GEOG 210 Lecture Notes - Lecture 9: Semiotics, Signify, Time Capsule
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Lecture 9: Reading Cultural Landscapes 2/7/13 3:25 PM
Midterm Review is this Thursday (Feb 7)
Video (examinable for Midterm 1) – Feb 12th
Midterm Exam 1: Thursday, Feb 14th
Reading: Knox et al, Chapter 6, entire chapter
In addition to understanding how landscapes are shaped by people and how
people are shaped by landscapes, geographers seek to identify how
landscapes are perceived, understood and used by people.
• Gathering fuelwood from a landscape fro your daily cooking, leads
to a different perception than using the same landscape for
New: Reading Cultural Landscapes
People filter information from their environments through mental processes
• And everyone’s mental process is different
• Differences also exist by language, ethnicity, religion, geography,
People draw on personality and culture to produce cognitive images or
cognitive maps of their environment
• Pictures or representations of the world that can be called to mind
through the imagination
• Ex. Giving a child a pen and having them draw a map of their world
• Know this for midterm
• Use these to interpret past experiences and understanding to
understand the image
• There is no correct map, scale is unimportant
What matters in such a map or ‘view ‘ of the world? What does not matter?
What peoples, and countries are lumped together?
A cognitive image is more drawing like, it is not quantitative.
Landscape as Archive
Landscape serves as a kind of archive of society-landscape interaction.
• It is a reflection of culture and experiences.
Like a book, landscape is a text written by individuals and groups. It is a bit
like poetry and a bit like archeology. There is a lot of interpretation going on
based on what is there.
Imagine a group that lives very close to nature, being able to read their
landscape for their survival is critically important.
Landscapes are constructed to reflect the everyday worlds of social groups
and to represent power and the values of a particular society.
Reading Cultural Landscapes
The language in which a landscape is written is a kind of code.
• The code or codes are signs that hold meaning about culture.
To interpret our environment, we must learn how to read the codes that are
written into the landscape.
Semiotics: the written code of landscape, words or codes embedded in the
Codes signify important information about landscapes, such as whether they
• Oriented toward work
• Oriented toward recreation
All landscapes cane be understood in terms of their semiotics.
• Destruction of trees by acid rain
• Copper Canyon
• The clumping of trees within a forest due to previous human use
Anomalies (things that stand out) are clues to what the wider context is, in a
landscape. Anomalies help us read the code.
• A ‘wolf tree’ is a tree with a large trunk and horizontal branches,
different in a context of slim trunked trees with upright branches. A
clue to the open field in which it one grew alone.
• When a landscape feature, fail to correspond in some way, to a
• For example
o A valley is vast but a river small
o A path broad and well-worn but those who pass that way now
Semiotics – So What!?