September 12: Maps as Media | Lab #1

Elias Sime


Tools & Techniques for Critique: It’s a long list, but most are short blog posts. And yes, there’s some redundancy; we’re aiming to map the overlaps and discrepancies in various critical rubrics. 

  • Skim Jeremy Crampton, “What Is Critique?” In Mapping: A Critical Introduction to Cartography and GIS (Wiley-Blackwell, 2010): 13-21.
  • Mike Foster, “The Lost Art of Critical Map Reading,” Graphicarto (February 27, 2014).
  • Andrew Wiseman, “When Maps Lie,” The Atlantic CityLab (June 24, 2015).
  • Denis Wood, “At Least 10 Cartographic Codes” In Rethinking the Power of Maps (New York: Guilford Press, 2010): 80-5.
  • Shannon Mattern, “Critiquing Maps II,” Words in Space [blog post] (September 5, 2013).
  • Laura Kurgan and Bill Rankin, “Seeing CitiesGuernica (December 15, 2015) [Bill will be visiting us on 9/26!]
  • Shannon Mattern, “Maps as Media,” Words In Space (September 15, 2015) [feel free to skip/skim the discussions of indigenous mapping in the final section, “Herding Dragons”; we read about this work a bit last week — and we’ll revisit it again in our indigenous mapping lesson in a few weeks].
  • Please start preparing your semester project proposal – due Wednesday, September 19, at 4pm!
  • And while you’re developing ideas for your final project, think about which week you’d like to present your map critique. Ideally, this assignment will feed into your final project. Reserve your slot here.

Lab: Small-Group In-Class Map Critiques: here’s out list of options

Science on a Sphere, via Smithsonian


Mark Denil, “Cartographic Design: Rhetoric and Persuasion,” Cartographic Perspectives 45 (Spring 2003): 8-67; J.B. Harley, “Maps, Knowledge, and Power” in Denis Cosgrove and Stephen Daniels, Eds., The Iconography of Landscape (Cambridge; Cambridge University Press, 1988): 277-312; Christian Jacob, The Sovereign Map: Theoretical Approaches in Cartography Throughout History, trans. Tom Conley (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006 [1992]); John Krygier and Denis Wood, “Ce n’est pas le monde (This Is Not the World)” [comic] in Rob Kitchin, Chris Perkins and Martin Dodge, eds., Rethinking Maps: New Frontiers in Cartographic Theory (New York: Routledge, 2009): 189-219; “Map Critique,” Intro to QGIS; *Laura Norén’s graphic critiques on Graphic Sociology; B. Robert Owens, “Mapping the City: Innovation and Continuity in the Chicago School of Sociology, 1920 – 1934,” The American Sociologist 43:3 (September 2012): 264-293 + Maps of the Chicago School of Sociology.

2 Replies

  • Critical thought highlights structural assumptions, often deeply engrained in our institutions and sometimes within the flaw of being homo sapien, such as biases. However, recently there seems to be a trend that urges critical thinkers to present alternatives to the reality that they critique: to return to agency. The notion of critical mapping here becomes interesting as it is a practice embedded in both theory and practice. Yet, the tension between the domains is not easily solved. How can we as critical mappers combine the two? Rankin claimed the radical element of critical mapping to be of process rather than content, where the innovation lies in showing the same data in different formats which can question assumptions. Hence for Rankin the radical process lies in for example not assuming homogenous boundaries. However, I wonder how radical a population census map can become again asking who’s interest does it serve? Yet of what use are the surrealist attempts of creating illegible maps? Again, how do we balance usefulness with radical questioning?

  • Thanks, Ella! You’ve raised an important issue: what do we *do* with critique? Is it an end in itself? If not, how can we make it generative? All throughout the semester we’ll aim to blend critique with critical making; we’ll assess the strengths and weaknesses of others’ maps and our own work, and endeavor to apply those lessons in our own scholarly and creative production.

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