Monday, May 16, 2011

Thinking Geographically Equals a Successful Reality Show!

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Thinking Geographically Equals a Successful Reality Show

Imagine that you are chosen to live for thirty-nine days with sixteen strangers either on a remote island in the South Pacific, in the wilds of the Australian Outback, the hot dry plains in Africa, or even in the dangerous Amazon Rain Forest. Once placed at this location, you are expected to build a community, depending on only the natural resources of the land for food, water, shelter, and safety. Now add into the mix, television crews, a host for the reality show, and a goal of one million dollars for the one person, who can outwit, outplay, and outlast the other fifteen people to claim the title of sole survivor.

As more than twenty million Americans, tune into CBS every Thursday night for the latest episode of Survivor, theyre watching geography at its finest- human interaction with each other, the land, and the environment. In order to make this show successful and appealing to viewers, the producers used the five key issues of geography- space, place, region, scale, and connections.

When thinking about space, geographers observe regularities across the earth. The arrangement of a feature in space is its distribution and can be identified through the three properties of density, concentration, and pattern. The producers of Survivor used the property of arithmetic density, which is the total number of objects in an area most commonly used to compare the distribution of population in different countries, to find an area that was, for the most part, uninhabited by large populations of people. Once this area was found, the producers

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wanted to make sure that the two separate tribes of eights concentration, which is the extent of a features spread over space, were relatively far apart or dispersed on the area. This was done to ensure that neither tribe could interact with one another.

When thinking about place, geographers describe the unique location of everything on earth, identified through the place name, site, situation, and mathematical location. The producers of the hit reality show choose location names that are unknown to most people in the world, adding an exotic twist to perk the curiosity of viewers. The first season, producers chose a tiny island off the coast of Borneo, Pulau Tiga at 5degrees 44 North and 115 degrees East, which was essentially unknown to the world until it became the location of the first season of Survivor, making it now a household name in the United States. Important site characteristics, which are the physical characters of a place, such as climate, water sources, soil, and vegetation were also important to producers when choosing the location of the ecosystem. They wanted an ecosystem that had the characteristics of harsh climates and weather, ranging from hot and dry, to wet and cold, a total shock to the participants from where they came from, making survival in this site challenging from day to day. Different ecosystems have been chosen for each season to add to the fascination of viewers watching these different groups of castaways survive in different climates and weather.

When thinking about region, geographers identify areas of the world formed by distinctive combinations of features, such as cultural features including language and religion, economic features such as agriculture, and physical features such as climate and vegetation. Using the concept of culture, the producers of Survivor intrigue viewers to understand the uniqueness of the location chosen. During reward challenges, in which the castaways earn food


and a luxury item to make their stay easier at the location, the show brings to light the first element of culture- what people care about. Most of the challenges use the customary beliefs, food, and language distinctive to the culture in that particular place. Eating insects, which is a delicacy in certain cultures and remembering stories passed through generations of that culture, is usually the norm for gaining the reward at the end of the challenge. The second element of cultural interest used in the show is the production of material wealth, such as food, clothing, and shelter that humans need in order to survive. Either the castaways need to find food by fishing, hunting, or gathering and build a shelter from the natural resources surrounding them, from trees or palm leaves. For example, during the third season taking place in Africa, the castaways not only needed to build shelter, but were also required to build a perimeter surrounding the shelter to keep them safe from the animals on the African plains. Most importantly, the show is a perfect example of possibilism, which states that the physical environment may limit some human actions, but people have the ability to adjust to their environment. These castaways use all of the resources available to them in their surroundings in order to keep themselves hydrated, nourished and protected from the harsh climate and weather.

When thinking about scale, geographers understand how each place is unique yet at the same time similar to other places. This is an increasingly important concept because of globalization, which is a force that involves that entire world and results in making something worldwide in scope. The television show Survivor has contributed to globalization in terms of tourism and knowledge of remote locations and unknown cultures. Due to the popularity of this show, American curiosity about the cultures of Pulau Tiga, Australia, Africa, Thailand, and South America has increased, as well as making these destinations, desirable vacation spots.

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When thinking about connections, geographers explain relationships among places and regions across space. Spatial interactions can take place through networks, such as CBS, which broadcasts Survivor, allowing chains of communication that connects places by simultaneously broadcasting the same program around the world. This allows the reality show to become a phenomenon in Fort Myers, Florida, as well as in Tokyo, Japan broadening the scope of different people that watch the show. Another way to look at the program Survivor, concerning connections, is through diffusion, which is the process by which a characteristic spreads across space from one place to another over time. The hit reality show is an example of stimulus diffusion, which is the spread of an underlying principle, even though a characteristic itself fails to diffuse. Throughout the world, the concept of reality television is not a new idea; even the premise for the basis of Survivor began in England. The producers of the American version took the underlying principle of the show and added features like the exotic locations, the integrations of the culture of the region chosen, the scale at which the show was broadcasted, and even the reward of one million dollars to attract candidates participation in the show.

Reality television has become one of the most popular global level ideas, due in part to the American revision of Survivor. On a global level reality based television program is popping up all over with shows such as Big Brother, Fear Factor, and American Idol to mention a few. The success of Survivor relies on the fascination of viewers about the cultural geography of the world in terms of space, place, region, scale, and connections. Thinking geographically does equal a successful reality show!

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