Continuous Landscapes in Finite Space : Making Sense of Satellite Images in Social Science
Abstract: Questions of landscape values connected to agriculture and environment are always related to local land use. In order to study land use it is necessary to understand the intentions of the users as well as the conditions for land use in a specific landscape. This requires an understanding of the inherent spatial properties of the landscape, both as a social phenomenon and as concrete, material reality. The overall aim of this thesis is to combine local understandings of land use with satellite images. A model for social interpretation of landuse and landscape characteristics is developed. In an ethnographic study in the village Sötåsa is shown how land use is informed by different ideals. The inhabitants of Sötåsa continue to value the landscape characteristics of traditional farming. The thesis shows also that by perceiving satellite images as social images that hold both physical information and social signs it is possible to interpret physical information in terms of social landuse effects in local landscapes. This is made possible by new methods for describing and analysing qualities and characteristics of the cultivated landscape. Treating landscape in society is discussed in relation to the divide between social and natural sciences. The presented ethnographic approach combined with a study of satellite images provides a springboard for a renewed analysis of both land use and landscape. It also makes it possible to bridge the gap between social and natural science. The overall conclusion of the thesis is that it is possible to use satellite images in social science, but that it presupposes that the images are analysed with a perception of space in which the analysis handles multiple continuous spaces and where landscape is understood as socially finite.
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