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We all know what a neighborhood is. We live in a neighborhood, don’t we? But if a neighborhood is defined as a geographically localized community that is a part of a larger town or city, then what is a geographic community? Are the two words interchangeable? Or are there differences between a geographic community or neighborhood? Let’s try and answer that question.
Defining a Geographic Community
The most essential aspect of defining a geographic community is that it needs a geographic boundary that the community operates.
Common ties also help define the boundaries of a geographic community. These ties can be based on cultures, shared beliefs, attitudes, and shared access to resources and services.
Experiences can also define a geographic community. For example, members of a neighborhood who survive a natural disaster, like a flood or earthquake, will be drawn together to form a closely-knit community.
Similarly, a shared cultural heritage is also likely to strengthen community bonds. An example is the way the Maori definition of a community extends to even distant relatives.
A more relatable example of common ties defining a geographical community can be seen in any community that is based around a particular school. The neighborhood is likely to comprise primarily of parents whose children are all a part of the same institution.
These common ties can also give rise to collective action when the needs of the community are not satisfactorily addressed. A good example of this would be community night patrols.
The way social interactions play out also helps define a geographical community. Whether the interaction is bonding as a society, as often seen in rural communities, or bridging communication to bring the community closer together, these social interactions help to enable the community to work together towards shared goals.
In a geographical community, interdependence can be defined as a mutual satisfaction of needs, where the actions of an individual will have an effect on the community as a whole.
There are two simple concepts that will help us understand the concept of interdependence in a geographical community: trust and norms.
Trust in a community implies that helping a community member out implies that we will receive help when needed from within the community as well.
Norms dictate that a good deed will be lauded by the community, while a crime will be punished.
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Defining a neighborhood
There is no single definition of the word neighborhood. The fact is, the word can mean different things to different people.
For example, a group of people of similar economic and educational backgrounds, as well as family types living in the same geographic area, could be called a neighborhood.
While neighborhoods don’t have definite geographic boundaries, the word can also be used to describe an area between two landmarks; for example, the neighborhood between Jackson and Vine streets.
The word can also attach itself to a group of individuals living and interacting in close proximity to one another, for example, the neighborhood kids.
Let us, however, take a look at five characteristics of neighborhoods.
Neighborhoods tend to have similar housing styles, be it in terms of architecture, rooflines, the size and shapes of homes, building materials, window types, and more. Often, all of these characteristics are based on the economic status of the residents, as well as when the buildings were constructed.
A lot of neighborhoods grow around the services that are essential to the community that lives there. These services may include schooling, hospitals, and medical care, access to public transportation, local businesses such as grocers, restaurants, and barbershops as well as religious institutions like churches and synagogues.
Neighborhoods offer residents common areas that allow them to interact and form bonds. These common areas may include sidewalks, backyards, and parks. These areas allow for neighbors to get to know each other, watch out for each other, and for children to play together. Often, neighborhoods organize block parties and farmer’s markets to encourage interaction within the community.
All neighborhoods are unique in their own ways. Some of them may have people of the same race or religious background living there. Others may be multi-racial and more vibrant. While some neighborhoods are built around parks and outdoor recreational facilities, others are focussed more on entertainment experiences, while still others may be built around the public and private schooling systems.
Very often, neighborhoods grow from being a bunch of people living in a geographic area to being a community. The main difference is that in a community, people tend to look out for each other. This may include neighbors keeping an on each other’s properties, people volunteering for community night patrolling to control crime, and educating each other about government policies that may affect the neighborhood both positively and negatively.
In concluding, it wouldn’t be wrong to state that while geographic communities and neighborhoods do have similarities when it comes to community ties, interactions, interdependence, and more, there are definite differences as well.
The biggest difference, of course, is that a neighborhood does not have a set geographic boundary. While neighborhoods may start small, with just a bunch of houses, they can grow to cover entire city blocks. Sometimes, this growth is planned, and in others, the neighborhood tends to mushroom over time.