Harvesters, Bodies and Mead!

I thought I’d do something short(er) this time, but, as you’ll quickly notice, that didn’t happen. I had gone through this text before and thought I’d be able to make a quick summary of it, highlighting what I like about it, while also providing some related commentary. I honestly didn’t realize how good this text was until I went through it again, section by section, paragraph by paragraph, sentence by sentence. Anyway, to get to the point, in this essay I’ll be covering Tim Ingold’s article ‘The Temporality of the Landscape’. It was first published as an article, but you can also find this published subsequently as a book chapter. The pagination in this essay is from article version. I’ve mentioned this article in the past and covered in a summary form, but I don’t think I gave him a fair shake by mentioning it in passing.

It’s worth noting that while this article is highly cited and highly touted, I reckon that most people will find Ingold’s views hard to understand, as well as largely disagreeable. He goes against the grain and isn’t afraid to do so. He isn’t appeasing anyone in this article. He does his own thing, boldly and bravely, which is one of the reasons why I like this article. He sets out to do what he wants, in the way he wants and doesn’t spend his time kowtowing to people who might disagree with him. I like this kind of approach because when I read something, I want to read what they have to say about this and/or that, not what they don’t have to say about this and/or that but has been included for the sake of acknowledging people who are typically expected to be acknowledged. This is not to say that he doesn’t cite people. He does. It’s rather that he gets to the point. He skips the tiresome literature review, which is typically just about citing people for the sake of citing people who expect to be cited in order for the research to get published. Oh, and don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong about a good literature review. I just prefer literature reviews that are just that, literature reviews, full fledged reviews of existing literature, so that the reader can use that review to get a good idea of what’s what and then read that literature themselves. That serves a purpose, which is not just citing people who expect to be cited in this and/or that discipline or field.

So, Ingold (152) starts by stating that, for him, archaeology is a united enterprise, regardless of what labels it is given, such as social, cultural, biological or physical. His (152) point is that it makes little sense to think of this or that archaeology as a separate entity when it is clear that the different aspects affect one another. The same could, of course, be said about just about any discipline or field. He (152) then jumps to address the title of his article, noting that he focuses on time and landscape in this article. Importantly, his focus is really on how these are related, how time and space should not be addressed separately from one another, as he (152) goes on to point out:

“I believe that such a focus might enable us to move beyond the sterile opposition between the naturalistic view of the landscape as a neutral, external backdrop to human activities, and the culturalistic view that every landscape is a particular cognitive or symbolic ordering of space.”

In other words, there are two things that he would like to get straight. Firstly, he isn’t fond of how landscape is viewed as whatever is there, out there, in the background, treated as a mere synonym to space, which, in turn, is viewed as this container, something in which things are located, this or that close or far from one another. This is very common way of thinking of space and, oddly enough, you find this even in contemporary studies, albeit I ’d say that it plagues linguistic landscape studies more than other types of landscape studies. To make things worse, this way of thinking about space is more of symptom of a way of thinking which is, in itself, the problem.

Secondly, some provide a quick fix by mentioning that space is social or cultural and thus important in itself, in addition to whatever it is that they are addressing. However, to me, that’s not enough because you end up explaining one concept with another concept that is not explained, substituting one hollow abstraction for another hollow abstraction. You thus respond to the criticism that you take space for granted, as a mere container, with recourse to something else that is taken for granted, in the hopes of that the other person shares this view. So, he is against the naïveté of the first view, but he is also against the view where everything is just labeled cultural, social, cognitive or symbolic, without qualifying what is meant by that, how it all works.

Instead of the two views, he (152) proposes something wildly different:

“I argue that we should adopt, in place of both these views, what I call a ‘dwelling perspective’, according to which the landscape is constituted as an enduring record of – and testimony to – the lives and works of past generations who have dwelt within it, and in so doing, have left there something of themselves.”

Okay, okay, I can dig this. I agree with him on this. I don’t know about others, but, of course, landscape is an enduring record of what has been done. In a way, our surroundings are made of these traces of past generations. Some generations have, of course, left more traces than others. The same applies within a generation, so that it only makes sense that some have left more traces than others. Linking this back to his criticism, this third view challenges the first view that all there is is just things in a container, like sandwiches in a lunchbox. Now, to me, he isn’t saying that there aren’t these things, sandwiches in a lunchbox. No, no. It’s just that he wishes to shift our attention from the things, whatever they may be, to how those things came to be. In my example, we have sandwiches (things) in a lunchbox (a container), meant to be eaten for lunch, but those sandwiches did not simply appear in the lunchbox, like out of nowhere. Someone made them. So, the way I see this is that he does acknowledge the things, but what he is interested in the conditions of their apparition, how this or that may have come to being. This shifts our attention from ‘what’ to ‘how’, ‘who’ and ‘why’. Assuming that my take on his criticism of the second view is correct, this third view challenges it in the sense that it is far more specific than the second view. If landscape is presented as just reflecting this or that culture or society or as its ordering of space, it treats culture or society as something superior to actual people, as if existing over and above them, beyond them, regardless of them, yet defining them, which, in turn, fixes them in time. I think this is why he emphasizes the importance of not only addressing landscape as a record of actual people, but as a record of people both present and past. What he wants us to pay attention to is how people change and so does landscape (and culture, society etc.), inasmuch as they do, of course (as the record does endure, and so do our ways of thinking, resisting the change that is, nonetheless, inevitable).

Following his own take on the issue of landscape, which is arguably rather broad, Ingold (152) turns his attention to the details, to how one might actually engage with landscape. He (152) emphasizes the importance of “immediate experience” and “everyday involvement in the world.” He (152) acknowledges that we can’t go back in time, to engage with the world as people did back in the day, whenever it was, because, well, we can’t go back in time and those who could, perhaps, relay that information (assuming that they can just relay it to us, which I think they can’t, as language doesn’t work that way, transparently, as I’ve discussed in my previous essays) are dead. It’s kinda hard to interview dead people! He doesn’t indicate this, but it’s the same with people who are longer present, not because they are dead, but because they have moved elsewhere. They may have left traces of themselves, but it’s unclear who did this and/or that, so we are left guessing. Anyway, for him, this is all beside the point, as he (152) goes on to indicate. Why? Well, because, for him (152), “the practice of archaeology is itself a form of dwelling” in which “[t]he knowledge born of this practice is thus on a par with that which comes from the practical activity of the native dweller and which the anthropologist, through participation, seeks to learn and understand.” To clarify this point, he is not saying that the way a so called native dweller and an archaeologist (any researcher really, but, I assume, here it’s archaeologist because this is published in an archaeology journal) engage with the world are the same, because they are not, as he (153) goes on to explicitly point out. What he (153) is saying is that while their ways of engagement certainly differ (to unspecific varying extent, I might add), they are both engaged in the same project, doing the same thing, as they “both seek to engage the past in the landscape”. In short, as he (152) goes on to rephrase this, “[f]or the archaeologist and the native dweller, the landscape tells – or rather is – a story”, which “enfolds the lives and times of predecessors who, over the generations, have moved around in it and played their part in its formation.” For him (152-153) this means that:

“To perceive the landscape is therefore to carry out and act of … engaging with an environment that is itself pregnant of the past.”

I condensed this, omitting the bit about remembrance and remembering, because, as he (152-153) points out, one isn’t strictly speaking recalling something internal, some internal image, something stored in one’s mind. Instead, one engages with the world which conjures the past, or so to speak. But what then differentiates the so called native dweller, the local, and the archaeologist, the researcher, the expert? The answer to this is kind of obvious. It should not be hard to figure out, albeit, I have to point out that, in my experience, some of my colleagues do fail to figure that out. I’m like … well … the expert has certain advantages that come with that background, whatever that may be. When you look at the landscape, whatever is out there, in our surroundings, the expert knows what to look for, for certain purposes, whereas the local doesn’t. Why is that? Well, firstly, it’s because the expert is trained to pay attention to certain things (being expert at this and/or that). Now, this does not mean that the locals are dumb, that they don’t have knowledge of this and/or that. They are not unworthy. Everyone has some background which pushes them to pay attention to this and/or that, inasmuch as they do, of course. That said, their backgrounds and their knowledge are likely not relevant. How so? Well, by relevant I mean that they may not be relevant to what the researcher seeks to find out by investigating the surroundings. Their backgrounds and knowledge are relevant to themselves, of course, but that’s not, in itself, the same as being relevant to what the researcher seeks to find out. Sure, okay, they can be relevant to the researcher, but only inasmuch that’s what’s relevant to the researcher. For example, if the researcher wants to know what’s relevant to them, then, of course, that’s also relevant to the researcher. It only makes sense. Secondly, in the context of landscape, the researcher is not only an expert in this and/or that, but also an expert in landscape. Summarizing what I’ve covered in many of my previous essays, people are not generally attentive with regard to their surroundings. That’s a core function of landscape. That’s what landscape does to people. So, if I ask the locals to engage with their surroundings, I’m making them do what they don’t do. In other words, by making them do what’s unthinkable to them, I’m no longer dealing with what’s relevant to them, according to their backgrounds, but what I want them to think of as being relevant to them, according to my background.

