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The cultural landscape laboratory was initiated by Iain Davidson-Hunt as a way to bring together graduate students with a broad interest in the relationship between culture and nature, and in exploring the use of new digital media as a way to represent such relationships. We are physically located at the Natural Resources Institute, University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada but we are more of a virtual laboratory than a physical structure. While aware of the aesthetics of cultural landscapes our interests tend toward the pragmatic in understanding how the concept can be applied to community-based environmental management and planning. The concept of cultural landscapes is used in management contexts as a way to emphasize that many landscapes are not wilderness but the homelands of peoples who have long-standing and intimate relationships with particular places. Such places provide the material and symbolic means for survival allowing for the creation of diverse societies, cultures and landscapes. We are particularly interested in the social and cultural processes, and technologies, by which particular societies produce and craft foods, medicines, arts and dwellings and in turn impart meaning to such practices and form to landscapes.

Although we draw upon a number of theoretical orientations most of us are rooted in ethnoecology and use an ethnographic approach for our work. We utilize ethnoecology as an applied theoretical framework allowing us to bring together our interests in knowledge, meaning and practice. Within this broad framework some of us would see ourselves as ethnoecologists others more as ethnobotanists, or ethnohistorians, or political ecologists. We are no doubt a diverse group with a common interest in undertaking applied collaborative research with communities and understanding how management and planning can support peoples’ on-going relationship with a place.

We also share an interest in thinking through how we can use new digital media in our research allowing for a diversity of ways to represent cultural landscapes. This website is one such experiment in which we are interested in exploring how to allow for a diversity of representations and voices regarding cultural landscapes. While we are not professionals in this area one of the promises of new digital technology is that it would democratize voice and allow people to use oral and visual media to express themselves. Social networking tools for communication using visual media via the web have recently attracted much attention; however the use of new digital technologies has not had much impact on the way we communicate our research. Although very promising as an alternative means of communication in academic circles, the web has seemed merely to provide a new delivery mechanism for articles and has as yet been poorly used as a new form of expression, providing more voice to those with whom we work, or expanding our audiences. We explore the visual and the oral as a way to give expression to our own voices as well as a means to provide a greater diversity of voice. We use an editorial board as we are concerned about both the quality of research and the credibility of how that research is represented through different forms of expression. However, we are also interested in allowing for a greater diversity of contributions and encountering and interacting with a broader set of readers.

There are a number of ways by which you can become part of this community. If you are interested in graduate studies you can apply to become a graduate student at the Natural Resources Institute.