Behavioral geography

Behavioral geography is an approach to human geography that examines human behavior using a disaggregate approach. Behavioral geographers focus on the cognitive processes underlying spatial reasoning, decision making, and behavior. In addition, behavioral geography is an ideology/approach in human geography that makes use of the methods and assumptions of behaviorism to determine the cognitive processes involved in an individual's perception of or response and reaction to their environment[1].

Behavioral geography is that branch of human science, which deals with the study of cognitive processes with its response to its environment, through behaviorism.


Because of the name it is often assumed to have its roots in behaviorism. While some behavioral geographers clearly have roots in behaviorism[2][3] due to the emphasis on cognition, most can be seen as cognitively oriented. Indeed, it seems that behaviorism interest is more recent[4] and growing.[2] This is particularly true in the area of human landscaping.

Behavioral geography draws from early behaviorist works such as Tolman's concepts of "cognitive maps". More cognitively oriented, behavioral geographers focus on the cognitive processes underlying spatial reasoning, decision making, and behavior. More behaviorally oriented geographers are materialists and look at the role of basic learning processes and how they influence the landscape patterns or even group identity.[5]

The cognitive processes include environmental perception and cognition, wayfinding, the construction of cognitive maps, place attachment, the development of attitudes about space and place, decisions and behavior based on imperfect knowledge of one's environs, and numerous other topics.

The approach adopted in behavioral geography is closely related to that of psychology, but draws on research findings from a multitude of other disciplines including economics, sociology, anthropology, transportation planning, and many others.

The Social Construction of Nature

Nature is the world which surrounds us, including all life (plants, animals, organisms, humans, etc.) and physical features. Social Construction is the way that human beings process the world around us in our minds. According to Plato's 'Classical Theory of Categorization', humans create categories of what they see through experience and imagination.[6] Social constructionism, therefore, is this characterization that makes language and semantics possible.[6] If these experiences and imageries are not placed into categories, then the human ability to think about it becomes limited.[6]

The social construction of nature looks to question different truths and understandings for how people treat nature, based on when and where someone lives. In academic circles, researchers look at how truths exist (ontology) and how truths are justified (epistemology).[6] Construction is both a process and an outcome, where people's understandings of the word nature can be both literal and metaphorical,[7] such as through giving it a human quality (Mother Nature).[8] It can also be used to discredit science or philosophy.[7]

As a subset of behavioral geography, the social construction of nature also includes environmental ethics and values, which affect how humans treat, and interact with, the natural environment. It incorporates ideas from environmental science, ecology, sociology, geography, biology, theology, philosophy, psychology, politics, economics, and other disciplines, to bring together the social, cultural and environmental dimensions of life. Social constructionism uses a lot of ideas from Western world thinking, but it is also incorporates truths from other world views, such as the Traditional Knowledge of Aboriginal groups, or more specifically ecofeminism[9][10] and cosmology[10] in India or ubuntu[11] philosophy in Africa, for example. It is also related to postmodernism[12] and the concept of the Anthropocene,[13] that views humans as a force that is redirecting the geological history of Earth,[8] destroying nature.[14]

The Role of Linguistics

Raymond Williams, author of Keywords: A vocabulary of culture and society (1983).

There are many ways of understanding and interpreting nature.[8] According to Raymond Williams, there are three ways to give meaning to (or define) nature:

  1. Nature as a quality, character or process[8] (e.g. human nature)
  2. Nature as a force[8] (e.g. weather)
  3. Nature as the material world[8] (e.g. the physical environment)

According to Raymond Williams, language plays a role in how we understand, interpret, and give meaning to nature.[8] This is how multiple truths can be valid at the same time.[6][8]

The Role of Mental Maps

Humans have the ability to create images of their environments through experiences in their mind.[15] These experiences allow us to create mental maps where we can create memories associated to space.[15] It is a two-way process where the environment provides suggestions for what should be seen, and then the observer gives meaning with those suggestions.[15]

These images have three parts:

  1. An identity[15]
  2. A pattern[15]
  3. A practical or emotional meaning[15]

According to Kevin Lynch, the environmental images (or mental maps) that we make can either be weak or strong, where the process is ongoing and never stops.[15]

The Role of Science

Science occurs at many dimensions and scales that do not consider culture, but can be motivated by politics, economics and ethics.[16] Scientific knowledge consists of concepts and analysis, and is a way to represent nature.[12]

According to Michel Foucault, a truth does not have to be close to reality for it to be worth something or have power.[16] For Carolyn Merchant, science can only be given power if a truth is interpreted as having worth.[16]

