Some Things You Can Do In Lieu of Our 15th Class Meeting

Go to the Trevor Paglen Talk @ the Swiss Institute on November 1

See my separate post

Go to The Walker as Mappist: Psychogeography and the (Caribbean) City on November 3

Pioneer Works, November 3, noon to 3pm

Register via Eventbrite

“Block after block, I keep trying to search for what lies beyond. Beyond my own neighborhood, beyond my awareness, beyond my self. I am searching for what the city’s communities hold forth and hold back, recognizing that, as Alfred Kazin once said of lights along Jamaica Avenue, ‘they were searching out so many new things in me’.”

So wrote Garnette Cadogan in Nonstop Metropolis, a landmark atlas of New York created by Rebecca Solnit and current Pioneer Works writer-in-residence, Joshua Jelly-Schapiro. In this workshop led by Jelly-Schapiro and Cadogan—essayist, editor, and walker extraordinaire—we will explore how any city, whether New York or Kingston or Port-au-Prince, contains at least as many ways to be mapped as it does people; how we all forge maps that are also stories, in our heads or otherwise, to make sense of the places we live; how such processes occur in the Caribbean cities—including New York—that the workshop leaders know best. Finally, we will use Cadogan’s essay “Round and Round,” from Nonstop Metropolis—which describes a 24-hour walk Cadogan took through New York’s five boroughs—to explore the relation between walking and mapping.

So doing, we will walk through the PORTOPRENS exhibition now on view at Pioneer Works and subsequently through nearby streets, concluding with a self-mapping exercise, to explore how walking can function as both barometer, revealing the cultural and social character of our surroundings, and as mediator, creating a bridge between data and stories.

Teachers:

Joshua Jelly-Schapiro is the author of Island People: The Caribbean and the World and the co-editor of Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas. A geographer and writer, he is a regular contributor to the New York Review of Books and his work has also appeared in the New Yorker, Harper’s, The Believer, and The Nation. He teaches at NYU and is currently the inaugural resident in Narrative Arts at Pioneer Works.

Garnette Cadogan is an essayist who served as editor-at-large of Nonstop Metropolis. Currently a Scholar in Residence at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia, his essay “”Black and Blue” (aka “Walking While Black”), first published in Freeman’s, has been much anthologized and published in several languages. He is at work on a book about walking.

Go to Laura Kurgan’s Talk @ Cooper Union on Tuesday, November 6 @ 7pm

Located in the Frederick P. Rose Auditorium, at 41 Cooper Square (on Third Avenue between 6th and 7th Streets)

See the CU website 

Laura Kurgan delivers a free, public lecture as part of the Intra-Disciplinary Seminar series.

Laura KurganLaura Kurgan is an Associate Professor of Architecture at the Graduate School of Architecture Planning and Preservation at Columbia University, where she directs the Visual Studies curriculum, and the Center for Spatial Research. She is the author of Close Up at a Distance: Mapping, Technology, and Politics (Zone Books, 2013). Her work has been exhibited internationally, including the Museum of Modern Art in NYC, the Cartier Foundation in Paris, the Venice Architecture Biennale, MACBa in Barcelona, and the ZKM in Karlsruhe.

Visit Cohen & Taliaferro, an antique map / atlas / globe dealer on East 54th St; Martayan Lan, an Antique Map Dealer on East 55th Street; or the Map Room of Argosy Book Store on East 59th Street

Cohen & Taliaferro is open to the public Monday through Friday, 9:30am to 5pm, by appointment. Visit their website.

Martayan Lan is open Monday through Friday, 9:30am to 6pm. Check out their website.

Argosy is open Monday through Friday 10am to 6pm and Saturday 10am to 5pm. Visit out their website.

Check out the Navigating New York Exhibition at the Transit Museum

New York’s transportation history happened in phases, from early ships, trains and passenger ferries to more modern subways, trains, buses and cars. Transportation maps highlight the story of New York’s growth through the increasingly connected transportation system. Indeed, mass transit helped make the greater New York region what it is today. Navigating New York draws on the New York Transit Museum’s collection, artistic renderings, historic maps, guidebooks and digital technology that refresh our view of the city and show how transportation has catalyzed its development.

See the museum’s exhibits page.

 

 

Map Critique

Maxim Pozdorovkin’s Our New President is an experimental documentary that explores Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Unlike traditional documentaries, Our New President contains no interviews, instead relying entirely on Russian propaganda to tell its story. However, it is arguable as to whether or not Pozdorovkin is in fact trying to tell a story. As he explores the Russian sentiment of the election, and the nature of propaganda, he artfully creates his own propaganda.

