“The mind comes to know things by comparison” one effect being “that knowledge derived from acts of comparison acquires characteristics of its own” (Strathern 2020, 29). For instance, without having a distinct idea of what a “woman” is, we gain a pretty clear idea of what a “sister” is when we compare two women “in reference to one common parent“ (ibid, 30). Thus, “to have a clear conception of that which is the foundation of the relation… may be done without having a perfect and clear idea of the thing it is attributed to” (Locke in Strathern 2020, 30).
A scape– from Latin scapus shaft– is a capture device for vastness. So, we define environments by seeing them as landscapes, transform land into territory, in order to ‘get hold of it’, ‘get a grip on it’, understand, obtain control, enable navigation and ultimately, ‘own’ a space. This last step of scaping creates contestation; always. Up to now, the contestation about our mapping of off-earth is not always so tangible beyond mirroring known geopolitical power struggles on earth.
Landscapes are convolutions of physical characteristics and human interventions in a certain space. At the present time, it is impossible to find a place on the Earth that hasn’t been interfered with by human curiosity or exploited by human ambition. It is indeed not possible to find a -scape that would be able to escape the parameters which define a landscape.
In her theorisation of modern time, anthropologist Laura Bear argues that “science and technology tightly link social, human time to external non-human rhythms; frame time as a radically other secular force; and project a deep history of natural time” (Bear, 2014: 7). Following these insights, I like to think of space science infrastructure such as the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) as a timescape.
Thinking of scapes, I take this opportunity to gather some thoughts on e-scapes: not electronic scapes, but ways of getting away. While this may not exactly designate a -scape as was proposed, it still provides a way to think about space and distance. It assembles certain ways of thinking about our situatedness in our time on this planet.
Today, as space science activities are rapidly shifting the way humans perceive themselves on Earth, and within a larger set of relationships both on and off-Earth, we wonder how the spatial concept ‘scape’ helps us understand the relationship between terrestrial formations and extraterrestrial space.