October 25: The Techno-Cartographic, Military-Industrial Gaze | Lab #4

Mishka Henner, Dutch Landscapes

Lab: Map Workshop: Share your work in progress and get some feedback! We’ll split the class into thirds, and each of you will have roughly ten minutes two do two things: present one prototype map  in development for your final atlas, and solicit and receive feedback. How prototype-y are we talking? Your work can be rudimentary, but your concept and execution plan should be clear, so your classmates will have something concrete to respond to.



Ryan Bishop, “Transparent Earth: The Autoscopy of Aerial Targeting and the Visual Geopolitics of the Underground” in Forensis: The Architecture of Public Truth (Forensic Architecture, Sternberg Press, 2015): 580-90.

Alexander Burgess, “Shift Command Three,” Photomediations Machine | Mei-Po Kwan, “Feminist Visualization: Re-envisioning GIS as a Method in Feminist Geographic Research,” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 94:2 (2002): 645-61.

Giorgia Lupi, Luca Simeone, Paolo Patelli and Salvatore Iaconesi, “Polyphonic Images of the Cities. Mapping New Human Landscapes through User-Generated Content,” Presented at the Northern World Mandate, Cumulus Helsinki Conference, Helsinki, 2012.

Geoff Manaugh, “Grid Corrections,” BldgBlog (December 11, 2015).

Robinson Meyer, “A New and Stunning Way to See the Whole Earth,” The Atlantic (January 26, 2016).

Robinson Meyer, “Google Remakes the Satellite Business, By Leaving It,” The Atlantic (February 7, 2017).

Lisa Parks, “Digging into Google Earth: An Analysis of ‘Crisis in Darfur,’” Geoforum 40:4 (2009): 535-45.

Lisa Parks and James Schwoch, Eds., Down to Earth: Satellite Technologies, Industries, and Cultures (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2012).

Marianna Pavlovskaya & Kevin St. Martin, “Feminism and Geographic Information Systems: From a Missing Object to a Mapping Subject,” Geography Compass 1:3 (2007): 583-606.

Aaron Rothman, with Mishka Henner, Daniel Leivick & Clement Valla, “Beyond Google Earth,” Places (May 2015).

2 Replies

  • The Pickles readings this week argued that maps precede territory and produce territory. e.g. Cadastral maps did not describe land, they inscribed meaning onto land. Just as Colin Powell’s satellite images of Iraq inscribed the existence of Weapons of Mass Destruction onto the land. The example of WMDs fits into Benjamin’s notion that war and violence are the norm in modern society, so they define the map, which is itself motivated by social norms.

    Dana Priest’s use use military surveillance maps to expose secret CIA prisons is an interesting example of how militarised information systems can be repurposed to expose the USA’s war crimes. But can the master’s tools really be used to dismantle the master’s house? For the head of data at MapBox, “open collaboration around global map data is the future of maps. That’s it.” This opposes the narrative of detached, positivist mapping. The fact that OSM can compete with Googlemaps on accuracy and reliability further destabalizes the hegemony of the top-down mapping paradigm.

    Collaborative mapping, however, would still be restricted to the confines of the previously defined geo-political standards of longitude, latitude, and recognised territorial borders. Ground truthing may be a better option, perhaps drawing on indigenous mapping techniques that do not rely purely on visuals. This got me thinking about the indigenous mapping websites that we looked at a few weeks ago, many of which were plagued with issues around funding and long-term maintenance. Circling back to the controversies around corporate influence and data sharing between Mapbox and OSM, This led me to ask the question: how do you fund collaborative mapping and ground truthing whilst shielding it from corporate control?

    • Thanks, Sophie. You pose some critical cam questions — particularly about the ways in which fundamental cartographic conventions (including a naturalized basemap and seemingly neutral tools) and corporate and military control determine what’s possible.

Leave a Reply