Saturday, May 12, 2012

Creating Space

"The German word for 'uncanny,' as in Freud's famous essay on the Uncanny, is unheimlich — unhomely. The tourist thrives on the uncanny, moving happily through a phenomenal world of effects without causes. This world, in which he has no experience and no memory, is presented to him as a supernatural domain: the language of travel advertising hawks the uncanny as part of the deal."

The world of experience floods us.  Infinite combinations and permutations intoxicate us.  We see weird and wonderful things morphing from one to another.  We can pleasurably organize and describe this scene, pass our time taking pictures of it, explore it using maps and guides without really coming to a diagrammatic understanding of it ourselves.

But when Raban actually immigrated to Seattle, he could no longer remain a tourist:
"But for the newly arrived immigrant, this magic stuff is like a curse. … The immigrant needs to grow a memory, and grow it fast. Somehow or other, he must learn to convert the uncanny into the homely, in order to find a stable footing in the new land."
 Forming a diagrammatic understanding of his new home became a priority.  I don't think this is just a matter of doing things and getting around, for a tourist can do that, and I'm not sure it is just a matter of memories either.  The axioms of that first and foremost among diagrams, Euclid's geometry, created a space, and I think any diagram, by abstractly selecting only certain relationships from experience, also creates a "space."  Consider the aerial photo and map of the same region from a previous post to this blog.  The map is creating a space that the image, and perhaps the experience itself, lacks.

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