Geometry of Geography

continued from » Structure

continued from » Structure

‘Geometry of Geography’ sounds strange in the beginning, but it just should give you an understanding on how the world is understood in the eyes of a geographer and how the world can be seen in general.

There are four basic figures: points, areas/regions, streams and networks/systems.

1. Points

Two main fundamentals are explained here: position and location.

“Where is what?” – Question for position: Geographers divide position into absolute position and relative position.

A position which is absolute is referred to the topography. That means you can look up any location you want on the surface of the Earth by knowing the location’s position on a map. For example, you can look up the city “Los Angeles” in an atlas. There you get to know the exact coordinates of Los Angeles. That is the absolute position of Los Angeles.

A position which is relative is referred to the relation from one place to another. An example would be that someone says Seattle was in the north west of the USA. To be “north west” is relative. Another example is the so-called “North Range” which includes the most important harbors of Europe with a connection to the North Sea.

What is a location?

A location is a term which includes the position of a place in context to economic geography. A location factor is what makes a location attractive for companies. A locational advantage is the advantage you get because of the company; it is at a specific place like New York for example. The definition of advantage is based on cost savings.

Here is a little example of the before mentioned:

An electronic company is located in Silicon Valley, California. Why? Because it is the place to be to play a big role on the electronic market. Location factors which are there, is qualified labor force, companies which provides you with material you need, and so on. The locational advantages are remarkable: low cost for transportation, water, electricity, and so on. That is so because of being in a cluster for electronics. A cluster is going be discussed later on. The following is a simplified definition that should give you an idea of what a cluster is: A cluster is a place where a lot of firms are located which are in the same sector, like electronics. So, it can be called cluster of electronics.

2. Areas/regions

Here are some terms which show you how geographers divide regions:

Homogenous regions:

These are territories which have the same attributes. An example for that are areas like housing complexes or an area with a similar amount of unemployed citizens.

Political-administrative regions:

These are territories which go back to political or administrative statutes. These territories are territorial states or states of countries like the USA, Germany, Austria, and so on. For example, metropolitan areas are such territories.

Functional regions:

These are territories which have locations connected to each other like commuting areas. For example, there are a lot of people commuting every day from suburbs or villages to the city of London.

Economic areas:

These are territories which can be seen as definable sophisticated systems. Examples are the “Cotton Belt”, “Silicon Valley”, and the “Ruhr Area”.

3. Streams

Streams are for example streams that show world trade or routes for global shipping (the following image shows streams of shipping routes).

World Shipping Routes

Illustration1: world shipping routes

(Source: “Wirtschaft und Politik” course – Prof. Dr. Ossenbruegge, slide 25; or World Development Report 2009, p. 172)

4. Networks/systems

Geographers distinguish between interactions, nodes and spatial systems:


These are understood as flow of people, material or information.


Nodes are locations which connect interactions.

Spatial systems:

These are connections between locations without building a homogenous or functional region. For example, it can be a transport chain or trade flows or migration flows, etc.