Now, what I just went on about is my take on what differentiates the local from the researcher. He (153) also argues that one’s training, one’s “education of attention” is important because it guides one “to attend to those clues which the rest of us might pass over”, which is quite literally the case when one deals with archaeology because the clues are located below the surface. He (153) exemplifies this also with hunting, noting that a novice hunter learns from more experienced hunters who help the hunter to pay attention to what’s relevant different situations when hunting, albeit some of the stuff one learns on one’s own. The thing with educators is that while they are not strictly speaking necessary, they do facilitate learning in general. So, in short, what differentiates the novice hunter and the experienced hunter is that “the experience hunter is the knowledgeable hunter”, as he (153) goes on to summarize it. That’s what’s what. I don’t get it how some fail to understand this, how the researcher is the one who is experienced and knowledgeable, whereas the local is not. Does this mean that local input is pointless? Again, as I already pointed out, no. Whether it matters really depends on what the researcher seeks to find out, whether it’s relevant to what’s being studied. If it’s not and thus no help, it’s pointless to ask them for input. That said, if it is relevant to one’s study, then it is and thus it makes sense to involve them. Of course, in the context of landscape, the way I understand it, one still needs to be aware of how one ends up projecting oneself, one’s own experience or expertise on the locals if one involves them, which is exactly why I don’t involve them. I mean, sure, I could involve them, but then they should be treated as experts, like me, because, well, I made them experts. What they have to offer, their knowledge, would certainly be useful to me, but only if it offers something that I don’t already know. So, for example, when it comes to language, semiotics and various social issues, such as gender or socioeconomic matters, they would not be of much use to me. That said, if I were, for some reason, to involve a biologist in a landscape study, that person could be of great use to me because my knowledge of biology is certainly very limited, whereas that person would likely be very attentive to the relevant clues that I would simply not even know how to look for. This is a matter of expertise, how well attuned one is to one’s surroundings, in terms of knowledge in this or that, as he (153) puts it. This makes the split between the experts and the non-experts (non-local/local, outsider/insider, etic/emic) unnecessary, if not counter-productive, because the accounts that one can provide are no more or no less authentic than anyone else’s. What matters is what matters, what it is that one seeks to find out. It’s like coming up with a problem, in a Bergsonist sense (as I’ve discussed in some of previous essays), followed by solving it. No need to hunt for the meaning, the origin, the truth or the like, just solve problems that you find interesting, the way that you finds most apt for the purpose.

Now, to me, this, asserting that there is a clear distinction, a dichotomy between the researcher and, in negation, who isn’t the researcher, is just ill-conceived or, rather, half-baked. I like to be very clear about the fact it was I who did the research. It’s me. Just me. I consider myself an expert, but only in this and/or that area of expertise, whatever it is that I have focused on. I don’t know it all, nor market myself as such. In addition, I think expertise or knowledge should viewed as something that one has to a certain extent. So, yeah, some know more while others know less. It’s not simply a matter of either or. What matters is what others can contribute to the research, to your research. If you know better, then you do and that’s it. If you don’t know better, then you don’t and it might be worth it to include them in your research. That said, if they do contribute, I think that then it should no longer be considered just your research. Then it should be considered a collaboration and the others should be treated as equals, as authors, not as mere informants who end up being mentioned but not getting any credit because you want all the credit for yourself, despite making them do the work, contributing their expertise which you yourself lack.

To further comment on expertise, were I asked to comment on discourses pertaining to flora and fauna, as manifested in the landscape, I’d be like, well, I can’t really say much about that and recommend asking a biologist (a botanist and/or a zoologist, to be more specific). I wouldn’t know enough about that. Could I learn more about that? Yes. Sure. Anyone could. Should I? Maybe, maybe not. I reckon that if it matters enough to me, I’ll find myself learning more about biology, which, in turn would help me in this regard. I could, of course, ask someone who has already done that to do that (instead, or with me, as a collaboration). Similarly, should I engage with surroundings that are entirely strange to me? Well, just because I find the dichotomy half-baked doesn’t mean that I’m advocating for parachuting me to some faraway land that I know little of, to make an authorized record of their way of living, based on my observations. Again, I think I wouldn’t consider myself as having enough expertise in that scenario. Like in the previous example, I’d recommend asking someone else, possibly someone who shares certain expertise with me, but knows more about that specific context. Could I pull it off though? Well, yes and no. If I had to do it right now, if I’d be given little time to familiarize myself with what’s relevant in that context, I’d say no. Then again, if I had all the time in the world so that I could do all that, then sure, I don’t think there’s anything that prevents me from studying some faraway land. I don’t think there’s anything essential that I wouldn’t be able to handle in the long run. Would I do that though? Well, I don’t think it makes much sense. I don’t even know who’d fund such. Why would they? Why wouldn’t they choose someone who wouldn’t have to go through all that. I mean I’d ask them that if they offered me such. Again, it’s not I couldn’t, nor that I shouldn’t, but that it wouldn’t make much sense to me.

To explain this in the terms used by Ingold, something tells me that just because you are an experienced and knowledgeable hunter doesn’t mean that it applies in all cases. Having a wealth of experience in hunting a certain animal doesn’t mean that the experience is applicable in the context of hunting all other animals. Similarly, experience in hunting a certain animal in a certain context doesn’t mean that the experience is applicable in all other contexts. You could certainly learn to hunt another animal or the same animal but in different circumstances, to learn new things and adapt your previous experience and knowledge to a different situation, but that would involve considerable effort. You might want to go through all that, if it’s about you, if that’s what you desire, but it’s, of course, not something that you must do (well, unless your life depends on that or something).

To put this bluntly, in inverse terms, it’s equally problematic to side with the non-experts, to have them express themselves, inasmuch it is understood as supposing that it is essential to do so. To use the hunter example again, it certainly makes sense to involve local hunters, instead of non-local hunters when it comes to hunting this or that animal, locally, in specific circumstances that may not apply elsewhere. That said, there’s nothing essential about the local hunters that makes it so that someone who isn’t one of them, there and then, wouldn’t be able to learn to hunt that animal, in those circumstances. To use the faraway land example, just because I once got criticized for conducting a ‘colonial’ study, in a context that I was born into, grew up in and, later on, worked in, I don’t think that there is anything essential about being local. I keep using that word, essential, because siding with the locals presupposes that there is something inherent about them, this or that group of people, that defines them as such, something that is their essence, which someone who is not one of them cannot ever be, you know, because it’s about the essence. I find this highly problematic because it builds on essentialism (cough, cough, Plato!). It presupposes that there is a fixed identity, an idea or a form, that something or someone is tied to and must conform with. So, in my case, I could argue that no one should study anything Finnish except Finns, because a non-Finn would not be able to understand the essence of Finnishness, considering that they themselves lack in terms of that essence. Now, I find that laughable. It’s such a bad argument that I find it hilarious and stupid at the same time. The what now? The essence of being Finnish! Hahahahhahahaha! It’s like in Plato’s ‘Parmenides’ where Plato’s main man, his champion, Socrates, has a moment of clarity, when he finds himself disturbed by the realization that, according to this own logic, everything, even something like hair, mud and filth (dirt), therefore needs to correspond to a pre-existing idea or form, what could also be called an essence. To explain the gravity of this issue, this literally means that you can never invent anything. So, for example, the skyr that I just ate after that long run, that Icelandic cultured dairy product, has a fucking corresponding idea, the idea or essence of skyr. Haha! So does this keyboard, this mouse, these headphones, these speakers, this screen, that notepad over there, those cans of beer, all different sizes mind you, the point being that the list is endless, but, if we are to follow this logic, none of these are inventions. I think you should be able to grasp what the problem with this way of thinking is, but, in case you don’t, don’t worry, we’ll return to this soon enough.

You should be able to get the point if you’ve ever done discourse analysis. I mean if you follow the Foucault’s (49) definition of discourses “as practices that systematically form the objects of which they speak”, as presented in ‘The Archaeology of Knowledge’, you would know that following that definition everything and everyone we deal with is constructed through discourse (statements), albeit not exclusive through it as also needs to taken into account the non-discursive side (visibilities). The titles of his earlier book ‘Les mots et les choses: : Une archéologie des sciences humaines’ or ‘The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences’ are entirely serious and highly apt because he is interested in words (the discursive) and things (the non-discursive), which together create an order of things, the ordering of objects, as he (49) points out in the ‘The Archaeology of Knowledge’. I roll my eyes, every single time, every time when some suggests that I do ethnography instead of discourse analysis, when it’s clear that the two are incompatible. It’s like asking me to be on team Plato when it’s obvious that I play for the opposing team, the anti-Platonists. Hilarious!

If you fail to get the point, check out Foucault’s 1981 interview with André Berten. You can find this online as a video, but there’s also a transcript of it, titled ‘What Our Present Is’. He explains his own approach in that interview so concisely and so promptly that it shouldn’t be too hard to understand. What’s particularly important about this interview is how he points out that the thing of his time, phenomenology, was too fixed on lived experience in the sense that it involved predetermination. For him the problem is not with lived experience, as such, as we all do have lived experience, quite obviously, really, but rather how it ignores how that experience is not markedly individual but rather collective and social. To be more specific, we can, of course, say that all experience is in some sense individual, as we are all unique to some degree. That said, much of our experience is, in fact, shared, which is why it’s collective and social. We are highly alike, not because we are born that way, but because we become that way, because we are brought up that way. I mean, just the fact that we can speak is because someone taught us to speak. In other words, it’s more apt to say that people’s experiences are mostly collective rather than individual. The way we experience world is not given, from birth. It’s structured according to what counts as true in the relevant regimes of truth, as he might say (in his other publications). This is exactly why I’m not interested in lived experience, what it is that Joe or Jill Sixpack has to say about this and/or that, but in what are the conditions that give rise to his or her experience and his or her opinions about this and/or that. The experiences and the opinions of people are one thing, sure, but, for me, what’s really interesting is why they might have come to experience the world in a certain way and voice their opinions about it in a certain way. Like Foucault exemplifies this in that interview, mad people are not that interesting. Sure, we could focus on them, what is it that they have to say, okay, okay, but the problem with that is that we therefore take for granted that they are actually mad. Maybe they are, maybe they aren’t. In other words, we treat madness as a given, as a matter of essence, rather than as a construct that is specific to certain time and place. To be clear, this does not mean one seeks to explain someone’s behavior by probing into their past, whether they endured a tough childhood, a tough break up with someone, or the like, because, again, to understand all that, one needs to analyze how we’ve come to construct what is ‘childhood’ or a ‘relationship’ in certain spatio-temporal context and what kinds of roles various institutions play in all that (plus a whole host of other things). This is far, very far, from contemporary ethnography, because if one follows Foucault, one cannot start from people’s experience, trying to situate oneself in their shoes, or so to speak. One has to realize that all lived experience, their experience included, is conditioned and it’s this conditioning that leads them to experience the world the way they do. There’s nothing given about it. Instead, as Gilles Deleuze (and Félix Guattari) keep saying, we are always in the middle of things. People’s lived experience is, of course, important, to themselves, just as my lived experience is important, to myself, but, in a study, what’s more important is how these experiences, mine included, are constituted and how they emerge, what are the conditions of their apparition.

Following the prologue where he addresses what’s been covered so far, how landscape ought to be approached in his view, Ingold (153-157) moves on to address how he defines landscape. This section is very thorough and explicit, something which you rarely see in recent studies. I mean I’d like to get away with a three to four page discussion of just one concept but, alas, no one apparently has the time, nor the attention span for such these days. I mean, I haven’t even covered this section yet, but I’m already loving it!

Right, he (153-154) goes back to the basics, starting out from scratch. In summary, to him, landscape is not land, nor nature, nor space. Firstly, it’s not land because land is divisible, but landscape is not. In other words, land is something that you can measure, so it’s quantitative and homogeneous, whereas landscape cannot be measured, so it’s qualitative and heterogeneous. So, unlike land, you can’t really say that there is this or that landscape, extending from here to there, nor that this or that landscape is composed of these and these elements. As he (154) puts it, “you can ask of a landscape what it is like, but not how much of it there is.” He (154) also argues that “landscape is a plenum” which is why it is, in itself complete, at all times, having “no holes in it that remain to be filled in”. In other words, You don’t work to complete it, but to rework it, to alter it. To me, this doesn’t mean that you don’t have these and/or those things out there, but rather that the whole they (in)form is never a pre-existing entity that has been fragmented and thus may be missing some pieces. What you see is what you get, or so to speak. It never lacks anything.

Secondly, landscape is not nature because this would presuppose that nature is something that’s just out there, (pre-)existing, while we, you and I, just happen to be there, as separate from all that, wherever there is. So, in other words, he is troubled by the human/nature or culture/nature split because it assumes that one is always external to the world, detached from it, as if observing it from a distance. In short, this involves a certain dualism (which I vehemently oppose!). In his (154) words:

“Application of this logic forces an insistent dualism, between object and subject, the material and the ideal, operational and cognized, ‘etic’ and ‘emic’. Some writers distinguish between nature and the landscape in just these terms – the former is said to stand to the latter as physical reality to its cultural or symbolic construction.”

Oh, snap! And there goes ethnography, gone with the wind (as it should, in my opinion, inasmuch as it builds on such dualism)! Anyway, he (154) goes on to exemplify the application of such a logic by how Stephen Daniels and Denis Cosgrove (1) define landscape as “cultural image, a pictorial way of representing or symbolising surroundings” in the introductory chapter to the book they’ve edited, ‘The iconography of landscape: Essays on the symbolic representation, design and use of past environments’, and strongly argues against such a definition:

“I do not share this view. To the contrary, I reject the division between inner and outer worlds – respectively of mind and matter, meaning and substance – upon which such distinction rests.”

I share his disdain of dualism, which, the definition provided by Daniels and Cosgrove certainly builds on, but I acknowledge that the dominant way of thinking is dualistic. In other words, I agree that landscape is not a mere representation (of something), but, that said, people do tend to take it as such, hence its great influence on people. To me it’s pivotal engage with the topic from that angle because it’s societally highly relevant. Ignoring the issue won’t make it go away. I think that people should be made aware of it and provided the tools to deal with it. That said, given the problem is really with the way of thinking, with the dominant image of thought, not landscape itself, one should, however, also explain what the problem with that is and how one might think otherwise, as well as how that affects how one might creatively re-think how landscape functions.

Related to this, I recently listened to (and read the translated transcription of) a lecture on Baruch Spinoza held by Deleuze in 1980 (Seminar on Spinoza: The Velocities of Thought, third lecture, held December 9, 1980). The point of this lecture is to present to two images of thought: the dominant one which relies on morality and the one proposed by Spinoza which relies on ethics. The former builds on essence and values. It forces one to consider something as having an essence and that operation is done through the means of values. What is considered the essence is also the Good, which is why it is also good to act in a certain way, not just in accordance to one’s essence. This consideration involves a judgment, which is also why this image of thought is, at times, called the principle, the system or the doctrine of judgment (in Deleuze’s works). It’s also important to understand that judging something according to its essence, how well it is realized, always involves an appeal to a higher level above the level of existence (Being). You have to do that from the above, otherwise you can’t judge. In other words, each time you judge, you have to elevate yourself above the others. This is why I consider it hilarious that such a thing exists as peer review. I mean being a peer means that you are on the same level as they are, that is to say not above them, yet the system requires that you to have to judge others, that is to say act from above, meaning that you are, in fact, not their peer.

Deleuze exemplifies how this works in reference to how Aristotle states (in ‘The Nicomachean Ethics’) that humans are reasonable animals, that is to say that it is what distinguishes human from other animals, which is why it is considered the essence of humanity. That said, Deleuze adds that human behavior is, nonetheless, often highly irrational, as one might be able to point out on the basis of one’s own experience of human behavior. In short, human essence is rationality, yet, in actuality, humans do not act according to their essence. Therefore humans fail to realize their own potential, what it is to be human. He emphasizes that it’s important to understand the essence as an end that one is supposed to seek, that is to say what is valued.

Right, it’s evident that judgment invokes lack. So, as rationality is (held as) the essence of what it is to be human and as one, nonetheless, keeps failing at realizing that, one’s own essence, one is, oddly enough, defined in relation to something that one is not. This is not the topic of this essay, but, as I’ve written in previous essays, one ends up doubling oneself through this procedure. One is thus a mere re-presentation of one’s own essence, a partial realization of it. Now, I don’t subscribe to this way of thinking, but, to clear, it is the way most people think. People think that they are this or that, not only human, but, for example man, which, in turn leads them to assess themselves and others in terms of whether they realize their potential, the essence of man, whatever that is considered to be. This creates all kinds of problems because people keep failing to reach their own essence, not realizing that it is people who came up with what that essence is in the first place. So, it becomes a moral obligation to act in a certain way, as to realize one’s own potential, to be in harmony with one’s essence, or so to speak. This leads to what Deleuze calls a double judgment, where one judges oneself and is also judged. In other words, people end up judging themselves and others.

The latter image of thought treats essence completely differently. Instead of viewing it as general or abstract, as a shared properly, such as the essence of human, the essence of dog or the essence of table, each essence is particular, a singular determination, the essence of this, or that, and so on, and so on. This is why Deleuze often explains things in terms of singularities in his own works. In this context, lecturing about Spinoza, he points out that it’s, perhaps, less confusing and, thus, more apt to speak of existence (Being) and existents rather than essences. To be clear, existence pertains to the level of existence (Being) and existents (beings,as in be-ings) pertain to the singularities of this or that, whatever this or that happens to be on the level of existence. There is no judgment involved, as to whether this or that realizes some abstract idea, some general essence, nor how well it realizes it. But how does one differentiate between this or that, let’s say between two humans, two dogs or two tables, or, any one of them, really, if not through how well they realize their essence, how well they reach their potential? Well, obviously, the difference is between the existents (beings), that is to say the singularities. On the level of existence the difference between existents (beings) is quantitative, which means that there is scale to it. So, one existent (being) is more or less similar to another existent (being). There is also a qualitative difference, but that’s between modes of existence. The qualitative side is, perhaps, harder to explain, considering that it has to do with mode, the way or manner how something exists. Deleuze uses the example of how someone may find something funny and another person may not find it funny at all. The difference is not in the existent, what something is, in that moment, but the way or the manner it is or, rather, appears to us, like in the case of two people who react to something in a different manner. So, in other words, mode of existence is about the manner of being. It’s not about what, but how.

