Friday, September 23, 2011

Culturally Pittsburgh

Culture diffuses thanks to migration. Most migration is over short distances. In that sense, cultural geography maps migration and reveals coherent economic regions. It's a coherent economic region because the shared sense of culture lends itself to trust (higher social capital). Trust begets transaction. And so on ... If you are interested in the downside of too much social capital, then I recommend reading Sean Safford's "Why the Garden Club Couldn't Save Youngstown".

I bring up this discussion in light of this fascinating visualization, "Mapping Generic Terms for Streams in the Contiguous United States". The discussion of the map can be found here:

There are a few patterns on the map that I haven’t been able to figure out. West Virginia shows a sharp north to south division between runs and branches that continues to puzzle me. Some other geographic patterns I’ve noticed in WV largely run parallel to the Appalachians, from the SE to NW. I don’t know much about the area, though, and I have no idea what could be behind such a distinct division. Any West Virginia-ites willing to take a stab? I’m also intrigued by the patch of branches in southwestern Wisconsin, which I suspect may have something to do with the diffusion of naming practice by way of branch-loving Appalachian miners during a regional lead mining boom in the early 19th century.

I encourage you to read the comments section to find some possible solutions to the posed puzzle. The cartographer references a map of NFL allegiances that's a pretty good approximation of the "branch-loving" part of the country. What I see is Pittsburgh migration and thus the metro's economic region. There is a historical precedence for all the talent churn between Pittsburgh and Washington, DC.


BrianTH said...

Roughly that same dividing line between Northeast Appalachia and Southwest Appalachia will show up in a bunch of different ways. For example, see here:

Jim Russell said...

Usually the geography will layer over a traditional migration divide. I might have to do some digging to figure out how the ARC determined its subregions. I don't see much respect of the watersheds, which suggests considerable political dysfunction.

BrianTH said...

This is obviously a Pittsburgh-centric attitude (literally), but I do wonder if the ability to meaningfully and regularly interact with Pittsburgh helps explain the observable divide in the economic maps. That might layer onto a migration divide for common-cause reasons, and both channels (historical migration and more recent interaction) could be relevant to cultural and linguistic divides.