To What Extent Does Our Understanding Of

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To What Extent Does Our Understanding Of Space Depend On The Way We Think Of Time? Essay, Research Paper ‘Space and time are basic categories of human existence’ (Harvey, 1989: 201). They are such familiar concepts to human beings that there is a temptation to dismiss them as unimportant. Time is used everyday – ordered into minutes, hours, days, even millenia – while space is treated as a fact of nature, ‘…an objective attribute of things which can be measured and thus pinned down’ (Harvey, 1989: 203). However, this simplification of space and time, and their treatment as part of the mundane sphere of existence, cover over their importance to human psychology as, from a very early age, concepts of space and time can speak volumes about social, cultural and even

economic interactions. For instance, the symbolic ordering of space and time provide a framework of experience, through which we learn who we are in society, as can be seen from the organisation of space in a household, which expresses both gender and age relations (Harvey, 1989).`Egocentrism and Ethnocentrism of the Concepts of Time and Space Space and time are both egocentrically-determined. Human-time is individually experienced as a one-way journey – life always being lived in our own future. Space is similarly always considered from the perspective of the thinker, ‘…orientated by each centre of consciousness…’near’ means ‘at hand’. ‘High’ means ‘too far to reach’ (Heidegger, 1962). This egocentrism is reflected in language – the capitalisation of

‘I’ in English, for example, or the derivation of the French ‘il’ from ‘ille’, which in Latin means: that, there or the latter (Tuan, 1974). Space, and particularly time, are not only viewed from a personal viewpoint, however; they are also culturally-determined phenomena. For instance, the modern Western view of time as a linear progression (which probably emerged from the Darwinian theory that biological species have evolved through aeons of time) is not shared by many Eastern cultures, such as the Chinese. For these peoples, time is viewed as being circular, in cycles such as reincarnation. Time is openly- accepted as being of great importance in many Eastern cultures, in a way in which it is largely neglected in the West. For instance, in Burmese, there are more

than seven words to represent the ideas covered by the single English word ‘time’. Westerners, however, tend to be uncomfortable with the more abstract connotations of thinking about space-time. When talking about space, therefore, Westerners tend to emphasise what is in that space, rather than refer to the space itself; and, when referring to time, people will emphasise the changes taking place, rather than the abstract concept of time itself (Lefebvre, 1991). According to Tuan, it is possible to teach people to appreciate abstract notions of space, however, and, in this way, it is possible to appreciate the difference between ‘felt, perceived and conceptual spaces’ (Tuan, 1974: 213). `The sub-conscious importance afforded to time and space rapidly becomes apparent on

closer investigation of the ways in which they are perceived by human beings. For instance, real time appear to speed up or slow down, dependent on changing external conditions. The journeys to and from work are used by Tuan (1974) to illustrate this idea – although the journeys themselves may be identical in route and duration, the psychological effect of going towards the workplace, compared with going towards the home cause the experience of travelling through time-space to be starkly contrasting. Our own activities can also affect the way in which we view time: ‘time is an ominous threat when we have little of it and a brooding, heavy presence when we have too much’ (Tuan, 1978: 12). `I have already indicated the complex relationships between space, time and human