Walk the walk, talk the talk

I pointed out that I’d cover more conference presentations as previously I only covered a number of them that were on day one. So, this time I’ll covering day two. The selection is, once again, based on what I found particularly interesting and have something to say about.

Starting with bits and pieces, Yael Guilat and Shoshi Waksman brought up René Magritte’s 1928/1929 painting ‘Trahison des images’ (The Treachery of Images), which is worth mentioning by itself. There’s a link here, just as they indicated in the abstract, as to how landscape is not itself an empirical object, but rather how we come to see the world. In other words, we could easily take a wide angle photo, a typical landscape photo, whatever that might be like, frame it, and make it hover above a floating text stating “This is not the world”. It would very much be correct, because, well, it isn’t. It is of the world, but not a world as such. It’s just a mere representation of it, hence the point made about landscape as a representation.

This leads me to Nhan Phan’s presentation that followed. She covered Henri Lefebvre’s ‘The Production of Space’, which was only fitting after the point made about landscape and representation. Now, for me, it was great that she covered this, not only because it meant that I could more or less skip in my own presentation on the following day, but also because it ties in well with landscape and what she has observed in her own research.

I’ve been arguing that people do not really pay attention to their surroundings. That also means that they do not pay attention to signs. Okay, to be fair, I believe that they don’t consciously pay attention to their surroundings. They don’t go pointing to this and that, staring at things, wondering, perhaps even out loud, along the lines of “what are those?” So, as you might have already figured out, this was her observation. She explained how she made use of ‘narrated walking’, as discussed in ‘Semiotic landscapes and mobile narrations of place: performing the local’ by Christopher Stroud and Dmitri Jegels.

Straying from the presentation here for a moment, to address the article, situating their approach in Lefebvre’s triad, Stroud and Jegels (184) state that their:

“[F]ocus is particularly on how semiotic artefacts figure and are used in these narrative performances in spatial practice, as residents make place, and, experience space, as lived space[.]”

Indeed, as we live our lives, the humdrum, the everyday, we practice it, we do all kinds of things, the emphasis here being very much on the material aspect of space. At the same time, we also live in it. The way I read the article, this part is generally not given enough attention. They (180) clearly point out that they embrace the non-representational, moving “beyond a straightforward representational account of landscapes[.]” The problem for me, as well as, to my understanding, to many landscape geographers on the representational side, is that this is not how landscape works. This ignores how landscape a(n)estheticizes the world, making the people blissfully ignorant of their surroundings. If we approach this in Lefebvre’s terms, space is produced not only via spatial practice (perceived space) and representational space (lived space), as focused on by Stroud and Jegels, but also via representations of space (conceived space) which influence how we come to experience space, largely in an inattentive manner. This does not, however, entail that spatial practice is not important. It is and I believe people should be made aware of their role in the world, how they can influence the production of space. I’m more concerned whether people actually experience space as approached by Stroud and Jegels, or well, anyone approaching space and landscape via ‘narrated walking’ or other ethnographic walking methods. The problem comes up in the article, as they (184) state that:

“Informants were asked to guide the interviewer around the different zones, and to characterise them each in turn, from the point of view of what one ‘ought to know’ about a particular zone.”

And (184) that:

“The interviewer actively prompted the narrator to expand his/her narrative at particular points, for example, by asking specifically about the significance of an abundance of signage/graffiti in a particular zone, or what the explanation was for different types of signage in different zones.”

The problem here, as I see it, has to do the interviewer-interviewee dynamic. The issue is not including local accounts. I think that’s just fine. It’s value added. The issue is rather that the interviewer, the researcher, seeks to add value to research by avoiding providing an expert only account, only to prompt the informants, the locals, to do what they normally don’t. In other words, the researcher expects the locals to do the unexpected and in the absence of it pushes them to do the unexpected, to pay attention to the particulars in the landscape. If landscape works the way I’ve explained, I just fail to see how the researcher, the landscape expert, won’t see him- or herself in the local accounts. To me it seems rather obvious that if I prompt people to pay attention to something, to tell me something, even if I’m merely prompting them to tell me something, I’m not seeing how they see, but how I wish them to see.

