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Landscapes as Diagnosis
Star Pruned commenter e-tat has a new blog. There are only three posts so far, but what it lacks in frequency, it makes it up in sheer speculative brilliance. In the most recent entry, e-tat takes on Semantic Landscape, a biomedical information retrieval and visualization tool using the language of geography. Data mining, literally.

Semantic Landscapes

Here's the most succulent bit: “Distinctions between the body and landscape will be blurred in the new practice of geomedicine and the related science of medical geology. Spa treatments and garden retreats will be internalised, with microbiotic centres of horticultural therapy (also). Conversely, parallel or complementary practices of landscape surgery, medicinal gardening, pharmo-remedial therapies and other site-specific modes of treatment will be established and treated as symbiotic aspects of whole-person medicine. Patients will inhabit the relevant landscapes, and the landscape will be subject to regimes of health, cure, and where relevant, mortality. Consequently, existing medical procedures will have to take on the symbolic aspects of geography: transplants will be regarded as relocations, with attendant vehicle hire and organisation of removals; surgery will be regarded as an exclusion or death in the family, with attendant funeral services; and, routine checkups will be regarded as terrain mapping exercises, bringing us back to the images above, and their implication for the discourses and practices of remediation at previously unexplored scales.”

Semantic Landscapes

But what happens when these symbolic terrains start to resemble actual landscapes?

The geography of lung cancer, for instance, matches the peaks, valleys and biomass color gradient of Yosemite Park. And the cartography of AIDS corresponds with the dizzying contours of the Grand Canyon.

Will people stop visiting these treasured national parks for fear of contracting a fatal disease?

Semantic Landscapes

Or how about imagined landscapes? What happens when long considered paradisiacal terrains become the classic diagnosis for the plague? Or after an abortion, your biomap now looks like the Garden of Eden.

A bit about landscapes as therepeutic devices here
  • e-tat
  • April 11, 2006 at 7:27:00 PM CDT
  • What happens when these symbolic terrains start to resemble actual landscapes?

    It's part of the idea. Once people start to visualise their internal processes, and give form to those processes as landscapes, they will inhabit their own metaphors of health and illness. Forget about Heaven and Hell. These places will be much more sublime or horrifying. Landscapes of good health will be just like the Garden of Eden as shown on a Jehovah's Witness pamphlet. Conversely, for anyone faced with the landscape of a corroded kidney or a mudslide of cancerous cells, the 'work' of coping with disease will be that much more gruesome, tangibly so.

    Your point about internalising the landscape is good. What, then, is Dani Karavan's bioterrain about? Who internalises what geographies? And what landscape wonders await the explorers of Google Biosphere? WHat is the microbiotic equivalent of New York? Is it healthy, or not? What's the proper treatment?

    And Hieronymous Bosch? Was he working out from the inside, or in from the outside?

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