The Semiotic Concept of the Cultural Landscape as a Research Optic for the Study of the Spatial Organization of Society

Lavrenova, Olga Aleksandrovna
D.Sc. in Philosophy, PhD in Geographical Sciences, Leading Research Fellow, Cultural Studies Division, INION RAS, Honorary Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, President of the International Association for Semiotics of Space and Time (IASSp+T), Moscow, Russia

Society organizes itself in space taking into account many factors—landforms, resources, logistics capabilities, economic prospects and social structures. Culture also has its own spatial self-organization, which is studied by geographers and cultural scientists. The whole complex of territorial self-organization of a person in space is described by the theory of cultural landscape, which includes both tangible and intangible manifestations of culture on the Earth’s surface. The next step in theorizing is understanding that all human activity has a semiotic aspect. Any object can have meanings other than its direct purpose and functionality, and the self-organization of society in space can be read as a message and text having a nonlinear exponent. Places and objects are comprehended, reinterpreted, physically and semiotically cleaned (for example, the overthrow of monuments or their desecration), re-created anew in a new system of priorities and meanings. On the other hand, the creation of meanings may precede the construction of new economic objects, as, for example, the construction of Baikal-Amur railway was surrounded by a halo of heroism and therefore attracted a sufficient amount of labor. Or the creation of a legend about a place can be used into a skillful marketing move and attract tourists. The idea of the territory as a semiotic structure helps to understand the basic principles of the organization of cultural, social and even economic space.

Keywords: spatial analysis, cultural geography, cultural landscape, semiotics
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