If we consider both the quantitative and the qualitative differences together, what defines this or that, whatever it may be, a human, a dog or a table, for example, is what they can do, as Deleuze is keen to emphasize. So, in short, the moral image of thought is concerned with what something is or, rather, is supposed to be, whereas the ethical image of thought is concerned with what something can do. It’s not that in the latter case it doesn’t matter what something is, because it does, but rather that what something is, in the quantitative sense, is relevant only inasmuch it affects what it can do, what it is capable of. He exemplified this with drinking, how some people can’t hold their liquor, or so to speak. It’s not that they are by their essence like that, poor drinkers, but that, as it stands, they are not capable of consuming a lot of alcohol without vomiting. Sure, the constitution of their bodies does affect that but this has nothing to do with an essence. This is why Deleuze is interested in diagrammatics, i.e. the diagrams of power, which involves elaborating what this or that can do.

If it appears that I’m dealing with another world, it’s because I am. That’s how Deleuze sees this. The first image of thought pertains to a moral world, whereas the second image of thought pertains to an ethical world. I run into this issue quite a bit whenever I submit a manuscript. It’s often quite telling of the state of academics, really.

Anyway, back to Ingold (154) who goes on to further explain his position. In summary, for him (154), landscape is not nature, something out there, on its own, nor “humanity against nature”, a matter of imagination, something that takes place in the mind. I’m not entirely sure about my take on this, but, to me, it appears that he is against presenting landscape as separate from people, as a given, just there, out there, regardless of whether we engage with it or not. I think he is also against thinking that landscape is just in our heads, imaginary, so that there’s no connection what’s out there as it’s just in our heads. In short, I think he is saying that you can’t really explain landscape without taking both into account at the same time. There’s this reciprocity. So, yes, you could say that landscape is just out there, but you’d struggle to explain how that would be the case, knowing that it has a certain history and how it pertains to the order of things. You could also say that landscape is just a figment of imagination, not really out there, but you’d struggle to explain how it is that it got in there, how it became a figment of your imagination, unless, unless, it’s what’s out there, other people included, that was involved in that process, knowing that people have not always engaged with the world as such order of things, knowing that people were not born with it. This is why I think it’s apt that Ingold (154) states that:

“[T]hrough living in it, the landscape becomes a part of us, just as we are a part of it. Moreover, what goes for its human component goes for other components as well.”

And that (154):

“[E]ach component enfolds within [it] the totality of its relations with each and every other.”

Here I replaced “its essence” with [it] because I can’t stand the word essence in this context, considering what I’ve covered so far. Anyway, the point here is about relationality. You can’t explain this or that, without acknowledging that you also need to explain what else is there, because all that affects this or that, whatever it is that you seek to explain, inasmuch as it does, of course, and, importantly, all that what is connected to it and thus affects it, inasmuch as it does, is also defined in this way, as constructed in relation to whatever it is linked to or has been linked in the past. To make more sense of this, it’s worth explaining how this is typically defined, as explained by Ingold (154):

“In a world construed as nature, every object is a self-contained entity, interacting with others through some kind of external contact.”

It’s not that there’s no interaction involved, no relations between entities in this understanding of the world, but rather that each entity or object is taken existing as separate, self-contained and self-sufficient entity that engages with other self-contained entities or objects, whatever they may be, if they do. In other words, there’s a radical separation of entities that is taken as how things really are.

Right, thirdly, landscape is not space. He (154-155) exemplifies this by comparing how just about anyone engages with the world with the way a surveyor or a cartographer engages with the world. In summary, no matter where people are and when that takes place, landscape is always there for them. There’s no escaping it. Importantly, this also applies to those surveyors and cartographers. That said, what’s particular about these surveyors and cartographers is that it’s their job to go against this everyday way of being in the world. Their task is to gather data and “to produce a single picture which is independent of any point of observation”, so that it appears, as if, “it could be directly apprehended only by a consciousness capable of being everywhere at once and nowhere in particular”, kinda like in “aerial or ‘birds’-eye’ view”, as explained by him (155). The point he (155) is making here is that this approach to the world no longer deals with actual circumstances and actual people, what is it that people do, like walk from here to there, wherever there is, but with potential circumstances, what people might do, where they might walk, to point B, from where they are, point A, as judged from above. In short, such an approach involves a radical separation from the world, where the world is divided into neatly bounded segments, as he (155) goes on to add.

As already pointed out, with landscape there is no such segmentation, no place that is “‘cut out’ from the whole”, as he (155) goes on to specify it. Now, as I already pointed out, we can think of landscape as a whole, but only as a particular whole, which consists of parts that are tied to it, there and then, in that specific spatio-temporal context, so that, in his (155) words, “each place embodies the whole at a particular nexus with in, and in this respect is different from every other.” To be clear, landscape is not, in itself, a bounded entity, so, in a way, there are no landscapes, as in this landscape or that landscape, as he (156) goes on to argue. I think I’ve pointed out this before, in some previous essay, but, anyway, you can try this out yourself. It’s should be easy to get this point. So, the point he is making is that you are always somewhere and what you can see (or sense, if you don’t want to limit yourself to vision) is the landscape. Don’t move! Don’t move your head or even your eyes! Is what you see a landscape? Let’s assume it is, even if it isn’t. Now, feel free to move and/or move your head and your eyes. If what you just saw was a landscape, is what you see now the same landscape or another landscape? Where would you draw the boundary? Now, do the same again, move a bit and/or look around. What about now? It should be evident that from this little experiment there’s nothing inherent about our surroundings that gives rise to a landscape, understood as this neatly bounded entity. We can, of course, speak of landscapes, this or that, but it’s then we who define them as such, on the basis of our experience, as he (156) goes on to point out. How does that work then? Well, I reckon that we intuit it, what we call this or that a landscape, and we intuit it on the basis of our knowledge and experience, which, to my understanding, is always markedly shared or collective. I’d also say that language is to blame here because it always fail to capture the complexity of any given situation, the singularity of it, no matter how aptly someone puts it. You end up with some sort of a reduction of what you are dealing with. Ingold (156) seems to agree with me on this:

“In short, the landscape is the world as it is known to those who dwell therein, who inhabit its places and journey along the paths connecting them.”

I’d actually be even more radical with this and remove the sense of place because, for me, place is already a point in space and thinking in terms of points, going from one point to another, one after another, implies that there is a system to it, a grid, or so to speak. So, I’d reformulate this as so that landscape is the world as it is known to people, how it appears to them.

Having explained how, to him, landscape is not land, nor nature, nor space, he (156) jumps to contrast his definition of it with environment. To distinguish the two, he (156) first provides his own definition of environment as reality for, the world as it functions in relation to people (and other life forms) who inhabit it. He (156) is keen to emphasize that, for him, function has to do with affordances and therefore environment has to do with what it makes possible to people (and other life forms). He (156) adds that this also applies to all life forms, what he refers to as organisms, as they are also defined in terms of their functionality, what it is that they are capable of. So, not unlike Spinoza, he defines people (and other life forms) in terms of what they are capable of and, by extension, the environment as what comes to afford them this and/or that function or capacity to act.

Following the functional definitions of environment and life form that puts emphasis on the capacity to act, he (156) defines landscape as a matter of form and compares it to body (what, I think, Deleuze and Guattari would call organism, in the sense that it’s how something is organized, which is why I chose to replace organism with life form in the environment / life form pair). In short, he (156) considers form as pertaining to what something is, how it appears to us, in this or that form, whereas function has to do with the capacity to act. Similarly to environment and life form, landscape and body are relational, one always informing the other, as he (156) goes on to point out. In addition, because they pertain to form, they need to be formed. As explained by him (156), they are not pre-formed, appearing as such, like out of nowhere. To be more specific, he (156) states that:

“Both sets of forms are generated and sustained in and through the processual unfolding of a total field of relations that cuts across the emergent interface between organism and environment[.]”