Getting back on track, back to Nhan Phan’s presentation, she explained that in her data, video recorded narrated walks conducted in Hanoi, Vietnam, the interviewees paid little attention to signs, except when they had to do with something personal experiences. If my memory serves me, she pointed out how she largely had to prompt the interviewees. In other words, the interviewees didn’t pay attention to the landscape and thus had little to say, unless their opinion of this and/or that was asked by her.

I’ve experienced how this works, a number of times, how someone in my company all the sudden points to something, often in condemnation of something, often dubbed as an eyesore in the landscape, but so far I have failed to grasp how I could make use of such. Something tells me that if I ask people for a walk, for research purposes, I’m already making them behave in ways out of the ordinary. There’s also the inconvenience of having to get their approval, which is, well, fine by me but it does make it rather obvious that it’s out of the ordinary.

I’m not hostile to involving people. I’m just skeptic as to what it offers. I’d like to make it work, consistently, to get to see what they see, but so far I haven’t figured out how I could accomplish that. It may be that I’m simply missing something, but at least at the moment I can’t really figure out how I’d manage it in a way that would overcome the underlying issue in a satisfactory manner. Also, as I mentioned in the previous recap, I’m not against raising awareness on the issue. On the contrary, people should be made more aware of their surroundings and their role in it all, or the lack thereof. Anyway, I appreciated Nhan Phan’s presentation because, for once, someone pointed out this issue in including local accounts in research.

Before I jump into the next presentation, it’s worth noting that I’m for the non-representational. That’s sort of given, considering how much I spend time reading and writing on Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari. However, I’d see that as a goal rather than as a current state of affairs. Simply put, yes, it’s all about assemblages, to paraphrase the two (2) in ‘A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia’. However, that said, it’s worth pointing out how pervasive the abstract machine or diagram of landscapity, the correlate of faciality, is, as explained by the two on the plateau on faciality. To bring these together, if you’ve read the relevant parts of the book, the abstract machine, or diagram, assembles or arranges the world, including the subject (you), in a way that the subject (you) comes to see the world as a landscape. You simply cannot wish it away. It took me quite a bit of reading, and not only ‘A Thousand Plateaus’ but also a large number of books and articles on landscapes, as well as attending lectures on aesthetics, to understand how it comes together. That does not, however, mean that everyone is like me. It’s not about me, about my subjectivity. In other words, the issue is between the subjects, much like language (but that’s a topic for another time). Ignoring the issue, going beyond won’t do much good either. The abstract machine will still be there, making the world appear to people the way it does.

Perhaps I’m not a person worth the trust, being a nobody, so I’ll let James and Nancy Duncan explain what the issue is. The publication is already somewhat dated, being published in 2010 as a summary of landscape research up to that point in time, but it shall do, for now. Nested in ‘The SAGE Handbook of Qualitative Geography’, they address this particular issue in ‘Doing Landscape Interpretation’. They (237-239) contrast their own approach, making use of “semi-structured interviewing, archival research, focus groups, participant observation and discourse analysis”, with the approaches in non-representational geographies, making use of co-performance or co-production with non-academics. The problem for the Duncans is “whether such smallscale ‘co-productions’ would have an effect on anyone except those directly involved?” In other words, the issue is that while it’s arguably meaningful and interesting to the co-participants, the effect is limited only to the people involved.

It’s worth noting that the Duncans (241) are not actually dismissive, but rather wonder how one could overcome the issue of limited impact: “One important methodological challenge is how to devise methods that have an impact beyond a few participants.” Particularly relevant here, they (241) address walking methods, including narrated walking, with or without other participants, noting that there is already something contradictory about narrating the experience. This is something that I’ve found puzzling. I get the point, the creative aspect, how it’s supposed to be creation, presentation rather than re-presentation (think of, for example, landscape paintings by Caspar David Friedrich), as noted by the two (240), yet I fail to grasp how I would avoid re-presentation, especially if I’m to write journal articles, a format not exactly known for its flexibility. I’m not even sure why one would do that. Why not just publish it for everyone as literature, poetry or whatever form of art it happens to be? Why go for a constrained format? Isn’t that counterproductive?

