Sunday, August 23, 2009

The phenomenology of space landscapes

Minitrack pylons at Island Lagoon (author's image)
There are happy occasions when the rigours of teaching become worthwhile. This morning I am reading drafts of an honours thesis by my student Claire, who is working on a phenomenological analysis of the Twenty Mile Mission near Weipa in northern Queensland (in collaboration with my fellow archaeology blogger Mick Morrison). Her discussion of Christopher Tilley's application of phenomenology to Neolithic/Mesolithic monumental landscapes is particularly good.

So in the back of my brain I was thinking about the Island Lagoon tracking station near Woomera, and a photo I took at my last visit, of an array on concrete columns which look like building stumps. In terms of theses columns becoming part of the archaeological record, I likened them to Stonehenge or Avebury ....

And, since I am also very much thinking about the kinds of research questions that could be answered by survey or excavation of a tracking station (intending to do this at Orroral Valley in the ACT), perhaps in terms of the interaction of everyday life and high technology, and the social experience of high technology, it occurred to me that a phenomenology of space landscapes might be the way to connect these elements ....

Space landscapes may also be high security landscapes, so not unlike missions/plantations/asylums/prisons etc in terms of surveillance, boundaries between the inside and outside, domination and resistance etc etc. But individuals would be constructed very differently within the space landscape in terms of their agency.

These are vague thoughts so far.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The smell of space

Reading Volume 1 of Ray Bradbury's short stories at the moment. A mixed bag in some ways - much that is not science fiction, and much that is clearly written to pay the rent.

And from the opened case spilled his black uniform, like a black nebula, stars glittering here or there, distantly, in the material. I kneaded the dark stuff in my warm hands; I smelled the planet Mars, an iron smell, and the planet Venus, a green ivy smell, and the planet Mercury, a scent of sulphur and fire: and I could smell the milky Moon and the hardness of the stars.

Annoyingly, the volume does not provide original publication dates for the stories, but this is clearly written in the time when it was thought that Venus was tropical and may support life.