Complexity Theory

Complexity theory is defined as the study of complexity and of complex systems. In geography, this theory may be applied in various ways. I thought of complexity theory in geography as the complexity of nature and interactions in an environment. For example, plants in an ecosystem: it is very complex with all the many different plants and their roles in the ecosystem. I also see the complexity theory applied in my own environment, for example, at school on campus. When people are leaving their class at the time it ends, I notice every time that students move in clumps as they’re walking out, and then spread out into their own paths. When they get right out of class, its very chaos. Once students take their own route, or path, it gets less chaos.

Self- Regulation in Frederick, MD.

Many people have their own ways of self-regulating. Here, I decided to go grocery shopping for my family and observed others’ actions of self-regulating. I was at the store for about 45 minutes and observed many different things. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, people have taken many different actions, especially in public. While I was in the store, I noticed different social norms. I noticed there were people wearing face masks, there was a certain line you had to stand behind in checkout, no self-serve food, and a plastic wall between the cashier and customer. This was very unusual than normal, but makes sense ini the long run by being cautious for the public. Also as I was shopping I noticed other shoppers were acting extra cautious and wouldn’t stand too close to me in the aisles. From being in the store for a long time, I felt very out of place and felt a large sense of fear from others in the store. Noticing shoppers rushing in and out of the store, seeing fear and sensing fear on their faces and body movements. It almost felt like it was silent but crowded, feeling very hectic, and different from the usual. The sense of fear felt like it was rushing into me. After observing and experiencing this, I got to see how other people use self-regulation through their own actions.


I decided to look back at my freshman year classes, both fall and spring semesters, and observe how many male and female taught my classes. In the fall semester I took four classes. It totaled evenly to two classes were taught by male professors and the other two were taught by female professors. Looking in my spring semester, I took five classes. In those five classes only one male professor taught one class and the other four classes were taught by female professors. Observing this data all together gives a 3:6 ratio. I have observed that I have had more female professors than male professors, overall. As I observed this, I don’t notice a difference because these professors are given the same material to teach students within their department.

Phenomenology Project Study

Phenomenology is the idea on how individuals experience things and interpret these experiences. There are many ways to engage in a phenomenal perspective. In my project, I chose to think about the physicality of doing something. Here, I studied volleyball because I am very familiar with the sport since I participate in it. In volleyball, being on the court and being off the court can be very different and similar at the same time. When a player steps foot on the court, its quick, on the spot thinking, more pressure, and only a few seconds for hitters to talk to their setter. When you are on the bench, you are focusing on what you can do in the future to win, what needs improvement with your teammates or figuring out mistakes, suggestions, running different plays or lineups, etc. You are also still engaged in the game as you are on the court being prepared to go into the game at any moment, but you have less pressure and more time to think about any essential parts to the game.

Here is a good example of what the game looks like. There are allowed only three contacts total on the receiving side. First, a serve to the other side (receiving side), the receiving side demonstrates a pass, a set, and a then a hit, all in the first 11 seconds of the video.
As you can tell from the video, a lot of communication is needed in this game or else negative consequences may happen such as: the ball dropping on the floor, or teammates running into each other which may lead to serious injuries. In the video, you can hear a lot of yelling, or talking, which is everyone on the court trying to communicate. The communication may sound like gibberish to people who are not familiar with the game.

Looking into a phenomenal perspective, hitters always call their sets, or the play they are running, by saying it repeatedly. The definition of a “setter” is considered to be the most important position. A setter is in charge of offense, setting the ball up for their hitter to attempt a hit. In simpler terms, a setter can be described as “the quarterback of volleyball”. A “set” is usually the second contact of the ball. When a hitter “kills” the ball, it means they won the point and the defending side couldn’t defend the hitters ball. Usually the set is a number, for example, many would say “4,4,4” very loud and fast. A “4” ball is a basic high set ball, sent to the left side of the court. They say this number three times naturally without even realizing it, even though they don’t have to say the number three times.

Here is a short video clip on what a set looks like. This would be the second contact in volleyball. The first set the setter attempted in the video was a “4” ball, which is what I used in my example here. The man catching the ball would be the hitter in the game.