Pozdorovkin knows that he could not simply create a timeline of the events and instances that took place because the dissemination of media is too vast, and remains too unknown to explain using such a linear model. To this day we are still exploring the effects of Russian born “troll farms” that continue to banally inundate social media with false information. It was more useful for Pozdorovkin to explain this phenomenon, by recreating it. Our New President bombards the viewer with endless content supplied both by the international news syndicate Russia Today (RT), as well as homemade Russian Youtube videos praising Putin and Trump, and Hillary Clinton. If I learned anything from this film it is that the whole of this propaganda is greater than the sum of its parts. However ridiculous it was, it had a profound effect on its viewers.

Although this project is not a map per-se, I felt that the film’s intentions to explore these events through a non-linear model, was an act of deep mapping. In essence, a map’s goal is to foster some sort of knowledge production, and on a ground level that is what this film is attempting to do. As Brett Bloom and Nuno Sacramento put it, “to get an understanding of an actual place, one must inhabit its overlapping contradictory stories simultaneously”. Though this film largely revolves around propaganda footage, the wide range of video quality and topics creates a highly subjective yet multi-layered atmosphere rather than a more definitive, dimensionless narrative.

Pozdorovkin’s explanation is purposefully inconclusive and open-ended, which works in his favor and to his detriment. In his own words, Pozdorovkin views Our New President as an attempt to create a fact based movie “entirely fact free”. Yet, it might be difficult for viewers to arrive at this more external conclusion about genre and news creation. Even Pozdorovkin admits the film has its faults. To understand the overarching narrative of the film, viewers need a certain amount of critical visual literacy. Ironically, Our New President is arguably trying to create a commentary about the lack of a popular critical literacy that exists around news media, and especially in its various and ambiguous iterations on the internet today.

Still, Pozdorovkin’s model remains useful in regards to mapping. Our New President tries to bridges a gap between documentation and hard data by reintroducing the viewer to the extensiveness of Russian meddling in an emotionally overwhelming manner. This kind of video-based mapping is especially useful for the topic of modern propaganda, as it is almost entirely visual.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

In my own explorations of bodegas I thought that imitating Pozdorovkin’s model might be a useful way to understand the role bodegas play in New York City culture. Much like Pozdorovkin, my video is entirely comprised of already existing media. Although some of the other maps that I created have original content, I felt that it would be equally important to create some sort of documentation of the media portrayal of these spaces.

I gathered hundreds of clips from movies, television, and Youtube. While I did my best to sort through them, I was not able to finish a “final product” for this map critique. However, I’m not too sure that there is such a thing, and rather I would like to extend this version as an open-ended conversation that is somewhat inconclusive. That being said, I’ll continue to work on this, even after the class ends. Unlike Pozdorovkin, I did not feel the need to bombard the viewer with clips, although I chose to overlay a number of videos on top of each other. The purpose of this was not to make the work palatable, but to attempt to show the multifaceted usage of bodegas in popular and social media. My hope is that this video will strike a note with New Yorkers. However, I still see that it has similar limitations to Our New President. Yet, I don’t think I have a problem with its nicheness in this instance. I see it as more of a reproduction of already existing knowledge that could easily be reworked in an endless number of ways.

Mapping Time and Public Space

Public space is an extremely important component to a healthy city. A public space such as a park or plaza can become a hotspot for various gatherings, demonstrations (political, religious, etc.), socialization, relaxation, shelter, safety. Many times the personal and collective claims to these spaces can collide, different interests and uses of the area mold the space in to a shared experience with layered meanings for different groups, begging the question, how does space become place? For my final project I will be looking at mapping human rights in public space and public space as a human right as humans transform space in to place. Because public space is constantly affected by different interests and factors, in my map critique I wanted to take a look at how time can play a role in how a space and its uses in a community can change or be affected by time/perceived time. I have been focusing on an article written by one of my professors, Peter Lucas, in which he explores questions like where are the nodal points of a city where human rights are crystallized? Where do concentrations of violations occur? What set of needs do we elicit from a public space? Who needs what and how do these interests compete? How does public space transform at different times and for what reasons? What are the layers of time in a space, and do they come from different perspectives of people or maybe different uses/engagements in the space?