I’ve mentioned this before so I’ll try to keep it short. I once wrote to a friend in a letter how surreal an experience it is to drive on a motorway at night time in Finland in late June. There’s enough ambient light for it to look like it is daytime, yet it isn’t. The sun is there, blazing from the horizon. What’s different from daytime is how elongated and pronounced the shadows are. It’s a very particular visual experience, one worth experiencing. It’s also more than that. There’s the feel of the car, how it rolls on the motorway, and the hum of it. I can hardly do justice to how it is, going 120 km/h in those conditions, how sensational it is. I could try to explain it better, perhaps even video it, but for me it just doesn’t cut it. It won’t have that feel to it. For me it would be a shallow re-presentation of what is, just as this is. That’s why I recommend trying it yourself. That said, I acknowledge that others might be able to pull this off. It may simply be that, at the moment, I don’t have what it takes to pull it off. I’m not exactly a poet or a novelist.

Getting back on track here, it’s also worth noting that when researchers opt to include others as informants, they end up offering their interpretations of the interpretations of their informants, as noted by the Duncans (238). In other words, it’s hard to avoid the expert approach, even if others are included in the research. They (239) add that the inclusion of local inhabitants isn’t unproblematic as it may be in their interest to be uncooperative and/or present views that are beneficial to their interests. In their (239) words:

“The difference between us and many of our informants is that we do not have a personal stake in maintaining the landscape; on the contrary, we have an interest in exposing the inequities brought about by its maintenance.”

It’s worth emphasizing that they are not saying that all informants have ulterior motives. As they (239) go on to add, some locals may offer keen insights, which the researcher may be unaware of, despite being the expert. In summary, it’s about having “a critical perspective on the views of one’s informants”, as they (239) put it.

Moving on. The next presentation that was a highlight for me was the one on polylanguaging by Will Amos. The crux of the presentation was how it is very hard to understand some word as in-between languages, as opposed to it being of this or that language. Amos used examples found in the French context, the use of non-French or un-French, which, as people may well know, is a big no no in France as the French like to keep it clean, or so we are told. What Amos mainly focused on consisted of the deemed intrusion of English into French language, hence what he called Frenglish. It’s worth noting that calling it Frenglish was based on his view of the examples seeming like they are English, yet they aren’t, in the sense that an English speaker wouldn’t use that and/or it just seems off, even if it sort of could be used. For example, if my memory serves me, one of the examples was about happy days, which, apparently the French use as extension of happy hours, the time of the day when something, typically alcoholic beverages, are on discount. The point here being that while, yes, happy days has two words, both intelligible to an English speaker, and, yes, there’s a TV-show that’s called that, it just doesn’t come off as English. Interestingly, after the presentation, a French speaker in the audience pointed out that for him it’s not Frenglish but Franglais. This was by no means criticism. I think it actually proved his point, how it’s very hard think otherwise. Language is understood either as this or that. From an English perspective it’s not English, but Frenglish. In other words, it’s for sure outside the boundaries of what’s English. From a French perspective it’s not French, nor Frenglish, but Franglais. In other words, it’s for sure outside the boundaries of what’s French.

Anyway, what’s at stake, as presented by Amos, is that something, some word or words, is not this or that, yet it’s very hard to even consider it anything but this or that. Amos actually addressed this, adding that it’s very hard to think otherwise as we’ve gone through decades of education that presents it as either or, not something else. I agree with this. Now, sure, someone could object to this and point out that it’s not either or, French or English, but another distinct entity, Frenglish/Franglais. However, that’s beside the point. English is not opposed only to French but also to Spanish, Italian, German, Swedish, Finnish and so on (I think you get the point), a list of languages that we consider distinct from one another. In other words, it makes little difference how many divisions there are. It’s still a division, one based on contrasting one with the other. This is not that because what this is is marked by this being not that. Simply put, the difference is between the two identities. It’s very hard to think what’s in between when difference is subordinate to identity, when it’s defined as drawn from how two or more identities are not alike. It means nothing in itself. As Deleuze (28) puts it in ‘Difference and Repetition’:

“The difference ‘between’ two things is only empirical, and the corresponding determinations are only extrinsic.”

