Contemporary Human Geography I

  • Created by: Rachel
  • Created on: 10-01-13 10:14

Landscape: pattern, power, perception and Newcastl

       Something seen: a thing, an area, the appearance of an area, the way the entity that you view from a single point actually looks.  It follows from this that a central focus in landscape is on the visible.  We can also turn this on its head and consider how landscapes make things invisible.

       Something produced: a thing resulting from human action and interaction, a view that shows the ways in which people have shaped a place.  When we consider urban landscapes, this is essentially what we are considering – how different social relations (whether they are economic, political or cultural) shape the form of a place.  A feature of landscape study is the assessment of how a landscape came into being, and what can be read or decoded following observations of that landscape.

       A way of seeing something: different social contexts socialise us into looking at landscapes in specific ways.  Many human geographers have explored how representations of particular landscapes reflect, for example, colonial ideologies or assumptions about property and power.

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Landscape as Pattern

       Landscape as the product of culture: landscape as the imprint of human activity.

       This idea has a longevity in human geography, because of its basic value in helping understand the world. 

Key exponent: Carl Sauer, an American geographer working in the 1920s. culture worked through upon nature. Changing landscapes linked to changing culture. Had concerns of the way people influence landscapes : hedgerows, crop plantation, deforestation, bridges, barns, houses. Cultural impacts of technology and electricity etc had on landscapes.

  • Criticism: Nayak and Jeffrey: 2011 - Sauer and followers treated culture as active. They see it as an abstract force. People are not 'empty vessels' who lack care and uncritical views of past cultures. We are creative and critical and rearticulate habits to produce new meanings. Sauer cared less about inner workings of culture and more about imprints on landscape. Easily dismissed urban areas (american cultural geographers) and 'betrays a reactionary attitude towards social and cultural change' (Jackson 1989)
  • Old and new settlement patterns shape cities and landscapes
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Landscape as Text

  • Emerges in the 1980s, part of British geography’s ‘cultural turn’ (moving away from quantitative approaches based on modelling to understand the world)
  • Landscape understood as a text to be read and decoded.
  • The meaning of a landscape is a social construction; the ways that landscapes can be viewed is never objective and absolute.  Rather, meanings are contingent on the people who make them.  So different understandings of landscape will prevail in different times and places (e.g. 18th century versus 21st century readings of 18th century landscape paintings).
  • Landscape representations take many forms – film, television documentary, still photography, painting.  Visual representations dominate, but we can also consider how landscapes are represented through texts (words).
  • Landscape is something to be viewed, and decoding a landscape is a personal, subjective process.  This has equal validity to more (seemingly) objective methods of assessing landscapes; the justification for the validity of an interpretation lies with the rigour of analysis, coherence of the argument. 
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Landscape as Experience

  • This approach is more recent, emerging over the past ten years or so, although the philosophical underpinnings of these ideas about how people experience the world have much older roots.  This approach often considers questions about the practices of everyday life, as well as more dramatic experiences.  A key idea here is the interchange between the personal and the landscape, and the validity of considering – of taking seriously – the ways in which we construct our own readings of landscape as we move through it, experience it, reflect on it. 
  •  A key idea here is that landscape can be understood with reference to our embodied responses to it – we feel and sense landscapes with our bodies.  A further key idea is that these experiences are personal – they depend on our positionality (who we are).  
  • Examples of practices which landscape geographers have investigated using this framework for understanding: walking, parkour, and experiences of being in the city.
  • Sensory and tactile experience, cathedrals and churhc bells, we dont necessarily see the same landscape : we take from it what we want and experience. Daily activities enable us to think differently when considering daily places of habitation. 
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Valued Landscapes (Definitions)

  • UNESCO World Heritage Sites:
    The World Heritage List includes 962 properties forming part of the cultural and natural heritage which the World Heritage Committee considers as having outstanding universal value.
  • Scheduled Ancient Monuments:  
    'Scheduling' is shorthand for the process through which nationally important sites and monuments are given legal protection by being placed on a list, or 'schedule'. English Heritage takes the lead in identifying sites in England which should be placed on the schedule by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport
  • Listed Buildings
    Listing helps us acknowledge and understand our shared history.  It marks and celebrates a building's special architectural and historic interest, and also brings it under the consideration of the planning system so that some thought will be taken about its future.
  • Conservation Areas
    The first conservation areas were designated in 1967 and there are now over 8,000 conservation areas in England. They are designated for their special architectural and historic interest. 
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Valued Landscapes

  • Why do we value landscapes?
  • Aesthetic appeal
  • Environmental quality (biodiversity & sustainability)
  • Economic activity & growth. 
  • Politics vs. aesthetics. Who decides what is protected or not? Gateshead car park torn down making way for residential and commercial development despite a small number of people who wanted to keep it due to its Architectural value. Raises issue of aesthetic judgements
  • Local Specificity.
    Sunderland cottages: architectural style of Sunderland very desirable at the time of building.
    Tyneside flats: two doors, window, two doors window etc. housing for skilled workers
    Colliery terraces: for miners, distinctive houses and locally specific to North East. Sense of attachment and inclusion. Teenagers attached to specific areas of their youth and growing up. 
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Landscape as Text (continued)

