Introduction: Space, Place, & Landscape

Cultural landscapes express ideas which have been committed to material reality.

The goal of this course is to celebrate cultural differences rather than be concern with obsessive integration; and to have informed respect rather than grudging tolerance for other individuals and groups.

Two kinds of space:
1) geographical space:
A) general -- objective, scientific analysis of space and places
B) unique --
reflects human awareness of the world, e.g., "foreign," " beautiful"
  • space (abstraction) is humanized by naming it with  proper nouns, e.g., Eau Claire, Berlin, etc.
  • places are named spaces and are full of cultural meaning
  • "topophilia" (literally, love of place) -- naming individuals makes them human: the stranger becomes familiar
  • no names for people and places, then the environment is chaotic: "topophobia" (dislike of places which induces anxiety and fear)
  • Geographical space, then, is not objective but full of significance for individuals as members of cultural groups.

    2) existential space:

  • lived-space, "insider" view, of specific and, seemingly, unique places
  • culturally defined by individual experiences
  • difficult, some would argue, impossible, to experience as an "outsider"

  • Every attempt to define space, whether objectively or existentially, is an attempt to create order out of disorder. Creating order distinguishes humans from other living things. Human evolution resulted in our brains being hard-wired to always look for order, patterns, and trends.

    Distinctions between tourists and travelers:

    Types

    Experiences

    Own Culture

    Traveling

     

    tourists

         see what they want, mainly famous tourist places; and as many as possible within short amounts of time

         tourists see what they come to see

    accept their own culture, largely non-critically, in assessing other cultures

    fast: by cars, trains; often with organized tour groups

     

    travelers

      experience what is really there -- both famous and ordinary places; and as slowly as possible for preferably extended periods of time -- more to do with attitude than time spent traveling

      travelers are curious about what they see

    compares and rejects those elements of their own culture not to their liking and incorporates elements from other cultures

    slowly: by walking, biking, boating; alone, family, or in small groups

    A joke makes the distinction between a tourist/traveler and a resident/existentialist experience. A woman dreamt she died and went to heaven. It was everything she hoped for and more: gourmet food, elegant wine, good company. When she awoke, she no longer feared death. Many years later she actually died, but this time when she got to heaven it was very different. Nothing to eat or drink, no music, no one to talk to. She went to God and complained. "Last time you were her," God explained, "you were a tourist; now you're a resident."

    In this course, we examine three components of places:
     

    All cultural landscapes consist of three interrelated components of places:
    1) permanent, concrete, and static physical settings -- cultural landscapes
    2) temporary, concrete, and dynamic human activities or behaviors
    3) eternal, abstract, and invisible ideas and ideals as cultural meanings and messages

     

     

    Cultural landscapes express human behaviors which in turn are manifestations of human ideas. Each of these three components act as both cause and effect on each other. For example, Christian churches express the belief that God must be worshiped in specifically-designated, if not distinctively-designed, buildings in which certain distinctive behaviors are practiced, such as praying, singing, sermons, baptism, and marriage and funeral ceremonies.

    Cultural landscape elements are markers that announce and display the presence of a cultural group's most cherished ideals to their own members and to outsiders. Dialectically, we will examine the lie of the land, physically and culturally: what the cultural landscapes look like and what they say about power relationship between dominant and minority groups. These markers, symbols, and artifacts in the cultural landscapes maintain collectively conditioned place consciousness. In other words, people incorporate the character of places; and places reflect the character of people. In a city, for example, buildings and streets are seen directly and indirectly on air photos and topographic maps; human activities are seen as pedestrians and traffic; and finally, people evaluate cities in general, and more commonly, neighborhoods as familiar or unfamiliar, beautiful or ugly, and safe or dangerous. Despite our best efforts, cultural landscapes can only be understood as outsiders, as travelers, from a distance (culturally and existentially) even though we are actually in places via slides, maps, and words!

    We take landscapes and friends for granted. But we need to learn not to take cultural landscapes for granted by carefully and thoroughly examining a diversity of cultural-physical places. Because we don't continually attend to our own, or that of other cultural landscapes, does not make them insignificant. We take our friends for granted even though they represent a fundamental part of our personal identities.

    Read: Pierce Lewis' Axioms for Reading the Landscape.

    Created by Ingolf Vogeler; last revised on 22 January, 2013.