introductory geography courses often break the world into climatic, political, cultural, or economic regions for the purpose of study. Climate regions may include the tropics, the highlands, the humid subtropics, the marine-west coast, the long and short summer mid-latitude climates, and so on. Political regions may be arranged by nation states or spheres of political influence. Cultural regions might include places dominated by religions such as Islam, Christianity, and many others. Furthermore, there are many other possible ways in which the concept of region may be used as a management tool for examining the spatial realities of the world. Consider, for example, the importance of border regions, indigenous reservations, public lands, rural and urban regions, and medical regions.

Places are specific points within regions such as town, cities, counties, etc. Although places may themselves sometimes be categorized as regions, normally there are numerous places inside a region. In other words, a region is generally a broader and spatially more extensive spatial entity than a place.

Regions and places are generally interdependent spatial entities that function as integral parts of continuously changing and interacting networks. In some cases, these interactions may be only local in scope, while in other situations, regions and places may interact on an international (global) level.

Regional Analysis involves gaining understanding of the similarities and differences relative to the relationships between people and places. Included within the overarching concept of region are functional and formal regions. Formal regions exhibit high levels of homogeneity relative to their distinguishing features. Such features might include affluence, dominant land uses, or religious preferences. Functional regions may be based on distinguishing characteristics that occur throughout the region, but that vary in intensity and importance.