Schools of Thought

Relativism is important in the social construction of nature, as all truths are relative to the perspective they are coming from. There are two schools of thought on how the social construction of nature is relative:

  1. Critical Realism (being realistic)[12]
  2. Pragmatism (being practical)[12]

Critical realists reject the idea of relativism and rely more on natural sciences.[12] Pragmatists have no set opinion on the matter and rely on social science and ethics, instead.[12]

According to Richard Rorty, relativism is relevant to pragmatism in three ways:

  1. Every belief is equally valid[12]
  2. There is no criteria for what a truth can be[12]
  3. That any truth can be justified by the society it comes from[12]

According to Gilbert White, pragmatism has four main assumptions:

  1. That human existence is based on putting labor into the land[12]
  2. That the idea of owning anything is a conception[12]
  3. That humans learn from their experiences[12]
  4. That engagement of the publics is what allows for commitments[12]

Richard Rorty also associated three characteristics to pragmatism:

  1. That all theories characterize some form of truth[12]
  2. That there is not difference between what can and should be done when it comes to the truth[12]
  3. That knowledge is constrained by the conversations we have[12]

Being pragmatic is the more accepted school of thought for social construction being a relative concept.[12]

Historical Overview

Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring (1962).

Recovery Narratives

Transitions in Thought

  • 1500s-1600s: The belief that man is responsible for environmental problems[17]
  • 1700s-1800s: The idea that progress is attained through controlling nature[17]
  • Mid-1800s: The realization that humans are having unintended impacts on the environment[17]
  • 1800s-1900s: The belief that technology has all the solutions to our problems[17]
  • 1920s-1930s: The belief that technology is destroying nature[17]
  • 1950s-1960s: The belief that humans risk being annihilated if they do not control technological impacts[17]
  • 1960s-1970s: The public awakening of human impacts on the environment with the publication of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring[17]
  • 1980s: The belief that no matter the costs, unrestricted growth is needed for progress[17]
  • 1987: The spreading of public awareness of impacts with the publication of the Brundtland Commission Report: Our Common Future[17]

How Nature becomes Socially Constructed

Vandana Shiva, author of Staying Alive: Women, Culture, and Development (1988).

Nature can be socially constructed by both culturally interpreting and physically shaping the environment.[18] This can happen in three ways:

  1. Using non-human symbols to represent nature (Totemism)[18]
  2. Using non-human animals to relate to nature (Animism)[18]
  3. Viewing nature as an 'Other' (Naturalism) [18]

Constructions can also be categorized by giving them meaning through the process of embodiment,[6] which has three components:

  1. The 'habitus' (the individual)[6]
  2. The practice it originates from (the culture)[6]
  3. An associated taxonomic group (i.e. homo sapiens)[6]

No matter how nature becomes socially constructed, though, the process itself is limited by three dimensions:

  1. The physical dimension[6]
  2. The mental dimension[6]
  3. The social dimension[6]

The physical dimension is limited to the human body, where the brain is responsible for creating and selecting thoughts.[6] The mental dimension is used to understand the physical dimension and is limited to human logic.[6] The social dimension needs moral and social order and is used to give meaning to both what is physically present and what is culturally constructed.[6] All three dimensions must be present and linked to be able to socially construct nature.[6]

Criticism on the Social Construction of Nature

The social construction of nature has room for improvement in four main areas:

  1. By giving more importance to how realities are culturally constructed through social interactions[7]
  2. By acknowledging that all science should be analyzed by the same standard[7]
  3. By gaining a better understanding of the role language plays in constructionism[7]
  4. By giving more importance to how truths exist and how they are justified, using Actor-Network Theory[7]