So, as body is a form, as is landscape, he (156) calls the formative process embodiment. He (156) acknowledges that embodiment has certain buzz value to it, which, I take, pushes people to conduct studies that revolve around this notion. I reckon that it’s just like any other popular concepts that suddenly become trendy. The problem with that is that the concepts are used for their supposed explanatory value, without really explaining them. So, he (156-157) warns not to confuse embodiment as something simple as prioritizing form over process, as a matter of inscription or transcription, “whereby some pre-existing pattern, template or programme, whether genetic or cultural, is ‘realized’ in a substantive medium.” In terms used by Spinoza, this is not a matter of something or someone realizing their potential, their telos, their pre-scripted goal. So, it’s important to realize that the process of embodiment involves what he (157) calls incorporation, “a movement wherein forms themselves are generated”. I’d add here that it’s not that there aren’t any patterns, templates, programmes or scripts, but rather that even these are subject to change. For example, human patterns, what one might also call practices or discourses, are certainly subject to change. The same applies to genomes, the genetic instructions of various life forms. So, to get back to the topic, landscape can therefore be understood as a form of environment, as based on whatever it is that gets incorporated into it, as he (157) goes on to point out.

The way he defines embodiment and how it relates to landscape reminds me of how Deleuze and Guattari define it, pertaining diagrammatically to forms of content and expression. That’s why it also reminds me of how one might define it as pertaining diagrammatically to non-discursive and discursive formations, to use the Foucauldian parlance. When it comes to other things, besides landscape, it also reminds me of how discourses can and do become materialized or manifested, as discussed by Ron Scollon in his book chapter ‘Discourse itineraries: Nine processes of resemiotization’ and by Richard Schein in his work, namely in his article ‘The Place of Landscape: A Conceptual Framework for Interpreting an American Scene’. I’m not going to elaborate more on all that because I’ve explained the way that all works so many times already. I think it’s better to keep going with this and see where Ingold moves next.

Right, Ingold uses the same approach with time or temporality as he does with landscape. Before he defines it, he (157) seeks to establish what it isn’t. In summary, he (157) argues that temporality is not synonymous with chronology, nor with history, because the former pertains to a “system of dated intervals, in which events are said to have taken place” and the latter pertains to a “series of events which may be dated in time according to their occurrence in one or another chronological interval.” What’s important here, in both cases, is that they have to do with a system of isolated instances, this or that, for example an event or a date. One moves from one event to another, in succession, one by one, but, as he (157) goes on to emphasize, nothing happens, nothing takes places, nothing moves, nothing does.

In stark contrast with chronology and history, he (157) defines temporality as a matter of immanence, so that one passages in time. To be more specific, it involves “a pattern of retensions from the past and protensions for the future”, so that historicity merges with it “in the experience of those who, in their activities”, what he also calls taskscape, “carry forward the process of social life”, as he (157) goes on to clarify.

So, the focus is now on that taskscape, which is intrinsically temporal and consists of various activities. That’s the starting point here. He (157-158) specifies that these activities can also be understood as a matter of labor and that the products of these activities, commodities, can be measured in terms of their value. Both labor and value can be quantified, as he (157-159) goes on to elaborate. Firstly, while what counts as labor may vary, as it involves various raw materials, tools, procedures and skills, it can nonetheless be measured in terms of the time (clock-time or astronomical time, as quantified on the basis of the axial rotation of the earth and its movement around the sun) and the wages (money or capital) that go into it. Secondly, value can measured in terms of how much something is deemed to be worth. In stark contrast, use-value pertains to affordances, what something is to someone in terms of what it makes possible for that person, and thus it cannot be quantified. This is why he (158) considers the distinction between value/labor and use-value to be homologous with the distinction between land and landscape. In short, similarly landscape, taskscape is qualitative and heterogeneous, as he (158) explains it as concisely as possible.

Taskscape consists of activities, which he (158) specifies as practical operations carried out by some skilled person in that person’s environment. These tasks are similar to the parts, components or particulars that make up landscape in the sense that while it is tempting to discuss them in isolation, as this or that task, they only make sense in connection to other tasks, as he (158) goes on to clarify. So, as I pointed out in the context of distinguishing landscape from land (154), these tasks form a whole, but only a particular whole. In his (158) words, these tasks only make sense “within an ensemble of tasks, performed in series or in parallel, and usually by many people working together.” So, yeah, I’d say that they form a whole, but it is a whole that is particular, not some given whole of which the various tasks are just parts of. In other words, for him (158), taskscape is an ensemble of interlocking tasks, “an array of related activities”, that never lacks any task or activity, just as landscape is an ensemble of elements, a configuration of bit of this and a bit of that, “an array of related features”, which never lacks any element or feature.

When it comes to time, the temporality of taskscape is social and pertains to how time is experienced, as he (158-159) points out. So, unlike clock-time or astronomical time, it doesn’t consist of any distinct units and therefore it cannot be quantified. This is what Henri Bergson refers to us duration (durée). To be more specific, in ‘Time and Free Will: An Essay on the Immediate Data of Consciousness’, Bergson explains the difference between time and duration. He (75) starts by explaining how numbers work:

“Number may be defined in general as a collection of units, or, speaking more exactly, as the synthesis of the one and the many.”

So, in short, you have one, which, in turn can be summed up as many if there are more than one ones. There’s also subtraction, multiplying and dividing, but that’s all beside the point. What’s important here is the emphasis on thinking this as having to do with a collection of units. He (76) adds that we also need to qualify these units:

“It is not enough to say that number is a collection of units; we must add that these units are identical with one another, or at least that they are assumed to be identical when they are counted.”

This obviously involves a certain reduction, as he (76) goes on to acknowledge:

“[W]e agree … to neglect their individual differences and to take into account only what they have in common.”

There’s that, granted. Of course it’s possible to address the individual differences, but then we are doing something different, as he (76) points out:

“[A]s soon as we fix our attention on the particular features of objects or individuals, we can of course make an enumeration of them, but not a total.”

Okay, I’d disagree here on the last bit, in the sense that you do get a total, albeit not the same total that he is talking about here. For example, if I examine 50 sheep, there’s 50 sheep. Let’s say that one of them is black and the rest of the sheep are white. So, there are a total of one black sheep and 49 white sheep, for a grand total of 50 sheep. This is clearly doable. Then again, what he is saying is that 1 and 49 are not the same thing as 50 in themselves.

He (77) moves on to state that we can think of the one and the many both in terms of space and time. In terms of space, we can have a flock of sheep, 50 of them, each occupying a different position in space. They are positioned close enough to one another so that we can comprehend them as a flock, yet far enough from one another so that we can distinguish each sheep. In terms of time, we can also think of the 50 sheep as appearing to us in sequence, one by one, as a series of them. He (77) notes that it is certainly tempting to distinguish these two ways of counting sheep as different from one another, but he isn’t buying this. For him (77), the problem with the second conception of counting sheep is that it appears to pertain to time, but it actually pertains to space or, to be more accurate, the way time is defined in terms of space, that is to say spatially. How so? Well, because this involves measuring “the trajectory of a body in motion”, counting “only a certain number of extremities of intervals, or moments, in short, virtual halts in time”, as explained by Bergson (11) in ‘The Creative Mind’. Time is thus actually astronomical time, as already elaborated by Ingold (158). It’s how time is unitized, how it is counted, but not time itself, or time in itself, what Bergson refers to as duration. He (86) exemplifies this pure duration in ‘Time and Free Will’ with how the sound of a bell makes little sense if it is experienced as separate countable instances. He (86-87) acknowledges that it is certainly possible to do so, but that’s not what people generally do. I think music is an even better example because it’s not typically apprehended as a mere list of separate sounds that you listen to one by one. It’s the same with video, as Ingold (159) goes on to point out. You can look at a video, frame by frame, but that results in looking at static images that just appear to you, on an as is basis, distinct from one another, having no connection to one another, unless, unless you apprehend them as a continuum.

So, in summary of this issue that pertains to time, many may think of it in terms of clock-time or astronomical time, but, following Bergson or Ingold, that’s just a conception of time, not time itself. It’s how time is ordered into chunks, not time itself. It’s how time is measured, as based on the way space is measured, not time itself, nor space itself, for that matter. Instead, time is always social. What does Ingold (159) mean by this then? Well, before I explain that, it’s important to make note of how one is constituted in the present moment, as explained by him (159):

“As such, [taskscape] constitutes my present, conferring upon it a unique character. Thus the present is not marked off from a past that it has replaced or a future that will, in turn, replace it; it rather gathers the past and future into itself, like refractions in a crystal ball.”

To put this in terms used by Augustine (242-243) in ‘Confessions’ and Deleuze (76-77) in ‘Difference and Repetition’, only the present actually exists. The past cannot exist, in itself, as the past is what ceases to be. It’s the same with future as it can never exist, in itself, as it is yet to be. In other words, contrary to popular opinion, time does not have three dimension: the past, the present and the future. Instead, as stated by Deleuze (77), as the past and the future are always apprehended from the present, they are, in fact, dimensions of the present, as evident from the example he provides:

“A scar is the sign not of a past wound but of ‘the present fact of having been wounded’[.]”

