What sort of Geographer am I?
When I was in high school my understanding of geography and what I was taught about was a knowledge that related to map, encyclopedic knowledge of countries and travel and description of places. However, Holt-Jensen (1999) explained that geography is more than that. Those I described earlier are considered the three popular opinions of geography, they are not the subject of geography but they are, indeed, the basic of geography. For instance, names and location of places are the basic information for geography just like dates and events are for history. Maps and mapping system including thematic maps which represent the earth features are an essential means of expression in geographical research. Moreover, travel and description of places provides an important data along with the map in order to be able to see and understand the complexity of relationships on the earth’s surface.
I agree with Holt-Jensen (1999) and Haggett (1975) that geography is a science of synthesis, “a science linking humanity and environment and creating a bridge between the social and natural science”. Eventhough, to some extent it is not an easy work and some people argue that it is impossible. In addition, I also agree with Schmithusen (1976) in Holt-Jensen (1999) that geography is a discipline that “concerns with the earth surface and its spatial parts in their totality: with the association of phenomena in particular spaces or region”. It is similar to Haggett (1975) ideas that “geographers are concerned with the structured and interaction of two major systems: the ecological system that links man and his environment, and the spatial system that links one region with another in a complex interchange of flows”. In a simple way, based on authoritarian definition of geography, geographer should view a phenomenon by developing an analysis and asking questions of where, what, how and why.
The following figure developed by Fenneman (1919) tries to explain the discipline of geography as a science of synthesis among the other disciplines.
Geography tries to studies overall interaction between phenomena that in the other disciplines they are considered specific. For example, the economic development based on agricultural production may relate to soil type and the climate conditions of the area and not merely by the specific economic factors.
To explain the methodological approach employed in geography, Schmitusen (1976) in Holt-Jensen (1999) developed four categories of basic reasoning of scientific research, which are characterized by pairs of concepts namely: total-general, partial-general, partial-special and total-special. Total-general reasoning affects the general or holistic understanding of objects by making general statements about the objects, usually employed by the philosophers of science. Partial-general reasoning “implies a study of parts as such, with the ultimate aim of presenting general statements, like laws in physics. Partial-special reasoning also termed idiographic focus on understanding of individual phenomena. Lastly, total-special reasoning which geography is considered in it, tries to understand the complex features of particular unities.
Haggett (1975) conception about the internal structure of geography can be described in the following table:
The orthodox division is considered conventional which is based on the study of regions and systematic characteristic. This division is important because most university courses are described in these terms. While the integrated one is based on how it approaches the problems. There are three different approaches used, namely spatial analysis which studies the variation of series or significant properties based on their location; ecological analysis which studies the relation between human and environment and the interpretation of the links; and based on regional complex analysis which analyzes the combination of spatial and ecological within their region.
Haggett (ibid) also tries to build a diagram that explain linkages between geography and its supporting fields showed in the following figure. For me, using this figure, it is much easier to locate my interest of study in geography.
Fellmann, et al. (1990) described that there are physical and human geography categorization in which the division is based on “particular classes of things rather than segments of the earth’s surface for specialized study”. In this division, physical geography focuses the study on the natural environmental side of the human-environment structure while human geography deals with the people “where they are, what they are like, how they interact overspace, and what kind of landscapes of human use they erect upon the natural landscapes they occupy”. Human geography, moreover, “provides integration for all the social sciences”.
My background, working environment and my study interest
I was not trained to be a geographer before; I studied geography as a discipline only when I was in high school. My major in bachelor degree was biology specifically botany. After graduated, I work in the conservation areas. During the first year of my job, I was exposed to GIS application that known as an important tools for geographer. My friend majoring in geography taught me how to operate GIS application as well as explained basic knowledge related to geography such as mapping system, cartography and satellite images or air photos.
When I study for my master at the Geography department of University of Hawaii Manoa, I learned that geography covered a broad knowledge and it is an interdisciplinary major. I learned not only physical geography that I was probably exposed before, but also human geography that closely related to social sciences. It was a hard time for me to follow courses related to human geography which there were so many terms and concepts that were not familiar to me. However, I had a great experience knowing that it will surely change my views toward the understanding of phenomenon on the earth.
My study interest will closely relate to my background in biology and my working experiences in conservation areas. Based on Fenneman (1919) description and Haggett (1975), the link between my background and geography is met in ecology group including biogeography, natural resources, and conservation, resource planning. I am not considering my self within the physical or human geography but I am a geographer that interesting in natural resources management.
Fellmann, J., Getis, A., Getis, J. 1990. Human geography. Second edition. Wm. C. Brown Publishers.
Hagget, P. 1975. Geography: a modern synthesis. Second edition. Harper & Row publisher, New York, Evanston, San Fransisco, London.
Holt-Jensen, A. 1999. Geography history and concepts a students guide. Third edition. Sage publication, Thousand Oaks, California.