However, Deleuze (28) asks us to think otherwise:

“However, instead of something distinguished from something else, imagine something which distinguishes itself – and yet that from which it distinguishes itself does not distinguish itself from it.”

Wait what now? What he is suggesting is to think difference, in itself, on its own terms, as indicated by the chapter title on the same page. He (29) clarifies how we come to think of this, listing “four principal aspects to ‘reason’ in so far as it is the medium of representation”, of which the first is:

“[I]dentity, in the form of the undetermined concept[.]”

The second is (29):

“[A]nalogy, in the relation between ultimate determinable concepts[.]”

The third is (29):

[O]pposition, in the relation between determinations within concepts[.]”

The fourth is (29):

“[R]esemblance, in the determined object of the concept itself.”

How these come together then, he (29) calls mediation. In other words, he (29) clarifies that:

“Difference is ‘mediated’ to the extent that it is subjected to the fourfold root of identity, opposition, analogy and resemblance.”

This is at the heart of issue, why it is that we come to think of things as either or, this or that. I’m not going to go deeper than this here. It would be quite the detour to summarize how Deleuze reverses this in order to approach difference in itself, how he reverses Platonism. Anyway, the point here is that it’s not only that it’s hard to think otherwise because we’ve gone through decades worth of education and it’s hard to overturn that, as aptly noted by Amos, but because it’s hard to overturn millennia worth of philosophy, to think otherwise, to think of difference in itself instead of thing in itself (in the Kantian sense). It’s not impossible, but I guarantee that it’ll make your head hurt, at least initially, and I guess you will consequently be dissuaded from further attempting it. On the plus side, it’s actually quite liberating when you manage to do that. Read the book and you’ll see. There’s also ‘Hegel, Deleuze, and the Critique of Representation: Dialectics of Negation and Difference’, a book by Henry Somers-Hall where this is investigated. Of course, if you are properly adventurous, there’s always ‘A Thousand Plateaus’ for you to read.

What else? Erik Johan Järlehed presented on how cities engage in branding themselves, going from heraldry to sleek designs, not unlike corporate logos. While I don’t have much to say on this here, aside it being an interesting topic and having interesting references that I’ll look into when I find the time for such, as well as that I’ve seen this happen here as well.

To exemplify this here, from my point of view, the city of Turku opted for a redesign in which the city coat of arms, a simplistic blue shield design with four fleurs-de-lys and a stylized letter A for Aboa, blended together with the letter M, for Maria, apparently for Ave Maria, topped with a crown, was transformed into a two color cyan/white rendition. With the exception of minor alterations, namely rounding the shield to get rid of sharp corners and doing the same thing to the crown, as well as adjusting the position and size of the crown, the simplified design is what it is, a simplified version of the coat of arms. That’s not exactly worth being up in arms about, as people were at the time the city proudly unveiled this rebranding.

What upset people was the 40 000 euro price tag to the whole rebranding, coming up with it and the color scheme. I acknowledge that I’m not trained in graphic design and cannot call myself a graphic designer, but I honestly have the skills to pull that off, going from the coat of arms to a two color rendition of it and rounding some edges. If we are to trust the news reports, the city employed heraldry expert was not happy, not for that changes were made, but for that he could have done a better job and, well, being on the city payroll, he could have done it way cheaper. I’m aware that 40 000 euro is peanuts when it comes to designs, but for what it is, doing a two color rendition of an existing design, a coat of arms, and picking cyan as the main color is just hilarious. To be honest, the design is not bad. It’s simplistic, but it works. It’s sort of non-offensive as it’s essentially just more of the same. That said, still, the people on their payroll could have done that. I could have done that. It takes some willpower to include what’s essentially a two color high contrast rendition of what you already have as a 40K taxpayer expense.

