ences in the characteristics of individual localities but also differences in how they are affected by societal processes operating at larger scales. Research has shown, for example, that the changing growth prospects of American cities and regions cannot adequately be understood without taking into account the changing position of the United States in the global system and the impact of this change on national political and economic trends (Peet, 1987; Smith and Feagin, 1987).

Geographic research also has focused explicitly on the spatial manifestations of institutional behavior, notably that of large multilocational firms; national, state, and local governments; and labor unions. Research on multilocational firms has examined their spatial organization, their use of geographical strategies of branch-plant location and marketing in order to expand into or maintain geographically defined markets, and the way their actions affect the development possibilities of different places (Scott, 1988b; Dicken, 1992). Research into state institutions has focused on such issues as territorial integration and fragmentation; evolving differences in the responsibilities and powers exercised by state institutions at different geographical scales; and political and economic rivalries between territories, including their impact on political boundaries and on geopolitical spheres of influence. Observed shifts in the location of political influence and responsibility away from traditional national territories to both local states and supranational institutions demonstrate the importance of studying political institutions across a range of geographical scales (Taylor, 1993).

Spatial Representation

The importance of spatial representation as a third dimension of geography's perspectives (see Figure 3.1) is perhaps best exemplified by the long and close association of cartography with geography (see Chapter 4). Research emphasizing spatial representation complements, underpins, and sometimes drives research in other branches of geography and follows directly from the thesis that location matters. Geographers involved in spatial representation research use concepts and methods from many other disciplines and interact with colleagues in those fields, including computer science, statistics, mathematics, geodesy, civil engineering, cognitive science, formal logic, cognitive psychology, semiotics, and linguistics. The goals of this research are to produce a unified approach to spatial representation and to devise practical tools for representing the complexities of the world and for facilitating the synthesis of diverse kinds of information and diverse perspectives.

How geographers represent geographic space, what spatial information is represented, and what space means in an age of advanced computer and telecommunications technology are critical to geography and to society. Research linking cartographic theory with philosophies of science and social theory has demonstrated that the way problems are framed, and the tools that are used to structure and manipulate data, can facilitate investigation of particular categories of prob-

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement