Academic journal article Trames

Time in Spatial Metalanguage: The Ambiguous Position of Time in Concepts of Sociocultural, Social and Cultural Space

Academic journal article Trames

Time in Spatial Metalanguage: The Ambiguous Position of Time in Concepts of Sociocultural, Social and Cultural Space

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

The organisation of society and culture in time and space, as well as culture specific interpretations of time and space form a frequent field of study. In addition, as means of describing society (by itself and from outside), time and space are modelling phenomena--generating, mediating, and applying the knowledge about the world. Spatial metalanguage with its specific organising nature is among these descriptions. Even though spatial notions have often been used as everyday metaphors rather than fine-tuned concepts, there remain a number of works, in which these notions occupy a central role in analysis and in the construction of theoretical models. The dominant role of spatial metalanguage raises the question of the role of time and temporality in relation to it. This becomes even more distinct in the case of formalisation of spatial metalanguage and models, implying thus the general need to be aware and precise in analytical conceptualisations.

This problematic presence of time in 'spatial mode of thinking' is here discussed in three concepts: Pitirim Sorokin's idea of sociocultural space (Sorokin 1964), Pierre Bourdieu's social space (Bourdieu 1984), and Juri M. Lotman's idea(s) of cultural space (Lotman 1975, 2005). Time, assumingly having potential as modelling phenomena similar to space, is not easily graspable in these spatial models with universalistic ambitions. The presence of time and temporality is instead ambiguous, multiple or even rejected--and presumed to be described in another, temporal description. At the same time, all of those three concepts of space are significantly concerned with dynamics of culture and society.

While the discussion here is essentially about critical review of some historical models in theories of culture and society, the concern about clarity of metalanguage and meaning generation in it is wider and persistent. Ideas of each of these major figures of the 20th century social and cultural theory, Sorokin, Bourdieu, and Lotman, have been frequently applied--Sorokin and essentially his notion of social mobility in sociology, Bourdieu in cultural sociological research, and Lotman in semiotics of culture. Despite their different settings, they have each made proposals of general spatial models as a means of describing the social and cultural organisation and dynamics. Each of these spaces is characterised by an emphasis on the cultural aspect of society, and by the idea that systems of meanings can be described in spatial terms, and, essential for the present context, by the dynamics of meaning generation as temporal aspect of this spatiality. Nevertheless, the model of space is different and so is time in each case.

In addition to this spatiality and temporality, descriptors sociocultural, social, and cultural link these three space concepts to the field of research of sociocultural phenomena and posit their role as bridging social and cultural qualities. Each of these notions of space carries with it its own historical context and possible directions for thought. The use of the term sociocultural, for example, implies an essential ambition to combine objects and paradigms into a universally coherent whole, while keeping in mind the mental and material environment and practical outcomes of related research activities. Approaches identifying with this term, or described through it retrospectively, might therefore be considered as forerunners of current views on transdisciplinarity. The account is specifically supported by constructing the sociocultural research object as a complex and multiparametric entity on the one hand, and an endeavour to link knowledge from diverse disciplines through a common metalanguage that merges social and cultural aspects and different disciplinary views on these. This move towards logical order and universality (a hope for integralistic sociology in Sorokin's words) reveals an interesting homology between the terms sociocultural and space--as conceptual tools which offer scope for unity and generalisability, on the level of descriptions in the case of space and on the level of secondary descriptions in the case of sociocultural. …

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