Semiotics of Space

This is a new column exploring different concepts that we use when we talk and write about space and geography.

By: Shoshana Schwebel, Research Designer 

Leading up to what is known as the 'spatial turn' in the social sciences, Michel Foucault gave a lecture called "Of Other Spaces" (Des Espaces Autres) in 1967. The 'Other' here is key. It refers to places that are isolated in order to enclose a specific function, often marking an event that is deliberately pushed to the outside of our consciousness and ongoing lives. For example, cemeteries, brothels, prisons, museums, vacation spaces, and colonies. If anyone is watching the HBO series Westworld, you will see a great example of a Heterotopia (or 'other space'). One final point from this lecture which has been hugely important in spatial theory is the idea that we don’t just live within a homogenous void called ‘space’. Instead, we traverse different sites that are defined by the unique network of events they link together, like sites of transportation. After Foucault, many theorists will elaborate on this, for example W.J.T Mitchell and Doreen Massey.


Image of artist Doris Salcedo's "Shibboleth" in the Tate Gallery, representing "the experience of segregation."

(via The Guardian)  


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