To put these questions in to action, I looked at Google Street View’s option of viewing photos of the place throughout years. The format of this “time map” is simply a horizontal line with dots along it where there are photos that Street View has captured each year or whenever they passed through, much like a timeline. The reading on temporal modeling that we did for this week has vocabulary that J.T. Fraser used to systematically examine the ways in which time is understood from various disciplinary perspectives. I think that Google, and most of the Western world for that matter, use what he refers to as eotemporality. This is the rational progression of events in a sequence. (Drucker)

This approach makes sense here because time is such an abstract concept that the idea of mapping it can be quite confusing and subjective. By simplifying it to be a simple timeline they invite the viewer to show how a certain place has changed or grown over time, trying to make it as objective as possible. I looked at a street in my neighborhood that had been turned from a street into a plaza in front of the Myrtle Wyckoff train station and saw how it was transformed from a road to a public space where several activities went on. And as I looked deeper, I realized that Google could be more careful about creating such objectivity in the change of a space because people have different connections to it and relations to that space in time and the way in which they engage with it that may alter their meaning of “changing over time”.

For my own application I decided to try and make a similar sort of timeline of the same area but for one day rather than years. I took photos at different hours, from morning until night time, and (as I lack the capacity to make a design like Google’s where you can click on a year and see a photo) I lined them up in order to show how this public space changed from day to night.

I think this is an interesting way to show how a place grows and shrinks throughout the day and a good way to map time because if anything, we can all relate to night and day time even though we may experience them all differently. However, I wanted to take it a step further in terms of human rights and public space and map the subjectivity of experiencing time in a space. I therefore decided to also make a corresponding map for one of the time periods where I sat for an hour and people watched to see how they engaged with the space. This was the hour in which tables and chairs that had been put away overnight were brought out, and the space drastically changed from a “passing through space” to more of a destination and meeting place.

I tracked how people used the space throughout the hour and realized how layered and complex the area really was, more than Street View could ever hope to capture in passing by and attempting to visualize the space through time objectively. It is important to not try to objectify a space because to a community or even to a couple of people that space can be a place for many uses.  By acknowledging the layers and subjectivity and perspectives on a public area and mapping how it changes over time and how people use their time there, cities can better understand what its citizens need and how space can be improved to give people mobility, shelter, freedom of speech, and other human rights that can be achieved through public space.

Map Critique: Language Landscape

Thinking Machine’s ‘The language landscape of the Philippines in 4 maps’
August 10, 2016

This map is a unique piece of information for anyone looking into what diversity looks like in a frame as well as a global perspective. Though my overall final project is about migration and its effects within the countries involved, I have a personal and well-rooted tie to the language in the Philippines. Born and raised in Metro Manila, Tagalog was the first language I grasped. My mother’s a master at both English and Tagalog, like many well-educated Filipinos. This page highlights how diverse language is within its own land versus the rest of the world. I was led to dive into this map because it reflects the landscape and islands of this country. With close to 200 languages and dialects, how does the country manage to communicate? What is the history of changing and evolving languages? What borders or concerns are raised, if any?

These maps lead to other subjects which I find effective: history, culture, data and information visualization, etc. I think the visual choices complimented the data very well. It displayed the ‘depth’ within every region through reliable numbers and source outcomes. Listing this information as a ‘language landscape’ doesn’t identify generations, physical landscape, gender, or age highlighted in the map. This can lead to other questions related to other research projects.

Gathering numbers and stories to reflect a movement has been a tough process. However, I find myself naturally talking about global movement, individuality in a global image, and patterns in my own community. Barkada is a brand new collective of Filipino students at The New School who are changing how Filipinos are represented through modern globalization. As a Filipino-American, I think a collection of students with diverse backgrounds in the Philippines emphasizes how different the Philippines is compared to many surrounding Asian countries today.

“If you were to randomly pick two people from anywhere in the Philippines, there’s a roughly 76% to 84% chance that they grew up speaking different languages.”

The Philippines history is deeply embedded within its language. Consequences are apparent in lack of information and damaged relations. Language isn’t endangered when it has a low population speaking, but when parents stop using it when they communicate with their children at home.

“”It is not a coincidence that the most discriminated indigenous people in the archipelago speak in languages that are the most endangered, because a long history of abuses has reduced them to indigency, semi-slavery, and even alcoholism.” … Filipinos cannot access the original sources of their history before 1898 because those are mostly written in Spanish.” – Business World – Unfortunately, this makes the Philippines unique compared to the rest of the world due to lack of accessibility to the past due to colonization from Spain.

