Geography’s relevance to science and society arises from a distinctive and integrating set of perspectives through which geographers view the world around them.
Taking time to understand geography’s perspectives is important because geography can be difficult to place within the family of academic disciplines. Just as all phenomena exist in time and thus have a history, they also exist in space and have a geography. Geography and history are therefore central to understanding our world and have been identified as core subjects . Clearly, this kind of focus tends to cut across the boundaries of other natural and social science disciplines. Consequently, geography is sometimes viewed by those unfamiliar with the discipline as a collection of disparate specialties with no central core or coherence.
What holds most disciplines together, however, is a distinctive and coherent set of perspectives through which the world is analyzed. Like other academic disciplines, geography has a well-developed set of perspectives:
- geography’s way of looking at the world through the lenses of place, space, and scale;
- geography’s domains of synthesis: environmental-societal dynamics relating human action to the physical environment, environmental dynamics linking physical systems, and human-societal dynamics linking economic, social, and political systems; and
- spatial representation using visual, verbal, mathematical, digital, and cognitive approaches.
These three perspectives can be represented as dimensions of a matrix of geographic inquiry as shown in Figure .