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The history of civilization is closely tied with the history of the fence. Human civilization is conceptualized as emerging from agriculture, family and property. All of these evolved with the fence. The appearance of the fence in human societies marked the transition from a pattern of looting nature to taking care of it. It was with devoted agriculture that fences came about. While it is impossible to name the inventor of this technology back in Ancient Mesopotamia, Rousseau curiously alludes to him saying: “The first man who, having fenced in a piece of land, said “This is mine,” and found people naïve enough to believe him, that man was the true founder of civil society.” The fence helped institutionalize one of the most important elements of the social contract – the collective recognition of private property. Being instrumental in the culture of property, the fence fostered long-term thinking and constructive effort. It says on the part of an occupant “I am here and planning to stay.” In this way the fence exemplifies the role of technologies in culture. While technologies enable us to do things, they also make us think about what we do in certain ways, thus creating habits of thought. Hence, our practices, built upon the media we use, shape up our conceptualization of the world. With continuous usage, technologies highlight what is important to think about in our lives thus establishing cultural values.

The Culture of the Fence: Artifacts and Meanings by Christina Kotchemidova


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