In more simple terms, what matters is the present. Everything you do is always in the present. Even recollection functions in the present, hence the scar example. As there is only the present, there are no points in time, no time line, which also means that, similarly to landscape, taskscape does not consists of isolated tasks that take place in isolation from one another, as discussed by Ingold (155, 159). This does not, however, mean that one cannot segment it, to apprehend it in such a way, nor, I’d say, that it is not useful to do so. In his (159) words, just as what one can apprehended as the various landscape elements, such as “walls or fences”, can be seen as demarcating a landscape from another landscape, the various activities, such as “rites, feasts and public ceremonies”, can be understood as segmenting time in a similar fashion, separating a taskscape from another taskscape.

What about the social aspect of time then? This should actually be fairly easy to comprehend if one considers what’s been covered so far already. Keep in mind that the aforementioned activities that can be understood as parts of this or that taskscape and the elements that can be understood as parts of this or that landscape all involve humans. No rite, feast or ceremony exists on its own and no wall or fence came to being on its own. As everything and everyone is the product of this world, the way we come to understand time is always social. The same applies to space. In other words, everything and everyone is markedly social and, conversely, whatever is there, like those walls and fences, and whatever it is that people do, for example take part in those rites, feasts and ceremonies, can be understood as social markers.

Ingold (159) indicates that Émile Durkheim defined time as social, but, for him, the problem with Durkheim’s work is that it also treats time as chronological. In other works, he (159-160) isn’t satisfied with how Durkheim treats time as consisting of chunks of time, marked by the various activities that “come from society”, including the aforementioned activities, as explicitly mentioned by Durkheim in his own work. Simply put, he (160) doesn’t buy Durkheim’s definition of time as truly social because the recurrence of the aforementioned activities are treated as a metronome, which “inscribes an artificial division into equal segments upon an otherwise undifferentiated movement”. Against this, he (160) argues that the social aspect of time is not metronomic, having a steady beat, like tick-tock, but rhythmic, pulsating, so that the beats vary and fluctuate. He (160) argues that rhythm has to do with “the successive building up and resolution of tension, on the principle that every resolution is itself a preparation for the next building up”. He (160) exemplifies this with breathing because each exhalation always anticipates the next inhalation, until it doesn’t, of course, resulting in death. This is why life is rhythmic. To be clear, it’s not only that our own life is rhythmic, that one goes through one’s own rhythmic cycle or cycles, but that we are connected to the rhythms of others, and therefore taskscape ought to be understood as constituted by “a complex interweaving of very many concurrent cycles”, “the network of interrelationships between the multiple rhythms”, instead of a “particular rhythm”, as he (160) goes on to clarify.

This reminds me of how Valentin Vološinov (72, 94-95) defines language in ‘Marxism and the Philosophy of Language’ as action, be it verbal or written, but not just as any action but as interaction, so that each utterance or expression always anticipates a response and also acts a response to something. It’s worth emphasizing that this applies not only to saying something or writing something, that is to say expressing something, but also to reading, as well as thinking, what Vološinov (38) calls inner speech, because while it may appear as if only one person is doing something, even just thinking about something, one always engages in dialogue with others, even when is alone. I’m doing that right now, engaging with imaginary people as I think, read and write. I think Vološinov (102) puts it nicely when he states that:

Any true understanding is dialogic in nature.”

And, expanding on this (102):

“Any genuine kind of understanding will be active and will constitute the germ of a response.”

And, further expanding on this (102):

“Understanding is to utterance as one line of a dialogue is to the next. Understanding strives to match the speaker’s word with a counter word.”

And, putting this even more broadly (102):

“To understand another person’s utterance means to orient oneself with respect to it, to find the proper place for it in the corresponding context.”

He (102) also warns not to confuse the response with matching what what is, was or is about to be expressed with more of the same, with the same, which chimes with Ingold’s rejection of thinking time as a matter of progression, as measurable identical intervals. In Vološinov’s (102) words:

“Only in understanding a word in a foreign tongue is the attempt made to match it with the ‘same’ word in one’s own language.”

In other words, like life itself, language is a living entity. There’s always the anticipation of something will follow, which is also never what was already said. Okay, it could be same, or, rather appear to be the same, the exact same word, but it might already be transformed in the response. For example, someone might say ‘cool!’ and another person might respond to it by saying ‘cool?’ Now, of course, when you say something, like ‘cool!’ or ‘cool?’, you don’t indicate it by saying ‘cool’ followed by an exclamation mark or a question mark. It’s in the way that you say that. Anyway, the point is that you can use the same word, but convey a different sense.

Also, if nothing follows, not necessarily immediately, but eventually, there is no conversation. The great thing with language is, however, that you can engage with dead people through what they’ve left behind, whatever it is that they’ve written, even though, to be accurate, you are not actually engaging with them, but with some figment of your imagination that has a tendency to fool itself to think otherwise, that you are actually engaging with them, regardless of whether they are dead or alive. To indicate the social aspect of this, Vološinov (95) explains how any kind of speech act functions:

Any utterance, no matter how weighty and complete in and of itself, is only a moment in the continuous process of … communication. But that continuous … communication is, in turn, itself only a moment in the continuous, all-inclusive, generative process of a given social collective.”

In other words, you can’t separate what is said from the context of where it is said. Everything and everyone is important, to the extent that they are, of course. He (95) is particularly adamant about this point:

[C]ommunication can never be understood and explained outside of this connection with a concrete situation.

It makes no sense to think of language as having a life of its own and analyze it as such. It’s always active. It’s contained in the very act. This is why pragmatics ought to be the central concern in the study language. Everything else is superfluous. This connects to Ingold’s (161) point about how taskscape ought to be understood as active, as performed. In his (161) words:

“[T]askscape exists only so long as people are actually engaged in the activities … , despite the attempts … to translate [them] into … a kind of ideal design … that generally goes by the name of ‘culture’, and that people are supposed to bring with them into their encounter with the world.”

One could simply exchange ‘culture’ with ‘language’ here and it would work equally well, assuming that one was discussing verbal or written activities rather than activities in general. This is also why I prefer ‘discourse’ and ‘practice’ over ‘culture’. I think he explains the problem with using words such as ‘culture’ particularly well here. The gist of the problem is that whenever people do something, there is this tendency to explain it as a matter of culture, that people do whatever they do because it’s in their culture to do so, as if culture pre-existed people.

Anyway, following this tangent on interaction, I reckon it’s fair to say that we owe our existence to others, to their mutual involvement. It’s also important to realize that the said mutual involvement is not limited to initial points of contact between two people which result in births of more people. People are constantly shaped by their environment, including but not limited to what he (160) calls the social environment. It’s rather simple really. People are always in the middle of things, as Deleuze and Guattari keep saying in ‘A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia’, and, as expressed by Ingold (160) they resonate with their surroundings, including one another, inasmuch as they do, of course.

Moving on! Following the detailed discussion of landscape and taskscape, what they are and what they are not, Ingold (161) jumps to further discuss them in relation to one another. He (161) is interested in whether they blend or not: “[w]here does one end and the other begin?”

To answer his own question, he (161) acknowledges how landscape is typically associated with painting whereas what he calls taskscape is associated with music. That said, as he (161-162) points out, landscape is not typically associated with the act of painting but rather the product of the act, also known as paintings, whereas with taskscape it’s the other way around so that the act or performance is more important than the product, what one would typically call a recording. In short, landscape is all about privileging the form over the process, whereas taskscape is about privileging the process over the form, as he (161-162) presents this. Now, it’s obvious that you can’t have a painting without the act of painting. It’s equally obvious that you can make a product out of the performance of music by recording it. With painting, however, we, that is to say those of us who’ve grown up in Western societies, tend to ignore the act of painting and only focus on the final product, as he (161) summarizes this. In other words, the act of painting is considered as means to an end. It’s not treated as meaningful in itself unlike with music where the performance is highly valued. For example, playing an instrument, dibble dabbling with it, is considered interesting, at least to the person playing the instrument, whereas with painting (or drawing, any performance through the use of images really) what’s considered interesting is what gets done. Another example would be live gigs. People pay money to witness the performance of music, which, in many cases, they could equally well listen to as a recording. It’s not that people don’t value the recordings, I don’t think so, but rather that they want to be there, in the moment, to experience it live (as a live performance, that is to say not just as a recording, as a living thing). In stark contrast, people don’t pay money to see a painter paint something, to witness the process. They could, but they don’t. Instead, they go to a gallery or to a museum to look at the finished products. Of course, part of this has to do with the mediums of music and painting, how sound is emitted rapidly, as this fleeting thing, whereas painting is a slow process of leaving traces on a canvas, resulting in something that can be enjoyed much longer than the quickly dissipating music, as he (161-162) goes on to point out. Then again, as already pointed out, this has more to do with our ways of thinking about art than with what the mediums afford the artists.

Ingold (162) shifts from comparing landscape and taskscape in terms of painting and music to comparing them in terms of the acts or performances and products in general. Summarizing this, landscape appears as it does, here and now, having a certain form, but nothing about it is given or ready-made. A lot has gone into that form and, to be accurate, still goes into that form. It’s easy to forget that even the most solid landscape elements fade away eventually and require some sort of maintenance to prolong their enduring appearance. Some endure and require little maintenance, whereas others don’t last that long, but none of it is given or ready-made, original or authentic in any way, whatsoever. Each landscape element, or object or thing, to put this in more general terms, is what George Herbert Mead (370) refers to as a collapsed act in ‘The Process of Mind in Nature’:

“It is when these results of past experience have attached themselves to the stimulations that we find a field of objects within which we can act intelligently.”