  • Nayak and Jeffrey: Cosgrove and Jackson 1987: landscape was viewed by them (and other cultrual geographers) as text filled with material and symbolic encodings. James Duncan (1990) 'one of the central elements in a cultural system, a text' one that 'acts as a signifying system through which a social system is communicated, reproduced, experienced and explored' Denis Cosgrove: landscape is text awaiting to be geographically encoded. Song, film, poems and paintings give meaning to landscape. Landscape also shows capitalist society - labour. 
  • Daivd Matless (1998) Landscape and Englishness rural landcapes are where true 'Englishness' resides.: thatched cottages, winding hedgerows, quaint villages and red phone boxes. 
  • Sillitoe wrote novels seen to be mapping Nottingham. Instead of bright and spacious he depicted them as shadowy, industrial and masculine. 
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Valued Landscapes (continued)

  • Historic buildings and young people Bradley D and CURDS (2011):
    study to show how youth of different backgrounds perceived and valued the landscape eg. attachments to certain buildings in urban environment for exampls buildings, monuments and spaces. No earlier work had been done between youth and their environment. The study was to find out teenagers sense of place, their historical knowledge. What buildings and areas were important, special or distinctive to teens. What made teens proud to live where they did, which buildings were disliked and which buildings did teens find attached to wehre they live. 
  •  Scott, A (2010): a sporting event, art exhibition, or historical monument and other areas of economic and cultural activity can generate a distinctive geographical venue or space and add temporary or permanent value. Own personal example would be the London 2012 olympics and olympic village and stadiums etc. temporary event that can add eternal value to the city. 
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Landscapes and Representation

Power Relations:

  • power, property and picturesque vision: ways of representing landscape to advocate power. Meanings can be decoded from paintings too. 
  • Labour, productivity and profit: not just an image or feautres = ownership? usage? whos allowed to use the land and what for? Who can go onto the land?

Mitchell D (2005): landscape refers to the look and style of the land not just house types and trees and meadows. It refers to a representation as an art and a complex sytem of meanings. Landscape goes into the social relations that actively go into its making. 

Visibility vs. invisibility:

  • what is seen/hidden/visually obscured/deliberatley kept from sight?
  • what can only skilled/trained people see/read from teh landscape eg. surveryors, gas pipe markings?
  • what can we only see because of the way we see it?
  • what is natural or unnatural within a landscape? farmers: fertilisers and irrigation? cant be seen but impact upon landscape hugely. 
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Landscapes and representation (continued)

  • Rural Idyll:
  • A green and pleasant land
  • Enduring idea of national identity
  • English – and southern English
  • Harmonious social relations (stable, stratified)
  • Not urban, not poor, not deprived, not problematic
  • Rural= good env. Quality, stability, wealth, harmonious
  • OR is it just different types of crime etc? 

Jones 2012: 'images of rural idyll' 'bound up with ideas about a simple way of life'. city dwellers search for their rural retreat and through representation it appears a crime free environment. Recently noted that countryside is now mor eelderly dwellers lacking youthful working population. Less services and resources available that before thus., rural inhabitants face similar cirsis to those in urban env. Crime in rural areas also needs consideration aswell as crime in areas that are impoverished and highly populated. Increased animal theft in 2010 600 tractors stolen work 25 million pounds. 4 landrovers stolen in the UK everyday. "geographically widespread areas and isolated dwellings can be contributory factors to a sense of vulnerability and heightened fear of crime. 

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Valued Landscapes (Definitions continued)

  • National Parks
    There are 15 members of the National Parks family, beautiful areas of mountains, meadows, moorlands, woods and wetlands. They are areas of protected countryside that everyone can visit, and where people live, work and shape the landscape and each one has an organisation that looks after the landscape and wildlife and helps people enjoy and learn about the area.     
  • Areas of outsanding natural beauty (AONBs)
    An outstanding landscape whose distinctive character and natural beauty are so precious that it is in the nation's interest to safeguard them. 
    There are 46 AONBs in Britain (33 wholly in England, four wholly in Wales, one which straddles the English/Welsh border and eight in Northern Ireland) and they cover 18% of our countryside.
    AONBs are designated in recognition of their national importance and to ensure that their character and qualities are protected for all to enjoy.

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Valued landscapes (Definitions continued II)

  • They are living, working landscapes, much loved and valued by all who enjoy them. They are powerful symbols of our national pride: places of motivation, inheritance, excitement, pleasure and profit. The flora, fauna, history and culture of our AONBs’ lowland heath, wild moor, towering peaks, dramatic gorges, sheer cliffs, gently rolling hills, sandy beaches, spectacular cliffs, quiet coves, rocky shores, sand dunes, saltmarsh and shimmering estuaries ensure they remain Landscapes for Life.   
  •  Sites of special Scientific interest (SSSI)
    It is essential preserve our remaining natural heritage for future generations. Wildlife and geological features are under pressure from development, pollution, climate change and unsustainable land management. SSSIs are important as they support plants and animals that find it more difficult to survive in the wider countryside. 
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