In the 1970’s humanistic geography came to the fore. Geographers of the world began to react to the thought that the characteristics of geography were starting to ignore the individual, and was now aiming to fit the world and its ways into a complex model. The humanistic approach aimed to establish differences in the world, focusing on the individual having their own characteristics. Geographers who believe in this view look at the individual as someone who is constantly interacting with both individuals and their surrounding environment.
By looking at this complex interaction the geographers aim to illustrate the significance between humans and the landscape in which they are situated, and the connection that exists between there surroundings and their reactions. This humanism is part of a critique of spatial science and its objectives, which focus on creative and imaginative approaches for understanding individuals. In 1961 D Lowenthal argued that geographers must link individual perspectives to the broader understanding of place.
Yi – Fu Tuan, who spent his life researching and examining how humans fashioned personal and cultural realities and how these realities, reflected our collective and personal ideas. Tuan in his studies focused on environmental imagination, in an attempt to identify how geographical phenomena can reveal the quality of human awareness. The environment Tuan believed played a major role in provoking the diverse reactions of people and their surroundings.
Tuan then followed on with his argument by saying that a personal and lasting appreciation of landscape came about when mixed with the memory of human incidents or when aesthetic pleasure is combined with scientific curiosity as an awareness of the past is important in creating the love of place, usually at a local level. Tuan saw place as the joining between the senses of position in society and the senses of identity to your homeland that arises from living in and associating yourself with it.
Tuan states that ‘place’ does not have a geographical scale or map reference associated with it, he sees place as areas in which people find themselves in, and who within these spaces live and interpret their surroundings. Although place is a important aspect in his thinking it must be noted that it does not just arise of its own accord, but instead from ‘fields of care’. The idea of fields of care was illustrated in geographical works by humanistic geographer’s e. g. Agnew, who refined ideas about space and observed the meaning of place, Agnew identified three major elements of place.
The locale i. e. he setting, the location i. e. the geographical location which encompasses the settings and the sense of place i. e. the feeling associated with the area. Tuan’s definition associates place with two primary factors, the position held in the society in which you live and the spatial location in which you identify yourself with in that society, but these two elements can and do overlap. Tuan observed that ones social position in society comes first before the location. Marjorie Grene who suggested that the primary meaning of place was one’s position in society rather than ones location in space accepted Tuan’s view.
Tuan held a strong belief that human patterns and processes cannot be determined by geometric logic and those spatial logics of location theory and analysis do not adequately account for human interaction, making place much more valuable than just your situation on a map. When Tuan wrote he proposed that the key to the meaning of place lies in the materialization people use when describing it, people talk of the spirit, personality and sense of place with each person placing a different meaning of the above mentioned words. Spirit’ signifies the feelings and views held by an individual over a specific place, making that place special and sacred to the individual e. g. people regard the home in which they live a scared place, hence the hurt and upset that occurs when it is broken into as the act is seen as an invasion of that space.
Tuan believes that the personality held by a place is due to a contribution to lots of different and unique factors, he sees personality having two important aspects. One of awe and affection e. . the Grand Canyon which commands respect and brings about the feeling of awe and illustrates power and meaning to the eye. Places that evoke affect ion on the other hand can be anything; it all depends on the individual looking at the place. Tuan also suggests that the places that are pleasing to the eye i. e. public symbols tend to have the ability to draw instant attention, whereas fields of care are inconspicuous only holding meaning to a particular individual or set of individuals, evoking affection.