He (401) also explains this in his earlier article ‘The Mechanism of Social Consciousness’:

“A physical object … is a construct in which the sensuous stimulation is merged with imagery which comes from past experience. … [T]his imagery arises from past experience of the result of an act which this stimulus has set going. … A peculiar stimulus value stands for a certain response value. A [physical object] is a collapsed act in which the result of the act to which the stimulus incites is represented by imagery of the experience of past acts of a like nature.”

In short, the objects arise from the acts. Conversely, from the point of view of the act, performance or what he (401) calls conduct, the acts are understood as collapsed to the object. He (401) further explains how this works:

“Our conduct in movement and manipulation, with its simulations and responses, gives the framework within which objects of perception arise and this conduct is in so far responsible for the organization of our physical world. [P]hysical objects … are compounds of the experience of immediate stimulation and the imagery of the response to which this stimulation will lead. The object can be properly stated in terms of conduct.

He (401-402) defines objects as physical objects and as percepts because they “arise in physical experience” and involve perception. It’s also worth emphasizing that, for him (401-402), objects are not only physical objects but also social objects, because experience is always also social. As he (401-402) points out, even the most primitive instincts or impulses are do not remain isolated and affect how one will perceive and respond to other stimulations. To make more sense of this, he (402) provides an example:

“It is of course true that a [hu]man is a physical object to the perception of another [hu]man, and as really as is a tree or a stone. But a [hu]man is more than a physical object, and it is this more which constitutes him [or her] a social object or self, and it is this self which is related to that peculiar conduct which may be termed social conduct.”

Those who are familiar with what is known as mediated discourse analysis (MDA) may find the definition of an object as a collapsed act familiar to them, even if they are not familiar with it. For example, consider how Sigrid Norris and Boonyalakha Makboon (43) define objects in their article ‘Objects, Frozen Actions, and Identity: A Multimodal (Intect)action Analysis’:

“Objects in everyday life do not simply exist. They have been produced by social actors, and have often been acquired and placed into a particular environment by other social actors.”

As well as how they (43) prefer to define objects as frozen actions:

“A frozen action is defined as an action that is embedded in objects and/or the environment.”

To be clear, to them (43) this means that:

“[S]ocial actors use, produce, and keep material objects, these multiple actions are embedded in the objects themselves.”

Collapsing, embedding? It’s the same thing, if you ask me. I think other fitting monikers would be folding and stratifying. Feel free to disagree though. I’m just riffing here. Norris (13-14) explains this in further detail in her book ‘Analyzing Multimodal Interaction: A Methodological Framework’:

“Frozens actions are usually high-level actions which were performed by an individual or a group of people at an earlier time than the real-time moment of the interaction that is being analyzed. These actions are frozen in the material objects themselves and are therefore evident.”

Why are they evident? Well, they can be perceived and apprehended because the actions that have become frozen are based on social or collective experience. Easy! To make more sense of this, it’s worth specifying that an action can be understood as a higher-level action that consists of lower-level actions, which, in turn can be understood as higher-level actions that consists other lower-level actions, as she (13-14) points out. They can therefore be understood as chains of actions. They cascade, virtually indefinitely. They can, of course, be apprehended as objects, this or that, at whatever level happens to be relevant to us at any given moment.

Anyway, the point Ingold (162) wants to make through Mead is that if objects are collapsed acts, then landscape is the embodiment of taskscape, “a pattern of activities ‘collapsed’ into an array of features”. This only makes sense because, following Mead’s definition, you can’t have objects without the acts or activities. I don’t know if it’s necessary for me to point this out again, but Ingold (162) reminds not to think of this as meaning that landscape is a complete or finished form of taskscape, like a one off concrete realization of the taskscape. In other words, it’s important to keep in mind that while landscape is indeed the embodiment of taskscape, it’s embodied form, it’s always subject to change, given that “the forms of the landscape arise alongside those of the taskscape, within the same current of activity”, as he (162) goes on to emphasize. Landscape is always here and now and reflects the situation, right now. There’s nothing original or authentic about it, as no “cultural design is imposed upon a naturally given substrate”, as he (162) puts it. Simply put, using his (162) concise wording, landscape is “perpetually under construction”, a constant “‘work in progress’”.

I agree with Ingold on this, but I’d still like to point out something that’s rather easy to forget. Landscape is just what it is, as examined at any given moment. It consists of various elements, whatever they may be. I’m interested in these elements in my own work and this where I deviate from Ingold. Landscape is constantly changing, regardless of whether we notice or not. Some elements are added, whereas others are removed. Some undergo a change on the spot. For example, various surfaces are weathered (or eroded). Some of them endure weathering better than others, which is why some landscape elements are replaced every now and then. When I go for a jog, I notice many street signs that need to be replaced or refurbished eventually as the paint on them has faded to the point that it’s hard to say whether they are legible enough in various lighting and weather conditions. It’s also worth noting that the landscape elements do not only include what humans have built or put in place. So this also applies to the so called natural features, be they animate or inanimate, organic or inorganic. I mean trees and grass change constantly, even without human involvement. Not even rock can retain its form forever. Of course many landscape elements are highly durable, so it’s usually very hard to notice any change. In other words, the change is not noticeable to us. In some cases, if not in many cases, one also has to take into account that people are in the habit of seeking to conserve the landscape as it is, as it appears to them, or, rather how they think it should be, how it should appear to them. This is done by regulating the taskscape, the various human activities, namely what changes can be made and who can make changes. In short, I think it’s important to keep in mind that landscape is a highly fixed form, not because it must be so, but because people desire it to be so. This is also where I deviate from Ingold as I put particular emphasis on this political aspect, how landscape is used to regulate people and what they can think and do.

Before he moves on to the analysis section of his article, Ingold (162) concludes by differentiating landscape from taskscape. For him (162), it’s intuitively evident that the former is visual and thus “seems to be what we see around us”, whereas the latter is aural or auditory, “what we hear”. So, in terms of perception we see objects but hear activities. In terms of vision, the world appears to us as an ensemble or an array of objects. In terms of hearing, the world appears to us as an ensemble or an array of activities. This is because visually “an object need do nothing itself, for the optic array that specifies its form to a viewer consists of light reflected off its outer surfaces”, whereas aurally an object must actively emit sounds or, through its movement, cause sounds to be emitted by other objects with which it comes into contact”, as he (162) goes on to elaborate the difference between landscape and taskscape. Simply put, we see things, “a landscape of houses, trees, gardens, a street and pavement”, but we “do not hear any of these things”, and, conversely, we hear activities, a taskscape of “people talking on the pavement, a car passing by, birds singing in the trees, a dog barking somewhere in the distance, and the sound of hammering as a neighbour repairs his garden shed”, even when we do not see what emits these sounds, as he (162) exemplifies this. In short, the former pertains to the visual world, how we engage with our surroundings visually, whereas the latter pertains to the auditory world, how we engage with our surroundings aurally, as he (162-163) summarizes the difference between the two (he actually also mentions touch or haptic perception, but it’s not covered in this article). Importantly, this also means that landscape and taskscape have their limits. This means that if you study landscapes, your study is limited to analyzing the world visually through the various landscape elements (visual percepts, physical and social objects), whereas if you study taskscapes, your study is limited to analyzing the world aurally through the various interlocking tasks (aural percepts, activities).

He (163) argues that this distinction between landscape and taskscape, the visible (objects) and the audible (activities) leads to a another distinction. He (163) states that both “presuppose the presence of an agent”, which only makes sense, considering how what is created necessitates creation. For example, anything that’s currently on my desk, including this keyboard that I’m typing on, right now, has been created, somewhere at some time, likely involving a number of people, a number of components and a number of factories. That said, he (163) argues that it is agency that distinguishes taskscape from landscape. For him (163) taskscape is interactive, whereas landscape is not because the agents that act have capacity to do so, whereas the objects they create do not. He (163) goes on to provide plenty of examples of this, how it is people or, more broadly speaking, anything living or animate that has the capacity to act, whereas anything that does not live or is inanimate does not, only to backpedal on this distinction. As he (163) points out, it would certainly seem to make sense to distinguish between the living and the non-living, the animate and the inanimate, in terms of agency, but, then again, what about certain phenomena that appear to meet the criteria, such as (the blinding) light, (the howling) wind or (the crashing) tide? On top of that, it’s not only that these wave form phenomena seem to have agency, that is to say to function as activities, without having living or animate agents, but also that they make people re-act to them or interact with them, as noted by him (163). For example, attending to tides is highly important if you manage a harbor or your ship seeks shelter at a harbor. Now, of course, we can attribute these phenomena to planetary mechanics, but, what’s important here is that these phenomena exist as the embodiments of these mechanics and they impact people’s lives by forcing people to act in relation to them, as he (163) goes on to specify.

