Genesis of Culture in Space. Conception of Cultural Landscape in Context of Cultural and Philosophic Research

  • Olga LavrenovaEmail author
Part of the Numanities - Arts and Humanities in Progress book series (NAHP, volume 8)


This chapter is devoted to theoretical and methodological questions of the cultural genesis in space in the context of stated problem. The boundaries of the problem field are outlined in terms of semantic components in relationship of culture and space.

The first section addresses noosphere and pneumatosphere as basic concepts for study of the problem.

Modern science studying the interaction of culture and space viewes the scope of manifestations on Earth of a human mind as special noospheric reality. Discovers of noospheric concept Vladimir Vernadsky and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin were the first who noted that human activity has become a geological force. For the purposes of this study it is important to note the characteristics of noosphere, emphasized by founders and modern followers of the concept:
  • Inclusiveness, globality of the noospheric processes.

  • The energy of human culture or cultural biogeochemical energy is considered as an effective force.

  • Availability of the structure, of «nodes» and «threads» in the culture—which we have in terms of this work, are denoted as the nucleus and communication mechanisms of culture.

  • «Geographic memory» of noosphere, retaining in its information layers, knowledge about original landscapes later altered beyond recognition by civilization.

Contemporary «multilevelness» metaphor of the space of noosphere emerged from correlation of different types of spaces created by man. The order of interdependence has different kinds of spaces one above the other, and above them, according to the hypothesis of some scholars (e.g., Lev Gumilyov, Robert Sack)—transcendental organizing impulses which pass through all the «layers» transforming ideas and thinking, and through them—the properties of the earth’s surface.

Availability of axiological dimension—culture as a system of eternal values, culture defines the ideal of noospheric existence.

Today scholars speak about «cruel noosheric reality», however Vladimir Vernadsky himself considered the disruptive, destructive activity as contrary to the idea of the noosphere, and for him this opposition was a guarantee of the continued existence of civilization.

Pavel Florensky’s conception of pneumatosphere as a sphere of the highest human values is important for us as having the same axiological component, which represents itself as one of fundamental dimensions of cultural landscapes in our work.

In the concept of the noosphere and pneumatosphere there is a possibility of a deep understanding of cultural and spatial interaction, which is now unfolding in the statement that the existence of a culture in the geographical space is expressed not only in its physical development, but also in a semantic reconstruction.

In the second section the concept of semiosphere proposed by Yuri Lotman and its subsequent development in modern humanitarian discourse is examined. In the original meaning of semiosphere as a universal unit of semiosis and semiotic space is confined to a single dominant culture and its system of codes, but more recent studies had interpreted it as an environment that enables the emergence and existence of cultures.

In order to confirm the hypothesis put forward by us, we distinguish the following characteristics of semiosphere:

  • Heterogeneity of semiosphere arises due to the uneven flow of the processes of semiosis in culture and, accordingly, an uneven understanding of the external objects, including geographical features. This characteristic has the effect of semantic heterogeneity of geographical space.

  • Updatability of semiotic space of culture in the conceptual and semantic context of the enclusive landscape—a semiotic heterogeneity of geographical space serves as a subject-object frame of culture that provokes and guides the processes of semiosis.

Culture is seen as a universal object of semiotics and subject for semiotisation of geographical space.

From the perspective of the study of space semiotics a model of semiosphere is a complex web of cultural codes and systems of communication. Inside semiosphere any extra-linguistic reality, including the geographical space, is endowed with meaning, and moved to the category of signs. One more language is appearing and it is a code of semiospere—spatial and geocultural.

In the third section the problem of relationship of culture and space is considered in the context of modern humanitarian discourse.

Not so long ago in today’s humanitarian knowledge a recent tendency to explore geographic space and landscape involving the conceptual scope of linguistics and semiotics, and vice versa, to reflect the internal structure of the text, its philosophy through the conceptual scope of geography and landscape science significantly increased.

Analysis of linguistic structures in terms of linguistics and philosophy of language leads to the understanding of the conditionality of certain linguistic structures with a system of spatial representations of culture. As a part of the problem of discourse, which in linguistics is considered extremely wide, the analysis of «discursive event» is conducted in the context of extra-linguistic conditions of its occurrence. There are an inclusive landscape of culture and geo-cultural space among them. On the other hand, metaphorically defined «discourse space» is treated as a special field of cognition.