There also a presentation by Line Sandst and Väinö Syrjälä on the presence of proper names in landscape. This is the sort of stuff that I, among others, struggle with, so I had high hopes on this, perhaps too high. I was hoping for more answers than questions, but I ended up with more questions than answers. Now, I’m not saying that that’s a bad thing. Proper names are annoying in the sense that it’s very hard to judge them as this or that. This has popped up in my own research as well. What do we do when we encounter names like Maria? I honestly have no idea. The shorter it gets, the worse it gets as well. In the previous segment I at least had Ave Maria, so that’ll be Latin to me, but throw away the first word and now what? I don’t think I mentioned this to either of the presenters, even though I did discuss some of this, but I’m oddly fond of names, at least first names because I try to get to know people on the first name basis. I’ve used this passage before as I’m quite fond of it, but I’ll use it again here, as expressed by Deleuze and Guattari (264-265) in ‘A Thousand Plateaus’:

“[T]he proper name is no way the indicator of a subject.”

As a note here, before I let them continue, here subject does not mean the grammatical subject, as in ‘I’, as that’s for them secondary. Right, instead, they (265) clarify this:

“The proper name does not indicate a subject; nor does a noun take on the value of a proper name as a function of a form or a species. The proper name fundamentally designates something that is of the order of the event, of becoming or of the haecceity.”

Right, in other words, proper names, or names as I like to call them, are both terribly poor and terribly rich at the same time. The first name mentioned here in the context of the presentation, Line, is a name among others and, to be honest, I don’t know what it means or is supposed to mean. The all knowing internet points out that it’s a diminutive suffix, as in Caroline, Pauline, and a variant of Lina, having the same function, as in Carolina, Paulina, Angelina etc. This was, of course, a less than a minute search, so treat it as such. I can do the same with my own first name, Timo, which is, apparently a shortened variant of Greek Τιμόθεος (Timόtheos), the one who either honors or respects God, just by, well, being, or doing something, or is honored or respected by God, however you want to think of it. It appears that Line or Lina could mean this and/or that, pending where it comes from, but at least in my case it’s fair easy to argue that it’s of Greek origin, so I’ll go with that here. Okay, so, in summary, Timo, is of Greek origin, but I’d find it hard to believe people would ever bring that up, unless to impress me or something. I believe that I’m the only person to ever bring that up so far. Anyway, as a variant it’s not exclusive to Finnish. For example, you find it also among the speakers of German. That means it’s not only Finnish, but also German, as well as anything else that I didn’t bother to check up here. Also, something tells me that people don’t go thinking that I’m God respecting or honoring or respected or honored by God whenever they run into me. I’d be highly amused if they did do so though.

As a recap, it’s in this sense that names are terribly poor. They tell you little and it’s rather confusing. In practice, you are none the richer if you know that my name, for example, has to do with honor or respect and God. I don’t think I’m the embodiment of such. If I did, that’d be quite the hubris. However, whenever I think of someone that I know, the name tells everything that I need to know, at that moment. It’s all bundled up into that name. This is what Deleuze and Guattari (265) point out:

“It is the military men and meteorologists who hold the secret of proper names, when they give them to a strategic operation or a hurricane.”

I’m not going to go into detail as to how hurricanes are named. The same goes for military operations. The reason for not doing that is because it would be a long list and a long explanation. Feel free to investigate it more yourself though. Anyway, take Katrina for example, Hurricane Katrina, the one that wreaked havoc in late August 2005. That hurricane was, even among hurricanes, particularly destructive. When people bring it up, when they speak of Katrina, they know what’s what. They don’t need to be reminded how it was or how it is classified among hurricanes. Bringing that name up tells them all they need to know, even if what that entails differs from person to person. That’s the charm of names, how they are terribly rich. For example, when I think of a name of a friend, I have no need to classify that friend as this and/or that. It may not be fully accurate, I mean that doesn’t sound at all feasible, and others may have a different picture of the person in question, yet, for me, the name invokes the person perfectly, as a haecceity.

