Social theory and empirical findings in European landscape ecology
Symposium organised by:
Andreas Aagaard Christensen, University of Copenhagen, Denmark ; Stig Roar Svenningsen, Royal Danish Library, Denmark ; Anna Verhoeve, Institute for Aricultural and Fisheries Research, Belgium; Marc Antrop, University of Gent, Belgium ; Jesper Brandt, Roskilde University, Denmark.
This symposium will explore the social theoretical concepts that have become embedded in many of the academic practices defining landscape ecology. The symposium will discuss the implications of the way social theory is used in landscape ecology, with an explicit focus on European cultural landscapes.
Landscape ecology has always held the study of coupled human-environment systems to be one of its main topics of research and policy advice. Social theory has been an important tool in this endeavor. Especially when research has been concerned with cultural landscapes, where landscape ecology has prospered in part by integrating and implementing social theory harvested from disciplines in the social sciences and the humanities. The description, explanation and prediction of human practice in landscape contexts have thus become a cornerstone of European landscape ecological research, and social theoretical concepts for explaining human practice and reasoning, have become embedded in many of the academic practices defining landscape ecology: (1) Modelling, where assumptions about social practice inform predictive models of future landscape change, (2) Case study research, which in many cases explain landscape change by way of social analysis, in order to inform theory and policy advice, and (3) Monitoring, where land cover and land use change is interpreted in relation to social and technological changes assumed to impact landscape systems.
The aim of this symposium is to discuss the implications of the way social theory is used in these contexts, with an explicit focus on European cultural landscapes. Monitoring, case study research and modelling integrate with social theory in very different ways (based on different sets of theoretical assumptions), and we see a need to combine and integrate these approaches more closely in order to grasp the social complexity of cultural landscapes. While monitoring and case study research generally integrate with social theory through conventional modes of inductive and deductive reasoning, modelling stands out as a break with part of social theory, since it assumes a measure of predictability in the functioning of human agency. This conflict within landscape ecology stems partly from the fact that landscape ecology developed as a confluence of formerly separate fields of research, which relied on different concepts for landscape analysis. Concepts such as agents, drivers and systems - which were inherited from the natural sciences - conflict for example with concepts such as culture, ideology and place, which do not presuppose a landscape system and which are not easily assimilated into current modeling and prediction paradigms.