Representing Place and Space

Figuring out what we mean by representation is no easy matter, and that's just for getting roses right. What about something as shifting and non-specific as place?

Well, how do we represent place?


Could Orlando have an opera house? Could it have another theme park? What do the answers to these questions say about Orlando's sense of place? What kind of opera house or theme park would people really like here, if any?

What would it mean to "misrepresent" Orlando? What are we "getting wrong" when we misrepresent, and how would we know it?

When we say we represent place, do we mean that we mirror it, or that we construct or create it? Is there an "Orlando" apart from its representations?

Who represents Orlando? Who gets to say what Orlando is? How does this compare to other places - do others get to say what those places are? Are there people who are left out, in representing this place?

How do the various ways of representing Orlando co-exist? Are they in conflict or in tension? Do they work together? What are the different questions we ask about this place, which produce different representations?

We have learned a few things from the rose. One is that, in a certain sense, the rose might be created by its representations. How can this be? Isn't there a real rose out there before anyone sets out to represent it? In a certain sense, of course there is. But as I suggested before, part of representing is getting at the meaning of something. Representations give us somethingas something. The rose as sign of beauty, the rose as symbol of love, the rose as life, etc. Or, it may be more subtle, so much so that we need to work at figuring out what kind of representation we have.

So, what kinds of representations do we have here? How could we tell what the "as" is?

Do we ever get a rose "exactly the way it really is?" What about a photograph? What do we mean when we say that the picture of the rose is "lifelike"?

If this is true of the rose, it is all the more true of place. Places are represented as home or alien, comforting or threatening, rich or poor, thick or thin. In fact, we can't seem to get at the notion of place without these interpretations.

They are not always intended or conscious. In fact, we often don't know what we think or believe until it is represented, until we "put it outside of ourselves."