He (164) backpedals on this distinction even further because the notion of living and non-living or animate and inanimate appears to be superficial. I was already going to comment on this initially, to disagree with this distinction, but he (164) does make u-turn on this one, stating explicitly that he finds it lacking because “life is not a principle that is separately installed inside individual organisms, and which sets them in motion upon the stage of the inanimate.” In other words, he (164) thinks that the distinction is poorly conceived because it starts with physical objects that are given life, as if a magic wand had animated them or someone had made them run on an operating system, while the leftover objects are just whatever they are because that wasn’t applied to them. The problem with this is that life is bigger than treating it as a very limited role specific to certain entities, as he (164) goes on to complain. He (164) cites his earlier article ‘An Anthropologist Looks at Biology’, in which he (215) he argues that:

“Life is not something separately infused into inert matter. It is rather a name for what is going on in the generative field within which organic forms are located and ‘held in place’. Thus life is not ‘in’ organisms, but organisms are ‘in’ life.”

He (164) rephrases this in the latter article, the one discussed in detail in this essay:

“That generative field is constituted by the totality of organism-environment relations, and the activities of organisms are moments of its unfolding. Indeed once we think of the world in this way, as a total movement of becoming which builds itself into the forms we see, and in which each form takes shape in continuous relation to those around it, then the distinction between the animate and the inanimate seems to dissolve.”

Simply put, life is here and now. Everything and everyone is co-constructed in relation to everything and everyone else. He (164) summarizes this:

“The world itself takes on the character of an organism, and the movements of animals – including those of us human beings – are parts or aspects of its life-process[.]”

So, instead of thinking yourself as this and/or that, distinct from what else is there, as a given, think of yourself as what you’ve become. It’s simple as that. You are always whatever you happen to be at any given moment, which means that it’s actually rather pointless to contemplate whether you are something, this and/or that, or not. I think he (164) explains this particularly well when he states that we are not isolated from the world, regardless of whether we classify what else is there as animate or inanimate, and that “we do not act upon it” nor “do things to it” instead of “mov[ing] along with it.” Indeed, your actions are not isolated from what else is there, which is why all action is actually interaction. Even when one thing appears to collide with another thing or one thing to penetrate another thing, what we are really dealing with is collisions and interpenetrations. Who’s fucking who now? A clusterfuck? So, as he (164) goes on to clarify this:

“Our actions do not transform the world, they are part and parcel of the world transforming itself.”

I consider his rejection of agency as pertaining only to humans, animals or forms of life, the animate, as particularly important because I focus on interplay of the animate and the inanimate in my own work. I’m particularly interested in how various objects, both physical and social, shape people, who they are or who they become, or, rather, who they get to become with them, through their interaction with them. My interest in that process stems from the commonly held view that nothing that is considered inanimate has any agency. In other words, studying the ensemble of landscape elements is interesting exactly because people think those things are just there, out there, existing as parts of a larger whole, what is known as landscape, which, in turn, is just a mere static backdrop. This is not to say that focusing on human activities, what it is that people do or are in the habit of doing, isn’t important. It is. That said, it’s also rather obvious to me that it is, because it is also obvious to me that people interact with one another and are thus shaped by one another. It’s the same thing with human activities in relation to other forms of life, such as animals and plants. But that’s not all there is to interaction, which is why I want to focus on what’s missing, those things, what Bruno Latour refers to as the missing masses in ‘Where Are the Missing Masses? The Sociology of a Few Mundane Artifacts’. I’ve focused on how language operates this way, acting back, when it is written and put on display in the landscape, which ties what Ingold explains in this article to what Vološinov discusses in ‘Marxism and the Philosophy of Language’. Even language is doing. It’s doing things with words, as J. L. Austin famously put it.

I think I’ve covered enough in this essay. As I stated at the beginning, this article is likely a challenge for the reader. That said, I think it’s worth going through, like it or not. I for sure wasn’t sure what to think of it the first time around and even second time around, but now that I went through it again, at a slow pace, I quite like it. I won’t cover the second part of this essay where he discusses this in relation to Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s 1565 painting ‘The Harvesters’, but, to summarize what he is after in this article is that we can view landscape like we generally do, just staring at it at a distance, yes, fixed, like with that painting, or bring life to it by understanding it as taskscape, something in which you move and look around. While I agree with him and like the way he has reworked landscape into something that else than how it is generally understood, to understand and appreciate landscape the way he does is something that requires not only an open mind, certain willingness to think otherwise, but also embracing a different way of thinking. The problem with this is that most people do not think this way. For them, the dualism that he (154) disagrees with, as do I, is a given. For them, they are subjects, then there are these objects, so you also have these other divisions that come with it, including but not limited to “the material and the ideal, operational and cognized, ‘etic’ and emic’”, as listed by him (154). So, yeah, as I pointed out, it’s not just that people need to be open minded about this. It’s really that they need to reject dualism, to change their way of thinking, which is easier said than done. Going against the dominant way of thinking about the world, also known as Platonism, is tough. It’s very hard to go against it because it’s been the way of thinking for over two millennia now. I’d say that the vast majority of people are not even aware that you can think otherwise, which is why, on one hand, I appreciate what Ingold has to say in this article, yet, on the other hand, I think it’s too optimistic as people tend to think in a way prohibits them from understanding what he is after.

Skipping ahead to the conclusion, or epilogue, as he likes to call it, he (171-172) acknowledges what many others have sought to focus on in landscape studies, “the multiple layers of symbolic meaning”, and expresses his sympathy to what they are trying to do, challenging landscape as a given, something that’s just out there (the first view). That said, he (171-172) doesn’t like the way landscape is understood as a mere representation (re-presentation, presenting something again), having certain layers of meaning, deposited on top of the world, superimposed on it, if you will, and how, following this understanding of it, the task of the researcher is to go through these layers, uncovering them, one by one, until one uncovers the last layer, the layer of meaning that is considered the true or original layer of meaning (the second view). For him (171) the problem is that this tends to be a purely an intellectual endeavor, ignoring how people make sense of their surroundings. This goes back to an earlier discussion on how when one interprets landscape, one can only make sense of it on the basis of one’s experience. So, as I pointed out earlier on, I don’t advocate sending researchers to some remote corners of the world, not because I don’t think they’d be essentially incapable of understanding how the world works somewhere else, where they don’t live, but because it’s likely highly impractical to do so. It’s way more practical to ask someone already highly familiar with it all to do that instead, inasmuch that person is capable and willing to do that, but, strictly speaking, it’s not essential to do so. As he (172) puts it, “[m]eaning is there to be discovered in the landscape, if only we know how to attend to it.” Whether we know how to do that, how to attend to it, well, that depends and it’s something that you have to assess, case by case. To me, this problem has to do with the dominant way of thinking or image of thought that meaning is something fixed, something that exists on its own, separate from people, something that can and must be uncovered. To me, doing that, trying to uncover the truth, is symptomatic of the dominant way of thinking. It comes with the territory, or so to speak. I think he (172) struggles to explain this in his epilogue. I think it would be easier to make sense of this by noting that language, among other semiotic modes, is not something separate, something that exists on its own, something that we connect to, something that we use, like a tool, but something that we do, as I’ve pointed out in this essay a couple of times. In other words, I think it is easier to understand what he (172) is after if one treats meaning not as something to be uncovered, but as something that is made. That said, the meaning that is made, the sense of it, whatever it is that one is after, can’t be explained because sense cannot be put into words (either you get it or you don’t). It’s never individual. It’s always collective. Sure, you can push that to its extreme so that others might not be able to get it, to what Vološinov (102) refers to as the upper limit of understanding, what one might also call the pragmatic or contextual meaning, but, for others to make sense of what you are after, you probably operate closer to the lower limit of understanding, what one might also call the semantic meaning, unless those who you are dealing with or wish to deal with (in the case of writing, for example) are part of the same particular collective with you (as it makes it easier for them to get what it is that you are after than for someone who isn’t part of the same collective and doesn’t share the same collective experience). Going beyond the upper limit would make it impossible to understand what one is after. As pointed out by Vološinov (88), that would involve going beyond any and all social structuration, resulting in what would appear to us as animal like behavior. Going the other direction, beyond the lower limit, or at it, I guess, one would also be in trouble because life would lose all its specificity. It’d be all generic, to the point that it wouldn’t make sense either. In other words, while making sense of something is always differentiated, as aptly expressed by Vološinov (88), it’s never individual or specific to this or that person. In his (88) words, “[t]he stronger, the more organized, the more differentiated the collective in which an individual orients himself, the more vivid and complex his inner world will be.” So, making sense of something is never individual. I guess one could say that it’s individualized but, as explained by Vološinov (88), that always depends on the collective that one is a part of. This is exactly why just about anyone can make sense of anything, inasmuch as they share enough knowledge or experience. This is also why I consider notions such as ‘etic’ and ‘emic’ as counterproductive. They rely on thinking in terms of identity, as a matter of essence, that one is this or that, a member of this or that group, setting fixed bounds on what can and cannot be understood and experienced.


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