See also


  1. ^ Hemakumara, GPTS. and Rainis, R. 2018. Spatial behaviour modelling of unauthorised housing in Colombo, Sri Lanka. KEMANUSIAAN the Asian Journal of Humanities25(2): 91–107, Spatial Behaviour Modelling of Unauthorised Housing in Colombo, Sri Lanka | Request PDF. Available from: [accessed Sep 27 2018].
  2. ^ a b Norton, W. (2001). Initiating an affair human geography and behavior analysis. The Behavior Analyst Today, 2 (4), 283–290 [1]
  3. ^ Norton, W. (2002) Explaining Landscape Change: Group Identity and Behavior. The Behavior Analyst Today, 3 (2), 155–160 BAO
  4. ^ Glass, J.E. (2007). Behavior analytic grounding of sociological social constructionism. The Behavior Analyst Today, 8 (4), 426–433 BAO
  5. ^ Norton, W. (1997). Human geography and behavior analysis: An application of behavior analysis to the evolution of human landscapes. The Psychological Record, 47, 439–460
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Gerber, J. (1997). Beyond Dualism — the social construction of nature and the natural and social construction of human beings. Retrieved from
  7. ^ a b c d e f Demerit, D. (2002). What is the 'social construction of nature'? A typology and sympathetic critique. Retrieved from
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h Williams, R. (1983). Keyword: A vocabulary of culture and society. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
  9. ^ a b c d e f Merchant, C. (2003). Reinventing Eden: The Fate of Nature in Western Culture. New York, NY: Routledge.
  10. ^ a b Shiva, V. (1988). Staying Alive: Women, Ecology, and Development (1st ed.). London, UK: Zed Books Ltd.
  11. ^ Grange, L. L. (2012). Ubuntu, Ukama, Environment and Moral Education. Journal of Moral Education, 41(3), 329-340.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Proctor, J. (1998). The Social Construction of Nature: Relativist Accusations, Pragmatist and Critical Realist Responses. Retrieved from
  13. ^ Monastersky, R. (2015). Anthropocene: The Human Age. Nature, 519(7542), 143-147.
  14. ^ Cronon, W. (1995). The Trouble with Wilderness; or, Getting Back to the Wrong Nature. In Uncommon Ground: Rethinking the Human Place in Nature (pp. 69-90). New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Co.
  15. ^ a b c d e f g Lynch, D. (1960). The Image of the City. MA: Harvard University Press.
  16. ^ a b c Pedynowski, D. (2003). Science(s) - which, when and whose? Probing the metanarrative of scientific knowledge in the social construction of nature. Retrieved from
  17. ^ a b c d e f g h i Lowenthal, D. (1990). Awareness of Human Impacts: Changing Attitudes and Emphases. In B.L. Turner(Ed.), The earth as transformed by human action: global and regional changes in the biosphere over the past 300 years (pp. 121-135). Cambridge: Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge.
  18. ^ a b c d Peterson, A. (1999). Environmental Ethics and the Social Construction of Nature. Retrieved from
Arthur Lewis Building

The Arthur Lewis Building, which is named after the economist Arthur Lewis, is part of the University of Manchester's campus. It is located west of Oxford Road and south of the Manchester Business School, nearly a mile from the centre of Manchester, UK. Construction was completed in 2007, when the building was given a BREEAM 'Very Good' rating.

Cognitive geography

Cognitive geography is an interdisciplinary study of cognitive science and geography. It aims to understand how humans view space, place, and environment. It involves the formalization of factors that influence our spatial cognition to create a more effective representation of space. These improved models assist in a variety of issues, for example, the developing maps that communicate better, providing navigation instructions that are easier to follow, utilizing space more practically, accounting for the cultural differences on spatial thinking for more effective cross-cultural information exchange, and an overall increased understanding of our environment.

Notable researchers in this branch of geography include David Mark, Daniel Montello, Max J. Egenhofer, Andrew U Frank, Christian Freksa, Edward Tolman, and Barbara Tversky, among others.

Conference on Spatial Information Theory (COSIT) is a biennial international conference with a focus on the theoretical aspect of space and spatial information.

The US National Research Council published a book titled, “Learning to think spatially (2006)” written by the Committee on Support for Thinking Spatially. The committee believes that incorporating GIS and other spatial technologies in K–12 curriculum would promote spatial thinking and reasoning.

Cultural geography

Cultural geography is a subfield within human geography. Though the first traces of the study of different nations and cultures on Earth can be dated back to ancient geographers such as Ptolemy or Strabo, cultural geography as academic study firstly emerged as an alternative to the environmental determinist theories of the early Twentieth century, which had believed that people and societies are controlled by the environment in which they develop. Rather than studying pre-determined regions based upon environmental classifications, cultural geography became interested in cultural landscapes. This was led by Carl O. Sauer (called the father of cultural geography), at the University of California, Berkeley. As a result, cultural geography was long dominated by American writers.