I decided to interview three of my teammates on why hitters call the set three times, or multiple times. First, I interviewed Makenna who is a setter. When I asked her why hitters call the ball multiple times she said, “Saying something three times is just the right amount of times to say something, where it’s annoying enough to get people’s attention. For example, that’s why when you were little it took three times of saying ‘Mom’ to finally get her to listen, because you said it enough for it to be annoying…”

Next, I interviewed Krista who is a hitter. When I asked Krista about it she said, “Repetition helps for them to hear what you want. They’re listening to other hitters so it helps to re-enforce what you want.”

Finally, I interviewed Wren who is also a setter. Wren answered, “Communicate is better. There’s so much going on if you only call it once there’s a chance your setter might not hear it… like calling it over and over is just trying to make sure your setter hears it, also it kinda signifies you want the ball. I’m more likely gonna be confident that you’re gonna kill it if you sound like you really want the ball, whereas if you call once I’m gonna question if you want to be set.”

Below are pictures of setters communicating hand signals to their hitter right before the serve begins. They only have a few seconds to communicate this. The setter wants to communicate so they can set up the perfect ball for the hitter to get the point. After the serve, when this side is receiving the ball, the hitter needs to reassure that they want to hit the ball from the setter, so they are repeating it loud and confident.

The Lo-Down: How Setters Signal | Hail Varsity
Cooks closer after lessons on, off court | Sports |
A Simple Guide to Volleyball Positions and Rotations - Pro Rec Athlete
Here is a simple lineup of how coaches may set up the game for their team.

Coming to a conclusion, we can question, “Why do the hitters repeat the ‘set’ three times in a row?”. Based on my interviews with my teammates, they all said similar answers – calling the ball multiple times gets the setters attention better. Based on my experiences on playing the sport, I can suggest that since volleyball is so fast paced at short moments, they repeat to keep the high intense energy while getting the setters attention quickly so they can make up their mind on who to set and who they are confident in to kill the ball.

Here are my field notes planning my project.

Comparing field notes

While many of us took notes on downtown Fredericksburg, observed different ways. Some students just wrote down what exactly they saw, who was there, and what kind of buildings were around them. Others drew a small map of where they were observing while describing what they saw as well. When looking at multiple versions of the same assignment, I noticed that field notes can be however you want to format them but still describing what you are observing.


I did a small study with people going to the dining hall at a certain time. During this time, I made many observations every time I went. Prediction: Students purposely make their schedule around 12-12:30pm to eat lunch and are all hungry at this time. Theory: A majority of the UMW staff and students eat lunch from 12-12:30 pm. Test: During this time, all the tables are occupied when I get there. The lines take about 5-10 minutes to get food in each station. According to Popper’s ideas, this could count as an extreme test, because the hypothesis/theory can be denied various ways.

New Mexico median household income

The first map here we are comparing the counties of New Mexico with percentiles. The data is divided up into 4 categories with 8-9 counties in each of the categories. The counties with the least income around $26,000 – $31,000 are about half clustered and half grouped in the state. The counties in the next smallest income category at $31,001 – $35,000 are fairly scattered throughout the state. The next category at incomes from $36,000 – $42,000 is also mostly spread out with a couple groupings together. The highest income has grouping of half in southern New Mexico and the other half grouped up in north-west New Mexico at $43,000 – $110,000 of income.

The second graph shows New Mexico’s income of natural breaks, examining where there are large gaps in the numbers. From the natural breaks, there are 5 different categories. The first income is from $26,060 – $27,602 in which four counties are in this range, spread out throughout the state. The second income category is from $29,168 – 36,089 with thirteen counties covering it – noticing it to be the average. The third income category ranges from $38,240 – $43,533 with nine counties in the range being mostly in the south of New Mexico. The fourth category is from $49,686 – $60,703 with only six counties covering it in the north and south of New Mexico. The last category falls at $110,190 of median household income with leaving only one county and the smallest county that has some significance involving it.

Synthetic Statements

The “verification principle of meaning” means that we see a difference in the world because of synthetic statements and the meaning behind them. An article on sea level rising shares a synthetic statement: “‘Sea level rise will affect every county in the US, including inland areas'” (Dilkina). This statement may be true in the moment, but it can change in the future. Heres the link to the article:

Geography means…

Geography means ‘writing the world’. Based on what I see around the world, I notice there are different features of land throughout the world, and many different kinds of impact within our land. Geographers study many different parts of the world and research the land’s present, past, and future, and what has been impacted. Geographers research by visiting parts of the world.


I am Olivia Haley and I am studying geography to further my knowledge and explore more on the subject incase I want to major in it.