We can conceptualize Geography as the science that studies the existing relationships between human beings and space, in the actions of transformation and preservation. When we reflect on how society transforms nature in space or how nature conditions, limits or drives the human population installed in a place, we are dealing with geographic studies.
Such studies involve the relationships that occur between human society and the natural environment, therefore, there is a tendency in the division of geographic studies, between human and physical areas. However, this trend compromises the development of geographic study, since Geography is a science of synthesis, which seeks to explain the reality of spatial phenomena – in the complexity of social and environmental relations -, more than the simple description of them.
The use of geographic categories , which consist of instruments for the observation, analysis and interpretation of spatial phenomena, is one of the ways to facilitate the study of the great diversity of the themes covered by geographic science.
The human actions that shape the Earth’s surface can be classified into five geographic categories, which allow us to understand how spatial phenomena manifest themselves. They are: the geographical space , the region , the landscape , the place and the territory .
For Geography, space can be defined as the part of the Earth’s surface where interactions between humans and the natural environment occur. As the human being transforms the nature of a particular place, he produces the space. Even though there are places where the natural environment has not yet been changed, these are also part of the geographical space, as there are resources that can be used by humanity in some way.
Thus, the geographic space encompasses all natural areas that have already been transformed by human action, such as those that are being altered in the present, as well as potential areas, which can be modified in the future. The study of geographic space allows us to understand how our society is organized and transformed so that it can continue to exist for future generations.
It is the geographic category that seeks to establish a common element between different spatial areas, which means that there are characteristics in a region that are shared by all the localities that compose it. When determining a region, specific criteria are established, and all locations that meet these criteria are considered to belong to a given region.
The regions are important for geographic studies, as they group places with similar characteristics and facilitate the understanding of the spatial context in which the territories are inserted.
Regions can be used as a means of administrative division, seeking to group different locations, such as neighborhoods, municipalities or states, to facilitate their organization. An example of this type of use for the region category occurs when we group Brazilian states in large regions.
The landscape can be defined as any spatial portion with which we have direct or indirect contact. Even though it is experienced by the different human senses (touch, sight, smell, hearing and taste), in general, vision will be the main means of capturing the landscape.
When you look at a place, be it your classroom, the street of your home or a rural area through the window of a bus, what you can see is part of the landscape. Even looking at a photo of a place you’ve never been allows you to identify elements of the landscape that make it up.
The landscapes can be classified into two major groups, depending on the elements that compose it: natural landscapes and cultural landscapes.
The natural landscapes are characterized by the presence of essential natural elements of the environment, such as the shape of the relief of an area, its vegetation, its fauna, climate, and other environmental factors.
The cultural landscapes are defined by the presence of human elements, both urban buildings such as houses and buildings, infrastructure projects, dams or bridges, and even rural elements such as agricultural crops or pasture for livestock.
The definition of territory is linked to the delimitation of well-defined and demarcated spaces, whether these are natural demarcations – established by nature – or social – established by human beings. One of the essential characteristics of territories is the demarcation of their limits or borders, which can always be transformed.
A territory is always established based on a characteristic that has some influence on that geographical space. Thus, a cultural territory is delimited by the area in which a culture is manifested; the territory of a fauna, by the area in which an animal species inhabits; and the political territory, by the area that a country, state or municipality occupies.
The division of territories is important for human occupation, as it determines the administrative areas in which a population is organized, showing whose responsibility it is in relation to the infrastructures and services that must be made available by the State in a given area.
The place consists of an area of the earth’s surface to which particular meanings are attributed. Thus, for the establishment of a place, it is not enough to just describe or explain how a portion of the space is configured, it is also necessary to understand its composition, covering, in addition to the visible dimension of the earth’s surface, the relationships between the people who live in that space.
As each individual is unique and has very specific spatial experiences, a place will have different meanings for each person who lives there. The same place is different for you, for your teacher or for any of your colleagues, because the experiences of each one in that place will influence its meaning.