Division & Boundary (2015) - Category Structures and the Semantics of Soil

Check out my new short film that explores categorization and delineates the semantics of soil. What distinguishes dirt from soil from ground from land? And what size constraints do the terms place upon their referent? Do scale and granularity contribute to the categorization schema? What does an object oriented ontology suggest about the category structure?

SOIL - Division & Boundary (2015) Ryan Dewey

Every language and culture have their own categorization schema for landscape ontology. This project explored some of those sensibilities in English, but could easily be extended to other languages. Folk categorization and expert knowledge do not necessarily need to align in order for them to hold as mutually correct forms of categorization. Context, scope, and belief weigh in heavily in the organization of knowledge about the world.

stills from Division & Boundary (2015) - 00:05:20:00

stills from Division & Boundary (2015) - 00:05:20:00

Note the asterisk that precedes some of the terms in this partial typology. This is a borrow from linguistics where the notation indicates that something isn't quite right about the linguistic form. In this case, there is a bit of awkwardness about using the marked term for the referent image/object. It's not a standard label in "standard" English (at least not in my regional variant). It might be perfectly acceptable to call something "land" when it sits in a field, but picking up a piece of that "land" turns the "land" into "dirt". Putting a piece of that "land" on a piece of paper and rubbing it into the paper makes the paper "dirty" not "landy"; you would be reticent to call dirt on paper "land" in the veridical sense. These are the relationships I negotiation in the film.

Landscape ontology has vast consequences for land use, policy formation, heritage rights, place names, mapping, geographic information systems, mineral rights, tourism, indigenous ownership, land dispute settlements, legal boundaries and borders, trade agreements, wars, national identity, personal affinities, memories, pride, and cognition in general. The old saying is that nobody argues about where the top of the mountain is. All of that doesn't even touch on psychogeography, geologic cognition, and terroir.

In this next year I'll be showing more of my art that deals specifically with the conceptualization of place and how that converges with emotions and the taste of place. In the meantime, enjoy the video below: