How we frame things determines what we see and (sometimes) what occurs next. Here’s an excerpt: We Are All Treaty People: Prairie Essays (2008)
The current post focuses on framing.
Erving Goffman is a good person to read regarding this topic; at previous posts I’ve written about what he had to say about the Interaction Order among other topics of interest.
I also like what E.H. Gombrich has to say on this topic in his classic study, Art and Illusion: A Study in the Psychology of Pictorial Representation (1960). 
As well, I’ve written about the role that framing plays in determining what appears to be newsworthy.
At this post, I comment on some photos – with a focus on conceptual framing – that relate to the history of land use decision making, both locally and around the world.
Update, Dec. 22, 2021: I’ve stopped shopping at the Wild Hog until such time as the pandemic is over or until I know that every person behind the meat counter is wearing a top-quality mask that covers the mouth and nose.
The first photo is concerned with the Wild Hog Country Market located at Line 34, Perth East, Ontario a short drive from Stratford. The photo of the Wild Hog site under construction demonstrates that the design of the market has been thought out carefully. It’s a great design. The experience that a visitor to the Wild Hog has indicates that the clear thinking that was evident in the design of the building is also evident in the design of the visitor-experience. This a great place to go shopping for fresh produce, bread, coffee, dairy products, and much else.
Marie Curtis Park
An island set between two branches of Etobicoke Creek used to be in place during a previous era in what is now known as Marie Curtis Park. The current engineered channel that causes Etobicoke Creek to flow in a straight line into Lake Ontario is a relatively recent feature of the landscape when we look back at the history of the site dating back to the end of the last Ice Age. The Western boundary of Toronto along the shoreline does not terminate at the channel now in place but actually extends a considerable distance to the west where the southernmost branch of Etobicoke Creek used to run during a previous Cottage County Paradise era.
As I’ve noted at previous posts, the mouth of the creek was once a major wildlife habitat that was engineered out of existence. That said, what’s in place even now is a great place to visit with its beaches (west and east of the channel), old growth trees, and open spaces on the flood plain of the creek.
Pioneer Park on Lake Huron
The text at the plaque at Pioneer Park in Bayfield reads:
Pioneer Park: This park is privately owned and maintained for the benefit of the public by the Pioneer Park Association organized in 1945 by Lucy Woods Diehl.
This plaque is erected in tribute to Lucy and her two close associates in the project, Jessie Metcalf and John Stewart, and other first members of the Association who had the foresight to save this beautiful piece of land for the enjoyment of future generations.
Pioneer Park complete history available in Bayfield Archives Room.
Erected by the Pioneer Park Association with the assistance of the Ontario Ministry of Culture and Recreation, 1979
Such an approach to the conservation of land is of tremendous value. We enjoy visiting this park.
I have respect and admiration for what has been done by the local community years ago to save this piece of undeveloped lakefront property on the bluff overlooking the Bayfield River and Lake Huron.
That said, there is a subtext that is missing. The subtext is that history did not begin with the arrival of the settler pioneers. The sense of positive civic engagement that is inherent in the erection of such a plaque occurs within a frame of reference within which much is left unsaid, and kept out of mind.
I refer to Indigenous history, a topic I learned little about, at least little that was evidence-based and accurate, decades ago in school or in university.
We Are All Treaty People: Prairie Essays (2008)
I have recently been reading Chapter 7, “We Are All Treaty People: History, Reconciliation, and the ‘Settler Problem,'” in We Are All Treaty People: Prairie Essays (2008) by Roger Epp.
Many informative books about Indigenous history and related topics are now available.
An excerpt (you can locate the citations in the original text) from Roger Epp’s above-noted study (pp. 127-31) features a glimpse of what I have begun to read:
“In the beginning,” wrote John Locke, the 17th-century English political philosopher, in his Second Treatise of Government, “all the world was America.”  In other words, in what amounted to a political creation myth, embellished with a crude anthropology to suit European imaginations, America was a blank slate – the primordial void out of which the institutions of private property and limited government were established by means of consent, and painted with adjectives such as “wild,” “wasted,” and “wretched.” While Locke had also written a colonial constitution for the Carolinas, he had, of course, never visited the Americas. All the same, he was certain that its peoples lacked real government and the efficient, productive cultivation of land that justified ownership of what had been given to humankind in common for sake of preservation. Like other social contract theorists, beginning with Thomas Hobbes, Locke’s political philosophy relied more centrally than is often recognized on the “alterity” of the [A]boriginal. His association of liberty with property and of property, in the first instance, with appropriation from nature – by the mixing of one’s labour – was singularly attractive in colonial America. At the very least, it provided intellectual comfort to those who had traversed an ocean for the prospect of freehold title and were determined never to be tenants again.  Locke’s conception of natural property as an extension of the labouring self allowed even the “wild Indian” ownership of “the fruit or venison which nourishes him.” But, he claimed, neglecting all the [A]boriginal assistance that settlers received in growing suitable crops, cultivation of the earth was the “chief matter of property.” The Lockean standard of “civilization” rested on relative efficiencies in the use of land: “For I ask whether the wild woods and uncultivated waste of America left to Nature, without any improvement, tillage or husbandry, a thousand acres will yield the needy and wretched inhabitants as many conveniences of life as ten acres equally fertile land doe [sic] in Devonshire where they are well cultivated.” 
The practical consequence of Locke’s argument was plainly drawn in the 18th century by the eminent European diplomatist Emmerich Vattel. His Law of Nations began from the familiar contractarian premise that the earth once belonged to all in common, but that at some stage of population growth cultivation was required of every nation as a matter of natural duty, since hunting or herding were no longer sufficient, and for that reason, morally justifiable. “Those who still pursue this idle mode of life occupy more land than they would have need of under a system of honest labour, and they may not complain if other more industrious Nations, too confined at home, should come and occupy part of their lands.” Vattel made clear his disapproval of the Spanish “usurpation.” By contrast, the colonization of North America – whose “vast tracts of land” were only “roamed over,” rather than inhabited, by “small numbers” of “wandering tribes” – could be considered “entirely lawful.” Those tribes had “no right” to keep it to themselves: “provided sufficient land were left to the Indians, others might, without injustice to them, settle in certain parts of a region, the whole of which the Indians were unable to occupy.” It was not against nature, he concluded, to confine them within narrower bounds. 
Vattel is more commonly remembered for his insistence that membership in international society was exclusive to sovereign states on the (emergent) European model. This, too, was a position rooted in contractarian premises and, in particular, in Locke’s concern to distinguish political commonwealths from families and political authority from the sort of patriarchal justifications for absolutist kingship that had gained a following in his day. Locke again drew those distinctions through the counter-example of the American tribes. While admitting his ignorance as to the political arrangements of these “little independent societies,” the logic of his argument required that they remained in a state of nature, lacking proper government, that is, founded on the consent of individuals for the limited purpose of preserving their lives and property.
These intellectual positions can scarcely be relegated, like museum pieces, to the status of ideological curios. For one thing, they continue to resonate in everyday speech, for example, in the familiar claim that settlement of the Canadian prairies should be insulated from moral and political scrutiny on the grounds that “there was nothing here before we came” and “we made something of it.” This is the story reflected in countless community and family histories of the homesteading era. Doubtless the same could be said of northern miners and loggers. Indeed, the Lockean myth has been renewed in successive generations of immigrants, who came to this “new” world to escape an impoverished or oppressive past, to live as equals, and to wrest a future from an unforgiving environment through hard work. There is enough experiential truth in all of this to sustain it in what is now an overwhelmingly urban country. In a famous essay, “In Defence of North America,” George Grant once called it the “primal” spirit of a society that, uniquely, “has no history (truly its own) from before the age of progress” and that in its “conquering relation to place has left its mark within us.”  But, as [Tom] Flanagan’s book demonstrates, Locke and Vattel also still constitute the intellectual bedrock for a coherent, and powerful, contrary position on such contemporary subjects as treaties, land claims, and [A]boriginal rights in general. As he puts it, they stand on the civilized side of a fundamental divide, which is marked by (1) the extension of rule by “organized states” over “stateless societies,” and (2) the displacement of hunter-gatherers by cultivators, such that the European entry into North America and Australia was “the last act of a great drama – the spread of agriculture around the world.”  So much for what RCAP’s Report [RCAP: Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples; appointed following armed standoff between Mohawk warriors and Canadian troops at Oka] characterizes as the era of dispossession and assimilation.
Flanagan’s simple dichotomies are a tempting target in themselves, even if their purpose is acknowledged to be primarily a polemical one. They disregard examples of [A]boriginal cultivation and resource management and, ironically, diminish at the same time the status of the cattle ranchers whose “winning of the open range” is so important to the mythology of the North American West. They discount [A]boriginal modes of governance, as well as the influence of [A]boriginal practices such as federalism on the American colonists. And they misconstrue the centralized state and agrarian communities as partners in progress. The reality of early-modem Europe, much less Stalinist Russia, post-colonial Africa, or even the Canadian West, suggests a much more conflict-ridden relationship over the loss of autonomy and the extraction of wealth from the periphery.  A close reader of Flanagan’s book could register other quibbles, for example, at the way he dismisses the idea that historic treaties involving European states and [A]boriginal polities could imply meaningful diplomatic relationships among rough equals – on the linguistic conceit and the relatively recent international legal doctrine that only sovereign states could be signatories of such agreements. Even as recent a compendium as the Consolidated Treaty Series, 1648-1918, would tell a more complicated story about recognition within international society. So would the U.S. government’s commissioning of a report as late as 1918 to answer the “question of the [A]borigines” in international law – a report whose conclusions Flanagan cites as proof of his position rather than as evidence of contestation. And so would the now-forgotten diplomatic campaign of 1923-24 to prevent Iroquois admittance to the League of Nations, at a point when the matter of membership for Canada and the other so-called white settler dominions of the British Empire had not been settled. 
To pursue such a line of criticism, however, is to miss what is most revealing about Flanagan’s argument: namely, a mode of reasoning that is conceptual not historical. In this fundamental sense it mirrors the work of the classic English social-contract theorists. That work betrays little of its own time. It founds its arguments about political authority and the pre-eminence of the individual on abstract claims about nature. It begins (in the case of Hobbes) from a concern, not unlike Flanagan’s, to confine the meaning of language against political dispute. And it resorts (in the case of Locke) to a crude evolutionism of property and government as if to preclude any other arrangements. In this mode of political reasoning, the past is problematic, even dangerous.
Study of frames serves as useful intellectual endeavour
My task is to take any frame – and any mode of framing – and consider how it works taking into account what we know (and can observe, in my case, on the basis of anecdotal evidence) of the history and historiography of power relations. [2, 3]
Our choices of words matter
A useful reference: Elements of Indigenous Style: A Guide for Writing by and about Indigenous Peoples (2018) by Gregory Younging.
A blurb reads:
Elements of Indigenous Style provides guidelines to help writers, editors, and publishers produce material that reflects Indigenous people in an appropriate and respectful manner. Gregory Younging, a member of the Opaskwayak Cree Nation in Northern Manitoba, has been the managing editor of Theytus Books, the first Aboriginal-owned publishing house in Canada, for over 13 years. Elements of Indigenous Style evolved from the house style guide Gregory developed at Theytus in order to ensure content was consistent and respectful. This guide contains: A historical overview of the portrayal of Indigenous peoples in literature; Common errors and how to avoid them when writing about Indigenous peoples; Guidance on working in a culturally sensitive way; A discussion of problematic and preferred terminology; Suggestions for editorial guidelines.