Landscape perceptions and experiences

The aims of this blog is
1) to gather material which helps us to view 'Landscape' from many different perspectives (Science, Phenomenology, Aesthetics, Ethics etc)
2) and secondly to record 'Landscape experiences' from our workshops (Reports) and my own experiences (Diary).
For our workshops see our website


Here are some abstracts/excerpts from various articles, which didn't real fit in the other categories.

So far they relate to walking.

Culture from the ground: walking, movement and placemaking'

by Tim Ingold Culture from the ground from website.

Researchers at the University of Aberdeen have studied the importance of walking, by closely observing how and why people walk in their everyday lives, and walking with them to monitor their experiences. They found that, for many, walking is central to their sense of place and their social life. It represents a particular way of experiencing and learning about their environment. Walking can also shape urban and rural landscapes, as shown by the history of Aberdeen’s streets and the current politics of Scottish land reform.
Key Findings
Walking as a source of social life and culture
• Human social and cultural life has long been disconnected from our bodies in western thought and science. This study shows that important aspects of culture, such as our sense of place and interaction with others, are not just in our heads, but intimately connected with the real physical activity of walking.
• The study describes three types of social experience that are intrinsic to walking. Sensing the environment, creating routes and talking to one another all happen in a distinctive way whilst walking.
• The chance to perceive and interact with the environment on a walk, using all your senses, is important to people. The weather, the light and the quality of the ground are enjoyable and memorable.
• Many people use walking as a time to escape from the pressures of other parts of their life and reflect. Their reverie is enhanced by the physical, sensory experience.
• The mishaps that can happen on walks – slips, trips or losing the way – fascinate people and are the source of many stories. The skill of walking is in avoiding these mishaps by sensing and learning the environment.
• Walkers create particular routes around the town or countryside, which have significance to them. These routes are important in defining the place.
• Walking, especially in the countryside, is valued as a sociable activity, where relaxed conversations can happen. The regular rhythm of walking, when shared with other people, eases the interaction.

Roquefixade castle (left)  looking  towards Mont d'Olmes.

The eye of the storm: visual perception and the weather

by Tim Ingold in Visual Studies, Volume 20, Issue 2 

Much has been written on how we see landscape; virtually nothing on the relation between visual perception and the weather. This essay is an attempt to take the study of vision out of doors. I argue that weather enters visual awareness not as a scenic panorama but as an experience of light. Rather than placing sight and light on opposite sides of a boundary between the mind and the physical world, I follow Merleau-Ponty in claiming that light is fundamentally an experience of being in the world that is ontologically prior to the sight of things. Though we do not see light, we do see in light. Drawing on James Gibson's tripartite division of the inhabited world into medium, substances and surfaces, I link the relation between landscape and weather to that between surfaces and medium. Since weather, as a phenomenon of the medium, is an experience of light, to see in the light is to see in the weather. In the canons of western thought, however, the surfaces of the landscape are identified with the limits of materiality. This, in turn, renders immaterial the medium through which persons and organisms move in perception and action. Thus while the landscape appears to be real, the weather can only be imagined. Overturning this ontology, I show that in the perception of the weather-world, earth and sky are not opposed as real to immaterial, but inextricably linked within one indivisible field.

Lac Montbel

Culture on the groundThe World Perceived Through the Feet 

by Tim Ingold in Journal of Material Culture Vol. 9(3): 315–340

Classical accounts of human evolution posit a progressive differentiation between the hands as instruments of rational intelligence and feet as integral to the mechanics of bipedal locomotion. Yet evolutionists were modelling pedestrian performance on the striding gait of boot-clad Europeans.The bias of head over heels in their accounts follows along-standing tendency, in western thought and science, to elevate the plane of social and cultural life over the ground of nature. This tendency was already established among European elites in the practice of destination-oriented travel, the use of shoes and chairs,  and the valorization of upright posture. It was further reinforced in urban societies through paving the streets. The ground-lessness of metro- politan life remains embedded not only in western social structures but also in the disciplines of anthropology, psychology and biology. A more grounded approach to human movement, sensitive to embodied skills of footwork, opens up new terrain in the study of environmental perception, the history of technology, landscape formation and human anatomical evolution.

Looking through hayfield towards Lieurac

Ways of mind-walking: reading, writing, painting 


What is the difference between walking on the ground, in the landscapes of 'real life', and walking in the imagination, as in reading, writing, painting or listening to music? What does it mean to describe these various practices of walking as either visual or non-visual? In this article, the author approaches these questions through a comparison of answers gleaned from four sources: the monastic practices of early medieval Europe; the painting tradition of the Yolngu, an Aboriginal people of northeast Arnhem Land, Australia; the writings of the great pioneer of modern abstract art, Wassily Kandinsky; and a treatise by the tenth-century Chinese landscape painter Ching Hao. He concludes that the terrains of the imagination and the physical environment, far from existing on distinct ontological levels, run into one another to the extent of being barely distinguishable. Both, however, are inhabited by forms that give outward, sensible shape to an inner generative impulse that is life itself.

Culture from the ground: walking, movement and place making

by Jo Vergunst (former Lee)  Paper presented at the 2004 Association of Social Anthropologists conference, Durham, UK, 

Introduction: places and movement

This paper introduces a research project that focuses on the everyday walking
practices of people in and around the city of Aberdeen in north east Scotland. The aim
here is to set out the theoretical basis of the project and the main research questions. I
will also provide some examples of pilot fieldwork that I have carried out already, and
discuss the potential politicisation of the study within the context of public policy in
the city. Starting from an understanding of place as constituted by movement, I
explore two themes that will be taken up through the course of the project: firstly,
walking and personal biography, and, secondly, walking in regard to the senses,
wayfinding and material culture. The connection, through these themes, of time and
place in anthropological theory will be used to stress the importance of movement in
Heidegger’s phenomenological discussion of locales provides a good starting
point for a study of walking and placemaking (1978). He uses the example of a bridge
to describe how a locale can be understood to gather things in its vicinity together.
The bridge, he writes,
‘does not just connect the banks that are already there. The banks
emerge as banks only as the bridge crosses the stream. The bridge
expressly causes them to lie across from each other. One side is set off
against the other by the bridge. Nor do the banks stretch along the stream
as indifferent border strips of the dry land. With the banks, the bridge
brings to the stream the one and the other expanse of the landscape lying
behind them. It brings stream and bank and land into each other’s
neighbourhood. The bridge gathers earth as a landscape around the
stream.’  (Heidegger, 1978: 354)

'Fixed Monocular Scenic Landscape vs. Binocular Walkscape'

by Kenneth Olwig Scenic versus walkscape


One dictionary definition of landscape is: "A portion of land that the eye can comprehend in a single view." Note the singular "eye." A definition from another dictionary specifies that landscape is " a portion of territory that can be viewed at one time from one place." The eye, in other words, is fixed in space and time. These definitions of landscape are related to a scenic conception in which landscape is defined as: "a picture representing a view of natural scenery (as fields, hills, forests, water) and "the art of depicting such scenery." This scenic definition of landscape as a backdrop to be viewed at a distance differs considerably from the temporal "dwelling perspective" on landscape taken by Tim Ingold, and the complementary historical "substantive" approach, that I have taken, to landscape as emplaced (and emplacing) custom. Walking is of interest in relation to these differing notions of landscape because walking involves a temporal binocular bodily movement that constitutes place, rather than a perspective from a fixed monocular position in space. Walking thus engenders a perspective on landscape as the place of dwelling for a body politic. Using the difference between the fixed monocular perspective on landscape and the multiple perspectives of the embodied binocular walkscape, I will, in this paper, explore the role of walking in place making.