Among the philosophical studies the concept of «geophilosophy» should be noted, the concept was launched by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. Using the metaphor of the ratio of land and territory they defined the subject-object relations of thought. It was an attempt of philosophical comprehension of the processes occurring in the interaction of culture and geographical space, the spatial characteristics of culture existence.

An important step in philosophical theorization about space began with the work of Valery Podoroga, in which geographical space acts as the subject of the structuring of philosophical thought; in particular, the heritage of Friedrich Nietzsche, Søren Kierkegaard, Martin Heidegger, Marcel Proust; Franz Kafka is interpreted as «landscape worlds». As a result, the text takes on the landscape structure—the loci of meaning, semantic fields, territories and their borders and their relationships are singled out in it.

Domestic cultural studies are mostly based on the Yuri Lotman’s conception of culture semiotics and semiosphere. The multilayer spatial picture of the world, posed by diverse human activities and producing images, symbols, signs is considered here. This approach of disclosure of multivalent genesis of sign systems will be used in this study, because semiotics of cultural landscape by definition—is a result of interaction within the territory of very different cultural strata and subcultures.

In foreign sociology and cultural studies the conspicuous landmark is the problem of «producing the space», which is denoted by Henri Lefebvre. In his conception an important role plays functional-existential triad of «perception-reflection-living» of space. Today the construction of space is regarded in the context of social phenomenology of Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann.

A special topic in the modern humanities interdisciplinary research is the geographical space as a factor of existentiality of culture. This direction is formed as a consequence of understanding of geographical constants in the very fabric of culture, the fact that an open system of a culture is opened both to geographic area and to the impact of the constants of the enclosing landscape.

We can assert that the dichotomy—the culture and geographical space serving its extra-cultural frame—was withdrawn in the noospheric and semiospheric reality, combining them into a functional unity—the geo-cultural space. This creates a new synthetic theoretical and methodological approach and allows us to see culture in the relationship with geographical space as a single system.

The forth section is devoted to the concept of cultural landscape where genesis, the structure of the concept is examined in the context of philosophy of culture and humanitarian discourse of geography.

The concept of cultural landscape has developed at the intersection of natural sciences and the humanities. Cultural landscape in geography is originally meant as a natural landscape affected by human impact in varying degrees, as it is understood by Lev Berg, who introduced the term in 1915. Here and below, primarily humanitarian concept will be considered, under which the cultural landscape is interpreted as the result of culture and space interaction, and more as a cultural phenomenon than a phenomenon of space.

Dating back into antiquity the theory of geographical determinism postulated the influence of the environment—of climatic conditions and the nature of the inclusive landscape in the overall structure of culture mentality. Different variations of this concept are used in cultural and ethnological studies, because it is rational. At least, the way of agriculture and settlement patterns of traditional culture are rather rigidly dictated by the natural landscape. On the other hand, the culture shapes the landscape, interfering in its structure harmoniously or destructively. Gradually, it accumulates signs of assimilation, structuring, meaning and—at some point a landscape transforms into a new quality and becomes a phenomenon of culture.

According to the noospheric concept a cultural landscape is in particular formed by involving material and spiritual culture, by the modern (traditional and innovative) cultural heritage (Yuri Vedenin). Noospheric concept of cultural landscape allows us to consider the matter and the information, nature and culture in their functional unity.

In modern humanities a natural component is displaced to periphery of concept of cultural landscape, which is starting to be regarded as a function of culture. The cultural landscape is also regarded as a reflection of culture on geographical environment, i.e. geographical images of space in culture, their genesis and structure are examined (Dmitri Zamyatin).

It seems important to consider the cultural landscape as a process and a result of giving by man of the world sense-value categories, as an ongoing process and a result of semiosis, as a component of semiosphere and a cluster of geo-cultural space.

The morphological structure of the cultural landscape is a derivative of culture mentality. Names of places and the material component of the cultural heritage (monuments, memorials) fix their meanings in space, forming new mental «matrices» of culture bearers of future generations. The cultural landscape has its territorial hierarchy, so it is equally fair to speak about the cultural landscape of locus/place, region, macroregion (country).


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Scientific Information on Social Sciences RASMoscowRussia

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