Geographers drawing on this tradition see cultures and societies as developing out of their local landscapes but also shaping those landscapes. This interaction between the natural landscape and humans creates the cultural landscape. This understanding is a foundation of cultural geography but has been augmented over the past forty years with more nuanced and complex concepts of culture, drawn from a wide range of disciplines including anthropology, sociology, literary theory, and feminism. No single definition of culture dominates within cultural geography. Regardless of their particular interpretation of culture, however, geographers wholeheartedly reject theories that treat culture as if it took place "on the head of a pin".Some of the topics within the field of study are Globalization has been theorised as an explanation for cultural convergence

This geography studies the geography of culture

Theories of cultural hegemony or cultural assimilation via cultural imperialism.

Cultural areal differentiation, as a study of differences in way of life encompassing ideas, attitudes, languages, practices, institutions and structures of power and whole range of cultural practices in geographical areas.

Study of cultural landscapes and cultural ecology.

Other topics include sense of place, colonialism, post-colonialism, internationalism, immigration, emigration and ecotourism.

Environmental psychology

Environmental psychology is an interdisciplinary field that focuses on the interplay between individuals and their surroundings. It examines the way in which the natural environment and our built environments shape us as individuals. The field defines the term environment broadly, encompassing natural environments, social settings, built environments, learning environments, and informational environments.

Environmental psychology was not fully recognized as its own field until the late 1960s when scientists began to question the tie between human behavior and our natural and built environments. Since its conception, the field has been committed to the development of a discipline that is both value oriented and problem oriented, prioritizing research aimed at solving complex environmental problems in the pursuit of individual well-being within a larger society. When solving problems involving human-environment interactions, whether global or local, one must have a model of human nature that predicts the environmental conditions under which humans will respond well. This model can help design, manage, protect and/or restore environments that enhance reasonable behavior, predict the likely outcomes when these conditions are not met, and diagnose problem situations. The field develops such a model of human nature while retaining a broad and inherently multidisciplinary focus. It explores such dissimilar issues as common property resource management, wayfinding in complex settings, the effect of environmental stress on human performance, the characteristics of restorative environments, human information processing, and the promotion of durable conservation behavior. Lately, alongside the increased focus on climate change in society and the social sciences and the re-emergence of limits-to-growth concerns, there has been increased focus on environmental sustainability issues within the field.This multidisciplinary paradigm has not only characterized the dynamic for which environmental psychology is expected to develop. It has also been the catalyst in attracting other schools of knowledge in its pursuit, aside from research psychologists. Geographers, economists, landscape architects, policy-makers, sociologists, anthropologists, educators, and product developers all have discovered and participated in this field.Although "environmental psychology" is arguably the best-known and most comprehensive description of the field, it is also known as human factors science, cognitive ergonomics, ecological psychology, ecopsychology, environment–behavior studies, and person–environment studies. Closely related fields include architectural psychology, socio-architecture, behavioral geography, environmental sociology, social ecology, and environmental design research.


Geography (from Greek: γεωγραφία, geographia, literally "earth description") is a field of science devoted to the study of the lands, features, inhabitants, and phenomena of the Earth and planets. The first person to use the word γεωγραφία was Eratosthenes (276–194 BC). Geography is an all-encompassing discipline that seeks an understanding of Earth and its human and natural complexities—not merely where objects are, but also how they have changed and come to be.

Geography is often defined in terms of two branches: human geography and physical geography. Human geography deals with the study of people and their communities, cultures, economies, and interactions with the environment by studying their relations with and across space and place. Physical geography deals with the study of processes and patterns in the natural environment like the atmosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere, and geosphere.

The four historical traditions in geographical research are: spatial analyses of natural and the human phenomena, area studies of places and regions, studies of human-land relationships, and the Earth sciences. Geography has been called "the world discipline" and "the bridge between the human and the physical sciences".

Getting lost

Getting lost is the occurrence of a person or animal losing spatial reference. This situation consists of two elements: the feeling of disorientation and a spatial component. While getting lost, being lost or totally lost, etc. are popular expressions for someone in a desperate situation (perhaps not literally lost), getting lost is also a positive term for a goal some travellers have in exploring without a plan. Getting lost can also occur in metaphorical senses, such as being unable to follow a conversation.

Green criminology

Green criminology is a branch of criminology that involves the study of harms and crimes against the environment broadly conceived, including the study of environmental law and policy, the study of corporate crimes against the environment, and environmental justice from a criminological perspective.

Human geography

Human geography or anthropogeography is the branch of geography that deals with the study of people and their communities,

cultures, economies, and interactions with the environment by studying their relations with and across space and place. Human geography attends to human patterns of social interaction, as well as spatial level interdependencies, and how they influence or affect the earth's environment. As an intellectual discipline, geography is divided into the sub-fields of physical geography and human geography, the latter concentrating upon the study of human activities, by the application of qualitative and quantitative research methods.