Going back in time a bit, there was also a poster exhibition. The first time around there was little interest towards them, but that’s what happens when there’s a buffet … with salmon! The second time around, during the daytime on day two, there was a lot of crowd gathering around the posters. It may have been the tightness of the space, but I can’t remember when I’ve seen such a crowd around posters in a conference. It was so that it took some time to get to speak to the poster presenters. The number of poster presenters was also fairly high, considering the number of people in the conference, so interest towards the posters was fascinating by itself.

Drawing on what was already covered in this recap of day two, the poster of Victor Fernandez-Mallat and Jakob Leimgruber, as attended and presented by Fernandez-Mallat, drew my attention in particular. The abstract indicated that they had utilized a walking method, of sorts, but, if I understood correctly, this study done in Montréal included semi-structured interviews in which the informants had to (gu)estimate where in the Montréal area the scene is situated, based on the various linguistic elements present in photos shown to the informants. I thought this was an interesting take, something I thought of doing in my own research but simply didn’t have the resources to get done. I’m saying it’s interesting because in such setup the informant isn’t guided to look around and pushed to tell the researcher what it is that the researcher wishes to hear. Instead, the informants have to rely on their memory and their imagination. What made their study particularly interesting is how accurately the informants were able to situate the scenes in Montréal, despite being intentionally humdrum scenes. Okay, they were not that accurate, on the level of telling the exact street, but, to my understanding, the informants had a very good sense of where English and French are visible present, by themselves or alongside one another. The researchers chose not to make use of scenes from the touristy central areas of the city. It probably wouldn’t tell them much if they did as it’s likely everyone could situate their photos as having been taken there. They also gauged the attitudes of the speakers on the visual presence of languages. I can’t remember the exact findings, but I assume they’ll publish on this sometime in the future, so we’ll get to read it. In summary, this was a highlight to me because they, as presented by Fernandez-Mallat, were able to make use of not only their observations, but also the insights and the attitudes of their informants, various Montréal residents, without, quite literally, leading them on.

I realize that I have skipped a number of presentations here. I chose the ones that were highlights to me and made me think. I also simply couldn’t be in more than one place at a time. It’s unfortunate but it is what it is. Here I opted to cover one aspect that pertains to landscape and another aspect that pertains to language. I chose to do so not only because the presentations were interesting but also because they are or at least should be at the core of all linguistic landscape research. I think one should have an interest in space and landscape if one is to study it. I know it’s a pain to go beyond one’s discipline and it’s hardly encouraged by the people who have influence in their relevant discipline. I keep hearing and reading about how research should be multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary rather than (intra)disciplinary. Usually it’s the administrative, managerial and ministerial people who talk of such.

I know I’m going off topic here, but just recently, Tapio Salakoski, the dean of the newly reformed Faculty of Science and Engineering at my university, expressed that the university has sought to go that route as new breakthroughs are to be found on the margins of disciplines. He emphasized the importance of cooperation between disciplines, that is to say multidisciplinary cooperation. Apparently the university strategy is, by its profile, if I get the translation right, “multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary, if not transdisciplinary or even non-disciplinary.” This is all well and good, but the problem is, as noted by Salakoski, that it’s hard. If you ask me, there’s little incentive to do so. Instead, I’d say that there’s disincentive to go beyond one’s discipline. In my experience staying within the boundaries of your own discipline is expected of you by your peers. While probably not intentional, this is even echoed in the dean’s text. The emphasis in the text is on cooperation. Despite first mentioning transdisciplinarity and non-disciplinarity, the dean ends up having to dilute the message to mere multidisciplinarity, people staying within their disciplinary boundaries, at best reaching out to one another across the boundary, meeting at the border but never crossing it, just so that no one has to share their disciplinary sandbox with some outsiders. In other words, the established disciplinary boundaries remain and are, in my experience, vigilantly guarded by those within the disciplines.

