Sensescapes

I use the suffix -scape in soundscape, smellscape and mindscape as I would in landscape. I want to convey the fluid panorama of perceptions. Building on the ideas of Arjun Appadurai,10 each scape is a perspective depending on the situation of those navigating their way within it and on how they view these scapes, how they perceive and act upon them. These are the shifting and fuzzy ways and shapes within which we construct our world and views about it. Appadurai defines further scapes which, while they need not detain us here for long, are useful background tools for understanding difficult areas. They include the ideoscape, the linking together and valuing of ideas, terms and images, especially the Enlightenment worldview and its master concept, democracy, as well as freedom, welfare, rights, sovereignty and representation, around which political and economic discourses in the West revolve; the ethnoscape, the fluid and shifting landscape of tourists, immigrants, exiles and other moving groups and persons; the technoscape, the grid of interlocked technologies that connect the world; the financescape, 'the very complex fiscal and investment flows' that link cities in a 'global grid of currency speculation and capital transfer'; and mediascapes, the representations and media through which cultural images are conveyed. This broader sense of the urban landscape can shape our thinking and precondition our worldview as well as our physical and mental geography. And it forces us to reconsider the maps we need to know where we are.

A map is an image that represents graphically the position of elements in the real world. But many 'real' elements of the world are invisible. We have maps of territory in abundance: some enlarge or shrink space, some show physical features and contours or buildings in three dimensions, some colour-code activities or facilities. Mapping the flows of goods, people, diseases, weather and the like between cities and countries has long been an important part of cartography; any good atlas shows these flows. Mapping information landscapes, the internet, network structures is a recent development.11 There are a few maps that express financial flows such as those of the World Bank, but getting an easy sense of how the power configurations in the world work is not a straightforward task.

And there is hardly any mapping of the sensory landscape. An exception here is the Noise Mapping England project initiated by the Department for Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).12 This aims to calculate noise levels and produces noise maps across England. Governments have traditionally viewed noise as a 'nuisance' rather than an environmental problem. As a result, most regulation has been left up to municipal authorities and bylaws and ordinances vary widely from one place to another or do not even exist in some towns and cities.

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