Index of geography articles

This page is a list of geography topics.

Geography is the study of the world and of the distribution of life on the earth, including human life and the effects of human activity. Geography research addresses both the questions of where, as well as why, geographical phenomena occur. Geography is a diverse field that seeks to understand the world and all of its human and natural complexities—not merely where objects are, but how they came to be, and how they have changed since then.

Johannes Gabriel Granö

Johannes Gabriel Granö (1882–1956) was a Finnish geographer, chiefly remembered as a professor of three universities and an explorer of Siberia and Mongolia. He is also noted for his pioneering studies on landscape geography, and his book Pure Geography. Granö was a professor in universities of Tartu, Helsinki and Turku.Granö studied in Helsinki University, starting 1900 in botany but changing his major subject to geography. His minor subjects were biology and geology. As a young student he spent his vacations in Siberia, where his father worked as the priest for the Finnish population in Omsk 1901-1913. Granö took notes of the environment and his first scientific publication, published 1905 in "Fennia" was about the Finnish colonies in Siberia.Granö got stipendiums from the Fenno-Ugrian Society and executed three exploration trips to Northern Mongolia, Altai Mountains and Sayan Mountains in 1906, 1907 and 1909. His research focused gradually in effects of ice age in morphology of the mountains.Granö became a professor at the University of Tartu in 1919. He founded the department and organised teaching in Estonian language. In 1923 he was invited back to Helsinki University to be a professor and the editor of Atlas of Finland. He was soon asked to move to Turku where they had founded a Finnish university. There he even had time for his own research.Granö developed the concept of "pure geography" as the unique subject of geographical research. He created a working methodology to define and classify landscapes, not only based on geomorphology but also taking into account bodies of water, vegetation and human impact. As the research object of his "pure geography" he had human perception, which was unique in geography those days.Granö published a lot of his works in German, and thus he was in his lifetime best known in German-speaking areas. Only during First World War he published something in French. In 1990's however, his main work Pure geography was translated in English. This was because his ideas on human perception a starting point of geographical research introduced in Pure geography were known to have influenced the emergence of humanistic geography and behavioral geography in 1960's and 1970's.

Photographs taken by Granö in connection with his fieldwork in the Altai Mountains of Central Asia, among colonies of Finnish settlers in Siberia, on the steppes of Western Siberia and in Mongolia, particularly with the purpose of studying the inhabitants of these areas, have been donated to the Finnish Literature Society and a selection of them was featured in an exhibition in Helsinki City Art Museum in 2002.

List of University of California, Santa Barbara faculty

This page lists notable faculty (past and present) of the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Mental mapping

In behavioral geography, a mental map is a person's point-of-view perception of their area of interaction. Although this kind of subject matter would seem most likely to be studied by fields in the social sciences, this particular subject is most often studied by modern day geographers. They study it to determine subjective qualities from the public such as personal preference and practical uses of geography like driving directions. Mass media also have a virtually direct effect on a person's mental map of the geographical world. The perceived geographical dimensions of a foreign nation (relative to one's own nation) may often be heavily influenced by the amount of time and relative news coverage that the news media may spend covering news events from that foreign region. For instance, a person might perceive a small island to be nearly the size of a continent, merely based on the amount of news coverage that he or she is exposed to on a regular basis.In psychology, the term names the information maintained in the mind of an organism by means of which it may plan activities, select routes over previously traveled territories, etc. The rapid traversal of a familiar maze depends on this kind of mental map if scents or other markers laid down by the subject are eliminated before the maze is re-run.

Outline of academic disciplines

An academic discipline or field of study is a branch of knowledge, taught and researched as part of higher education. A scholar's discipline is commonly defined by the university faculties and learned societies to which they belong and the academic journals in which they publish research.

Disciplines vary between well-established ones that exist in almost all universities and have well-defined rosters of journals and conferences, and nascent ones supported by only a few universities and publications. A discipline may have branches, and these are often called sub-disciplines.

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to academic disciplines. In each case an entry at the highest level of the hierarchy (e.g., Humanities) is a group of broadly similar disciplines; an entry at the next highest level (e.g., Music) is a discipline having some degree of autonomy and being the basic identity felt by its scholars; and lower levels of the hierarchy are sub-disciplines not normally having any role in the structure of the university's governance.

Outline of geography

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to geography:

Geography – study of earth and its people.

Patrick O'Sullivan (author)

Patrick O'Sullivan is an Irish-British scholar and author of major works in the field of Military geography. He is the author of the oft-cited texts The Geography of Warfare and The Geography of War in the Post-Cold War World. Though the former was published in 1983 and the latter in 2001, these works remain the seminal texts of Military geography from a civilian publisher, due in large part to the present lack of interest in the subfield among geographers, aside from a small handful who critique militarization through critical theory. In his 1986 book Geopolitics, Patrick O'Sullivan makes a geographically-based case against the proliferation of nuclear weapons during the Cold War, arguing that nuclear weapons pose a threat largely because they reduce the significance of both physical distance and national borders, which would otherwise function as a deterrent to the likelihood of direct military engagement. Patrick O'Sullivan is also known to a lesser extent for his work on the social scientific study of railway transportation in Britain as well as an autoethnographic Cultural Geography essay discussing the relevance of expatriate identity. Starting in 1994, he taught at Florida State University, and now holds the status of professor emeritus. His academic writing incorporates elements of a regional geography focus with aspects of behavioral geography, and often takes a similarly explanatory and analytical approach to the Realist school of International Relations' focus on the behavior and motivations of states, though from a more geopolitical angle and with a greater focus on the decisions of individual leaders. Unlike many other authors and scholars of human geography, his work is not as overtly hostile to environmental determinism or environmental possibilism.

Political ecology

Political ecology is the study of the relationships between political, economic and social factors with environmental issues and changes. Political ecology differs from apolitical ecological studies by politicizing environmental issues and phenomena.

The academic discipline offers wide-ranging studies integrating ecological social sciences with political economy in topics such as degradation and marginalization, environmental conflict, conservation and control, and environmental identities and social movements.

Reginald Golledge

Reginald George Golledge (born 6 December 1937 in Dungog, New South Wales; died 29 May 2009 in Goleta, California) was an Australian-born American Professor of Geography at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He was named Faculty Research Lecturer for 2009. During his career he wrote or edited 16 books and 100 chapters for other books, and wrote more than 150 academic papers.

Golledge was a pioneer in the field of behavioral geography. When behavioral geography divided into a humanistic and an analytical approach by the early 1970s, Golledge became the chief proponent of the latter one. In 1984 he became blind, and moved his focus to the geography of disability. Golledge was one of the developers (the others being psychologists Jack Loomis and Roberta Klatzky) of the UCSB Personal Guidance System.


Risk is the possibility of losing something of value. Values (such as physical health, social status, emotional well-being, or financial wealth) can be gained or lost when taking risk resulting from a given action or inaction, foreseen or unforeseen (planned or not planned). Risk can also be defined as the intentional interaction with uncertainty. Uncertainty is a potential, unpredictable, and uncontrollable outcome; risk is an aspect of action taken in spite of uncertainty.

Risk perception is the subjective judgment people make about the severity and probability of a risk, and may vary person to person. Any human endeavour carries some risk, but some are much riskier than others.

Urban semiotics

Urban semiotics is the study of meaning in urban form as generated by signs, symbols, and their social connotations.Most urban semiotic theory is based on social semiotics, which considers social connotations, including meanings related to ideology and power structures, in addition to denotative meanings of signs. As such, urban semiotics focuses on material objects of the built environment, such as streets, squares, parks, and buildings, but also unbuilt cultural products such as building codes, planning documents, unbuilt designs, real estate advertising, and popular discourse about the city, such as architectural criticism and real estate blogs.

Theorists who take a social semiotic approach to urban semiotics define their discipline in opposition to the methods of behavioral geography, beginning with the work of Kevin Lynch in The Image of the City, which they criticize for being limited by its exclusive focus on the denotative level of communication (recognition of spatial elements, such as paths, as conceptual objects), ignoring the connotative meanings associated with urban forms; instead, urban semioticians argue that urban structures often become recognizable because they have symbolic meaning beyond their functional meanings. The social semiotic approach to urban semiotics also grew out of a critique of architectural semiotics, which was perceived to be overly attached to linguistic models of semiosis and thus unable to adequately consider the social connotations of signs.Some theorists have used semiotic models in empirical studies of the construction of meaning in urban environments. Raymond Ledrut has used questionnaires and interviews about viewers' responses to sets of photographs in order to examine the role of class in shaping mental models of the city. Martin Krampen conducted studies of photograph recognition in order to discover the level of facade detail required to identify building types, and to examine the role of socioeconomic status in shaping preference for building styles.

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