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  A flow of events or actions which produces, reproduces or transforms a system or structure.

It was not until the 1960s that modern geography was alerted to the complexity of the concept of a process. Blaut (1961) insisted that the standard distinction between spatial structure and temporal process derived from a Kantianism which had been discredited by what he called \'the relativistic revolution\'. It was now clear, so he claimed, that \'nothing in the physical world is purely spatial or temporal; everything is process … \'. In Blaut\'s view, therefore, \'structures of the real world\' were simply \'slow processes of long duration\'. Although most formalizations of geography as a spatial science appeared to accept such a claim — Golledge and Amedeo (1968) and Harvey (1969) endorsed the central importance of \'process laws\' in their general accounts of explanation in geography (see positivism) — in practice many studies used distance as a surrogate for process (hence \'spatial processes\') and thereby confirmed the geometric cast of much of locational analysis and spatial analysis (see distance decay).

Many of these models depended upon formal language systems, i.e. language systems the elements of which have unassigned meanings. The xs and ys in their equations or the points and lines in their diagrams could thus refer to anything — they were empty of concrete content — and so analysis was governed by the relations between these abstract elements in the language system itself: by the laws of geometry, the calculus of probability theory or the mathematical theory of stochastic processes, rather than by \'the things we are talking about\' (Olsson, 1974). These models were reviewed in Cliff and Ord (1981).

The past 20 years, however, have seen the resurgence of geographies based on ordinary language systems, the elements of which have assigned meanings. These have allowed much more substantive conceptions of process to be utilized., e.g. cognitive and decision-making processes in behavioural geography, the labour process and the dynamics of capital accumulation in economic geography, and processes of structuration in social geography, and this has in turn required a careful reworking of some of the most basic theorems of the other human and social sciences (see Gregory, 1985). For, as Harvey (1973) recognized: \'An understanding of space in all its complexity depends upon an appreciation of social processes … [and] an understanding of the social process in all its complexity depends upon an appreciation of spatial form.\' One of his most pressing concerns was thus \'to heal the breach\' between the \'sociological\' and the \'geographical imagination\'. (See also contextual approach.)

The distinction between \'formal\' and \'substantive\' definitions of process is cross-cut by a second distinction drawn by Hay and Johnston (1983) between the following:

Process as sequence in space and/or time. This view of process is characteristic of the vertical themes of traditional historical geography and of more modern space-time forecasting models. In both cases, the account is usually descriptive: compare Darby\'s (1951) identification of the processes which changed the English landscape (\'clearing the wood\', \'draining the marsh\', etc.) with Bennett\'s simple (1978) typology of barrier, hierarchy, network and contiguity processes (see the figure).

{img src=show_image.php?name=bkhumgeofig54.gif }

process Spatial patterns produced through time (t) by barrier, hierachy, network and contiguity processes (after Bennett, 1978)

Process as mechanism. This view of process is most closely associated with systems analysis, in which the \'central concept\' of diachronic analysis is held to be \'that of process\' (Langton, 1972, pp. 137-56), and more recently with those geographies which have been influenced by philosophies of realism, which require the identification of the relations between the \'causal powers\' of structures and their realizations (Sayer, 1984, pp. 94-107). In both cases, the account is explanatory: it seeks to show how — by what means — something happens.

Hay and Johnston (1983) integrate (a) and (b) as follows:

A process study seeks to identify the rules which govern spatio-temporal sequences, in such a form that the rules are interpretable in terms of the results of the sequence, in terms of the exogenous variables which influence the sequence, and in terms of the mechanisms by which exogenous and endogenous influences give rise to the results which the sequence itself records.Although this formulation is explicitly restricted to quantitative studies in human geography, its emphasis on interpretation registers an important advance over most early spatial models (particularly those concerned with replication and simulation) and it opens the door for translation between the two distinctions drawn above. (DG)

References Bennett, R.J. 1978: Spatial time series: analysis, forecasting and control. London: Pion. Blaut, J. 1961: Space and process. Professional Geographer 13: 1-7. Cliff, A.D. and Ord, J.K. 1981: Spatial processes: models and applications. London: Pion. Darby, H.C. 1951: The changing English landscape. Geographical Journal 117: 377-94. Golledge, R. and Amedeo, D. 1968: On laws in geography. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 58: 760-74. Gregory, D. 1985: People, places and practices: the future of human geography. In R. King, ed., Geographical futures. Sheffield: Geographical Association, 56-75. Harvey, D. 1969: Explanation in geography. London: Edward Arnold, 419-32. Harvey, D. 1973: Social justice and the city. London: Edward Arnold, 22-49. Hay, A.M. and Johnston, R.J. 1983: The study of process in quantitative human geography. L\'espace géographique 12: 69-76. Langton, J. 1972: Potentialities and problems of adopting a systems approach to the analysis of change in human geography. Professional Geographer 4: 125-79. Olsson, G. 1974: The dialectics of spatial analysis. Antipode 6: 50-62. Sayer, A. 1984: Method in social science: a realist approach. London: Hutchinson.

Suggested Reading Cliff and Ord (1981). Harvey (1973). Hay and Johnston (1983).



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