To give you examples, one of my articles was rejected by reviewers, apparently not because the article was bad, too rough, unoriginal or the like, but because it was deemed as very unlikely to be of much interest to the journal readership. In other words, it fell outside the disciplinary margins. Is it only me or do others find it strange that a journal has a readership? I know I may well be unlike others but who reads journal articles, one by one, in the order of appearance, year by year? I know I don’t. The same happened at a seminar meeting not long ago when people were commenting on a summary part of an article based thesis. The writer expressed a wish to be inclusive, to make that part of the thesis more accessible to people outside the discipline. However, that met some resistance because, apparently, you are to know your audience. Simply put, a linguistics thesis should stay within the boundaries of linguistics in order to cater to and only to a certain readership, linguists. The same goes with funding applications, be it for salaried positions at universities or third party grants. You have to pick your discipline. You are either this or that. I understand that the odds are very bad every time I apply, so there’s that. Fair enough. However, I get the feeling that my applications get binned immediately because they are not deemed as of interests to the readership. I also acknowledge that it’s hard to judge my work and my applications if your knowledge is limited to one field. My supposed discipline is linguistics but I also draw from geography, education, semiotics, art and philosophy, so unless you’ve read what I’ve read, it’s going to be hard to find me peers to review my work. I’ve actually been rejected on the grounds that the editors are unable to find me peers who could review my work. Just to be clear, I’m not blaming the editors. They are just doing their job. I just find it hilarious that, if we think peers as parallels, it’s hard to find reviewers for my work because I’m, apparently, unparalleled. The irony is almost palpable, considering that I’m a nobody.

Why do I do that? Why do I draw from here, there, everywhere? Well, as discussed here, I find it very hard to stay within the boundaries of my own discipline when what I research is markedly situated. Therefore I need to understand geography. On top of that, what I research is not only situated, it’s not merely material, but it pertains to how what is situated is perceived or apperceived. This means that I should at least attempt to understand how the world unfolds. In other words, I need to understand what space is and how it works. Moreover, because the way space is typically (ap)perceived, as I’ve come to understand, I need to how that has come to be. Therefore I need to understand art and philosophy. Also, because what is situated is often accompanied by extralinguistic elements that nonetheless impact the linguistic elements, I need to delve into semiotics. On top of that, because my research is situated in an educational context, I need to have an understanding of education. It also pertains to society more broadly and therefore I end up having to be familiar with sociology.

At times I wonder how anything new ever gets done when everything is expected to stay the same and everyone is expected to do more of the same. Again, as I’m a nobody, thus surely not worth your trust, I’ll refer to someone established instead. In the conference, Elana Shohamy brought up the issue of disciplinary boundaries, stating her opposition of such in the context of linguistic landscape research. Apparently this issue was hotly debated years ago, already in the first conference. Some wished to enforce strict disciplinary boundaries, establishing it as limited to linguistics. Others, including Shohamy, weren’t too fond of such. It’s been a while already so I can’t remember her exact words. Anyway, she told the audience a story how back in the day she expressed her opposition, along the lines of that if she hadn’t been allowed to learn anything new, do anything new, she would never had got out of the kitchen.

On top of this, as also discussed here, the question of language itself, what it is and/or what it does, has far bigger implications than merely affecting one discipline. To my understanding, it has an impact on all disciplines, yet linguists, at least those in the mainstream, seem to keep doing more of the same, largely ignoring it as if it wasn’t at all important. I think linguistic landscape research has been particularly useful in this regard. Okay, there’s a lot of more of the same type of research there as well, I can’t ignore that, but, at the same time, there has also been a lot of development as well and, more importantly, plurality and heterogeneity of views is allowed, if not embraced. This makes it possible to push the boundaries, often taking cues from outside the discipline of linguistics, and to some extent even ignore them. This also results in not only having to but also getting to rethink a lot within the established boundaries of linguistics.


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