– Greenberg Linguistic Diversity Index — estimates a place’s linguistic richness on a scale of 0 to 1 (a place which every person speaks a different language would be 1, a country in which every person speaks the same language would be 0)

– 187 individual languages in the Philippines
– 4 extinct, 183 alive
– 175 indigenous, 8 non-indigenous
– 72 developing, 14 in trouble, 11 are dying

– 0.84 / 84% of 1

…according to Ethnologue

– 2010 Philippine Census figures around 76 % – Does one source lack correct information? What variables contribute to the outcome?

– Map was put together to celebrate all 187 languages for Buwan ng Wika (Language Month, every August)

– 6/10 speak languages other than Tagalog

As you scroll through the 4 maps on the webpage, the ‘richness’ or ‘density’ is measured in colors and region-specific Diversity Index rate and top two spoken languages

Reasons for Diverse Language Landscape
– 7,000+ islands, jungles and mountain landscapes are extreme
– Resistance of the Spanish colonizers
– Lingua franca – (i.e. Taglish, Spanglish)

Map Critique: Ekman’s Atlas of Emotions

Map Choice: Ekman’s Atlas of Emotions (http://atlasofemotions.org)

I wanted to look at the Atlas of Emotions, created by psychologists Paul and Eve Ekman in collaboration with Stamen Design. This map was commissioned by the Dalai Lama, who wanted a map that could lead us to find a calm mind, which would in turn get us to a more peaceful world. The map is intended to be an interactive tool through which the viewers become more in touch with their inner emotions and develop strategies that help them respond in helpful, constructive ways. Specifically, the Ekmans want the atlas to be used as an educational tool so that educators and therapists can use it with their students/clients to help them better understand themselves.

In visualizing the landscape of human emotion, Paul and Eve Ekman categorizes human emotions into five “continents”: anger, fear, disgust, sadness and enjoyment. The movement of continents signify that emotions vary in their strength and intensity in different situations.

It then shows what emotional states we can experience within each continent:

…and proceeds to direct us towards possible responses, and an assessment of whether each response is constructive, destructive or ambiguous in each situation.

Another prominent feature of this atlas is the “timeline” of emotional experience, where the trigger, the experience, and the response are mapped in a cause-and-effect relationship.

Together, the maps in Atlas of Emotions attempt to present a landscape of universal human emotions. One thing to keep in mind is that the Atlas maps a hypothetical emotional experience, rather than a specific experience of a specific human being. The Atlas maps a generalized understanding of human emotion; what is being mapped is not “emotion” per se but a very particular perspective and measurement on how to understand the unfolding of emotions in time. As such, Ekman’s Atlas of Emotions is more of a model or a methodological guideline. To better understand how this model works and where it fails to work, I drew a map of my emotion(s) from the sample trigger – “a friend gets angry with you.”

Through this quick exercise I did find the Atlas a useful tool in rationalizing what I feel and the responses I resort to. In that respect, the Atlas certainly accomplishes its goal.

But what if rational, coherent, logical understanding of my emotions is not what I want?

Above all, I am not satisfied with how the maps in the Atlas of Emotions present emotional experience through a linear narrative with a clear chain of causality. Following the Ekman model made me realize the contingency of my emotions, yet such contingency is obscured by the mapmakers’ attempt to portray emotions as universal and generalizable. While the mapmakers do acknowledge that each trigger and emotional state occurs in a context, those contexts are taken out from the maps altogether. What are the factors that make us feel differently in response to the (seemingly) same trigger? What lies between “A friend gets angry at you” and “You feel anger”? To me, this circumstantial dimension of our emotional experience that is reduced to an arrow in the Ekman Atlas is what a map of emotion should try to chart out.

Other questions on the ways Paul and Eve Ekman rendered affect as a mappable object: What does the separation of emotions into discrete “continents” do to our perception of emotions? On what basis can you measure the intensity of each sentiment? Can trepidation never be as intense as terror? Can those two states always (or ever) be neatly separated? Those of us who suffer from anxiety, as well as anyone who have experienced terror born out of uncertainty (unstable living arrangements, futile job searches, etc.), might disagree. So whose measurement is taken as default, and in turn gets naturalized? Similarly, what are the standards of constructive and destructive responses? What are the markers of constructiveness and destructiveness? All in all, I find Ekman’s Atlas of Emotions as perpetuating normative and prescriptive understandings of our emotional capacity. I suspect that instead of leading us towards world peace, the map might establish what Jacques Ranciére calls a “regime of meaning” – a mode of government that dictates “a reality that is experienceable as a sense datum and which has only one possible signification” and demands our compliance.

As an anthropologist, I am trained to think of emotions as always and already political. I believe mapping the human emotional apparatus requires an attentiveness to various structures that shape how our emotions are articulated/disarticulated, and calls into question the configurations of what is given as the landscape of feelable as the object of our perceptions and the field of our interventions. I find Ekman’s Atlas of Emotions lacking in that aspect.

In rendering affect as a mappable object, how can we take into account the variable of time – the tempos and temporalities of sentiments? How do we map various interruptions to our emotional experiences? In acknowledging that triggers, sentiments and responses do not always take place in a linear progression (sometimes the order is inversed), what can a non-linear mapping of emotional experience look like? How would it reveal the arbitrariness as well as the rationality underlying human affect? Through what map of affect can we bring attention to the incoherence of our emotional experiences – the gap between what we feel and what we perform? Doing so will inevitably illuminate structures of power that allow us certain feelings and disallow others. We cannot map silenced feelings, but we can certainly attempt to map what makes it dangerous, unsafe, and otherwise undesirable to articulate one’s feelings in certain ways.

These questions led me to create a map of interrupted and disallowed emotions as my prototype. For this map, I went over memoirs and interviews (gathered from ethnographies and newspaper articles as well as phone interviews) of inhabitants of Jeju Island, the focus of my atlas project. I then identified moments of emotional numbness/confusion/paralysis, and tried to map that. In doing so, my goal was to make visible the confrontation between the power and the impotence of a body, between a life and its sensible and sensorial (im)possibilities.

Amsterdam RealTime Project

With the idea of performativity and subjectivity in mind, I chose to critique the maps from Amsterdam Real Time Project (ARTP). ARTP was a project developed by Waag Society and the artist Esther Polak between October and December of 2002. Waag is a middle ground organization that works both with grassroots initiatives and institutional partners across Europe. They focus on technologies as instruments for social change, and, as they describe themselves, operate at the intersection of “science, technology and the arts”. In this project, real-time data was collected from Amsterdam residents who volunteered to carry with them a portable device developed by Waag Society and equipped with GPS.

The data collected was displayed as white lines against a black background with no indication of the city boundaries or build environment — no city grid, no streets, no housing blocks. The real-time location data provided by GPS created a map that consisted exclusively of the movement of its participants. Yellow and red spots show routes or places which were visited more often. Blurry lines seem to indicate less visited routes, but could also indicate imperfection in the accuracy of their GPS system.

 

 

Through the performances of its own residents and the aid of new geospatial technologies a new map of Amsterdam could, then, come to life. The map itself was an ongoing experiment that changed according to each of the participants’ urban experiences. It was part of the exhibition Maps of Amsterdam 1866-2000, held at the Amsterdam City Archive. The Amsterdam RealTime Website still runs the visualization and hosts an archived website with the project’s information. While the maps available on the website have no legends, at the exhibition visitors could find an archive of each subject’s trace. Information included age, means of transportation, profession, and reflections on the project. The way the project is presented in the website makes it less self evident, I suppose, than it would have been to see it in a gallery.

Within a context where GPS is trivial as once it was to make a regular phone call, the ARTP maps can be taken for granted. However, these maps were produced in 2002, when GPS technology had recently become smaller and cheaper, private companies had just begun producing personal GPS products, and smartphones were nowhere close to being widespread consumer goods like they are today. As geospatial technologies were spreading in usage, and debate of their ethical and practical influence in both research and politics was gaining strength, ARTP had the intention of using GPS to “examine the mobile behavior of city users” (ARTP website).

ARTP is one of the projects that illustrates Mei-Po Kwan’s argument on how geospatial technologies can be used to call into question the objectivity of mapping practices. In her reading, GPS maps can combine the “objective and omniscient discourse of cartography with the subjective, grounded experience of the user” (2007, p.26). This point is particularly interesting if we consider that, despite having a specific geographic/spatial area, ARTP deliberately chooses to display the data against a black, empty background. While using GPS as mediator, their choice to obliterate the conventional map standards emphasizes the interest in utilizing technology for the portrayal of subjective trajectories. As Kwan points out, “through creating personalized maps of the city with the performances of their own bodies (recorded and visualized as GPS tracks), the project participants (who were all volunteers) were the authors (subjects) of these plots and at the same time were being portrayed in these maps” (2007, p.26).

Designed for the exhibition, these maps had Amsterdam residents as their main audience. They intended to show a map of Amsterdam that reflected new technologies, but also merged the gap between these technologies and people’s embodied experiences. Not only that, it seemed to allow the audience to visualize the differences between the various “cities” experienced by its many residents. As they explain, “when the different types of users draw their lines, it becomes clear to the viewer just how individual the map of Amsterdam can be” (website). More than a call for subjectivity, and for the performative aspect of socially constructed urban spaces, I assume (given Waag’s motto of using technology as instruments for social change) that these maps had the implicit intention of generating some sort of debate about social and spatial inequalities.

There are some things that interest me in the ARTP, and this week’s readings in particular. The first of them is that of a map’s performative nature, that is, the fact that it comes into being through the enactment/motion of its participants. That aligns with the idea already discussed in previous weeks that maps, and mapping strategies, have an inherently subjective character. Finally, within the dialectics of sociospatial relations these mapping strategies remind us that bodily and kinesthetic dynamics can serve as important strategies for the promotion of critical thinking (Parvanien, 2010), and potentially redefining sociospatial conditions.

As technologies evolve, the intersection between new geospatial technologies and redefinition of socialspatial conditions also touch upon very controversial areas. The ARTP experiment can be seen as some sort of prelude to the “surveillance society” we experience today. GPS is part of our daily lives, and in ways more sophisticated (and invasive) than designed by Waag in the 2000’s. With that in mind, I decided to re-do — in a way — the ARTP experiment using current tracking systems.

Earlier this semester my brother, who lives in Brazil, tried to convince me to install an app called “Life 360”. The app allows you to “view your family members on a map, communicate with them, and receive alerts when your loved ones arrive at home, school or work” (website). The app not only shows your current location in real time, it also registers the routes, addresses, and places you and those in your “circle” have been to in the past month. Very creepy, if you ask me, but also the perfect source of data for my prototype, since my whole family lives in the same city: Curitiba, Brazil.

So I installed the app — but only for academic purposes, of course. I picked a date — November 14th — and gathered the maps of the routes of my parents and both my brothers.

Without the possibility of showing the map creation in real time, I wanted to try and somehow convey the idea of motion. I also wanted to incorporate the viewer’s perspective — it seemed to fit within the new context of evolving technologies, with Google Street View and other navigation technologies. So I combined the routes of Curitiba with a sequence of pictures I took during a train ride between Jaipur and Delhi, India, in the Summer of 2017. The different sizes of each layer represents motion, as the train approached stations and urban areas.

When combining these two maps from two distinct geographical areas I also had in mind psychogeographical experiments. One of the most famous psychogeographical experiments is the one of navigating one city using a different city’s map. Given psychogeography’s influence on the study of the effects of geographical environment on emotions and behavior of individuals, my combination of two maps from Global South geographies seemed like an interesting way of promoting their encounter. Finally, the man entering the picture is supposed to reference the characters portrayed in the borders of old maps (like the ones in Carte de Tendre), the ones who invite you into the maps. As if inviting you to go on a journey, the man also intends to remind us of the performative and subjective character of mapping practices.

References:

Mei-Po Kwan, “Affecting Geospatial Technologies: Toward a Feminist Politics of Emotion,” The Professional Geographer 59:1 (2007): 22-34.

Jaana Parviainen, “Choreographing Resistances: Spatial-Kinaesthetic Intelligence and Bodily Knowledge as Political Tools in Activist Work,” Mobilities Journal Vol. 5 No. 3, 1 September 2010.

Week 15: an interesting map exhibit you probably won’t see

Until late January, the Portland Art Museum has an exhibit of Korean map art called The Shape of the Land: Topographical Painting and Maps in Late Joseon Korea. The pieces, estimated to be from the nineteenth century, included showpieces like an eight part screen map of Pyeongyang showing the best places to view the moon and the unicorn lair. There were also utilitarian maps, such as one whose color ‘indicates the use of persimmon tannin to make the paper waterproof and more durable.’

In the fifteen pieces, there were elements of bureaucracy, data visualization, myth, politics and national pride to be found in the maps, with help from the descriptions. The exhibit brochure gives some additional background and provides better pictures than I.

The curator notes where the names on the map were not what was in use at the time, because of not taking a neighboring government seriously. On another maps, the note points out that ‘[c]ompared to Chinese maps produced in China, the Korean peninsula is shown larger here.’


Maps showed the wear of being folded and unfolded. The Map of Mountains of Gyeongsang Province also has circles indicating the relative population of the towns. Another has the labels colored by administrative type and province.

There was a map of a graveyard (above) and two of the eight panels from an eight panel screen (below), this of the world and of China. The place names, with a few exceptions for places in our world like Japan, Vietnam and China, were ‘imaginary locations derived from Shanhaijing (Classic of Mountains and Seas), an account of geography and myth’ from 4th century China.

These maps, like the those made in the Netherlands for merchants and in Mount View for Google are a combination of what you really need to know when going from one town to another village, what you wish were true about the world, and what is important to someone about a place.

These were works of art as well as craft.

The maps were full of the color, text, and known geographic features like roads, rivers and mountains.

I would like more accounts of geography and myth.

Note: all quotes are from the museum notes.

An additional map art from the museum, in a different exhibit, was Diane Jacob’s 2008 Global Inversion, where a small glass sphere hangs in front of a textile map of the world, south facing up. Because of optics, the globe appears ‘normally’ in the sphere.

Click any image to see a larger version.

Holes in Maps Exhibition @ 601 Artspace, from 12/1

Holes in Maps

Curated by Juliana Steiner
Dec 1, 2018 – Feb 24, 2019
601 Artspace, 88 Eldridge
Opening reception: Friday, Nov 30, 6-8pm
Gallery Website

Alia Farid, Matej Knezevic, Adriana Martinez, Reyneir Leyva Novo, Juan Obando, Regina Parra, Sanne Vaassen

Curator’s statement:

The reality of paper tears.
Land and water where they are
Are only where they were
When words read “here” and “here”
Before ships happened there.

Now on naked names feet stand,
No geographies in the hand,
And paper reads anciently,
And ships at sea
Turn round and round
All is known, all is found.
Death meets itself everywhere.
Holes in maps look through to nowhere.

-Laura Riding, The Map of Places, 1928

This exhibition explores themes of globalization, mobility and borders by examining ways in which personal narrative, social critique, trade, nationalism, identity and citizenship intersect. Like Riding’s poem, the artworks in this show challenge maps’ certainty and stability, exploring the immense gulf between lines on paper and lived experience – between symbols and their referents. Maps may reveal political and geographical realities, but what do they conceal?

Holes in Maps was born out of a desire to explore the strained relationship between the simple outlines of a map and the complex, emotional, contested human experiences of those boundaries. When one looks at the issues at hand through the lens of postmodern theorists, an analogous dissonance emerges between the world of intellectual discourse and the abrupt limitations of real life. For instance, social theorists Deleuze and Guattari advocate the rhizome as a model of being in which self and identity are not linked to one place or culture alone. Their rhizome endorses rootedness but forswears immobility–what a beautiful idea, and how unevenly attainable.

Maps are created and enforced through power, and disproportionately affect those who have none. One might argue that the opposite of rhizomic thought is the current global trend toward a nationalism that harshly defines and enforces social and national identities and curtails freedom of movement. (We may wish for the freedom to embrace the rhizome, but can we get a visa?) A series of barriers – physical, socioeconomic, and bureaucratic – separates those who are able to embrace “rhizomatic lives” from those who are not. For some, crossing borders has never been easier. For others, attempts to traverse them are repeatedly frustrated by newly erected barriers, while the necessity to transgress them can mean the difference between life and death. Perhaps thoughts cannot yet be confined, but physical access can and is. Through physical interventions and transformative recreations, the artists in Holes in Maps focus our gaze on the negotiation between personal agency and constructed barriers, and remind us to consider their cost.

Image: Reynier Leyva Novo, still from Eternamente te esperare (I’ll Forever Wait for You). 2015. Video, 10:06 min. Courtesy of the artist.

Performative Chance Walks in NYC

Performative chance walks in New York City- Simone Eringfeld
Maps as Media: Map Critique – 11/14/2018


Figure 1

John Cage has experimented a lot in his artistic practice with the concept of chance. Both in his drawings and in his musical compositions, he designed ways of working by setting conditions that allowed chance to shape the creative process. The piece depicted above (figure 1), ’49 Waltzes for the Five Boroughs’ consists of a New York City map onto which Cage has drawn 49 triangles in different colours, connecting randomly selected street addresses in New York City. Based on this map, he composed a Waltz for each triangle, connecting the music to exact locations one can then visit while listening to the music.

Cage thus uses the map as an artistic object that serves him as a starting point for his creative process. Firstly, he draws visually pleasing patterns on top of it, without giving too much attention to the actual geographical locations his triangles connect in the ‘real’ city. Secondly, he composes the musical pieces that can be listened to while visiting those locations. It is left up to the listener to associate the sound to the space in order to combine them into a sense of place.

Inspired by Cage, my project revolves around the creation of a series of performative chance walks in New York City. Yet the map that Cage takes as a starting point and the execution of the routes as the ending point, is exactly what I change around in my project. By leaving the map for later as it were, I start by placing my own body in the physical space of the city, and create the conditions for it to be through it by chance. As I thus go along, my paths outline themselves.

This can be done in a number of ways, such as by:

1. Asking strangers for directions to wherever they recommend me to go in NYC. For instance, what is their (least) favorite spot in the city?
2. Throwing a dice every two blocks. 1 = straight on, 2 = left, 3 = right, 4 = return, 5 = choose myself, 6 = cross the street and throw again
3. Following strangers on the street until they reach a final destination. Then pick a new stranger to follow.
4. Randomly pinpointing a starting spot in NYC. Going there to follow a pattern/rhythm. For example: straight on for 1 block, turn left, straight for 2 blocks, turn right, straight for 3 blocks, turn left, et cetera.
5. Walking in straight lines only, for example, all the Broadways of NYC in their entirety.

As such, my walks are being designed simultaneously as they are being performed. Following patterns to navigate one’s way through New York’s grid system can result in aesthetically pleasing lines drawn onto the map, such as the V-shape seen in figure 2.

The GPS app that I use to document my walks with is called Livetrekker, and allows me to insert photographs, notes, videos and voice recordings that are attached to the specific place where I take this material (see figure 3, 4 and 5 for examples). I will then create my own maps with this documentation that jointly form an alternative atlas, or even a ‘guide book’ of some sorts, to the City of New York. As such, the city reveals itself as it wishes, with my body serving as a mere vehicle to inscribe into its streets poetic patterns of moving through and passing by, with unaware strangers as my guide.

          
Figure 2                                    Figure 3

         
Figure 4                                    Figure 5

Map Critique

Jenny Odell

Satellite Collections

 

…because human existence is conditioned existence, it would be impossible without things, and things would be a heap of unrelated articles, a non-world, if they were not the conditioners of human existence.

Hannah Arendt

“The view from a satellite is not a human one, nor is it one we were ever really meant to see. But it is precisely from this inhuman point of view that we are able to read our own humanity.”

Jenny Odell

In her essay about The Satellite Collections, Jenny talks about how changes in scale can unlock possibilities in the very same subject matter. She mentions how the perspective of a satellite or a microscope can force our shift of reexamining objects as varied meanings, where scale determines art and what is routine or familiar is often overlooked until there is a shift/rupture in our experience; or when blind spots are a way of processing information, where what’s missing is abbreviated and perception can be explored rather than assumed. She continuous breaking down her essay into references and scenarios where these categories summarize the main elements which affect and influence our perceptions of objects and the everyday. These sections highlight the key areas which define her work and what I believe is her aim and process throughout her investigations.

206 Circular Farms

Jenny Odell is a multi-disciplinary artist and writer based in Oakland, California. She states that her work exists at the intersection of research and aesthetics and her practice often involves encounters with archives or the creation of new ones, linking the digital and the physical in the process. From the satellite vantage of Google maps, representations of humanity are extracted and grouped in varying compositions. I chose Satellite Collections because of its simplicity and how these accessible databases and platforms can be broken up, taken out of context and assembled into an invented graphic vocabulary. This type of ‘vernacular imagery’ she explains is imagery that wasn’t necessarily made by a photographer or for a specific purpose and supplied endlessly by both Google Street View and Google Satellite. Odell describes how these mechanized cameras capture our environment without trying to take a picture of anything, generating ‘candid shots’ that are uncommunicative in their peripheral nature.

125 Swimming Pools

As an artist, she is not making something new but she is allowing us a new way to look. The legibility in her work exists in the fact that these are actual specific elements isolated out of their original environmental context. Satellite Collections gathers and compares human patterns on earth and brings your attention to the infrastructures that provide services and resources needed in our daily life. These collections are a new and different way of seeing things that we may often not see on the ground. Her tool is the internet, and by using Photoshop she cuts out these elements and creates a visual catalogue that archives and presents an alienated way of seeing our surroundings. It is a simple method that has repurposed the use of these Internet tools that often deploy automated perspectives.

Since the elements which make up the work are cut and rearranged into varying compositions, a new context emerges that would not have existed within the original material. As we do not know where each element comes from, there is no need to situate ourselves, instead, the work gives us a curated perspective, absent of time and place. The authenticity and rawness of these images are what makes it familiar when viewing her images since we have grown accustomed to seeing these types of aerial view imagery. The work captures your attention as each composition is made up of multiple similar elements that, when put together, become inherently more interesting. A certain quality is revealed when these objects/structures are subtracted from their surrounding and grouped in a way where their attributes become more visible by their overall relationship to each other.

Her work acts as a map in a way that it tells us how things are and what they look like. Since she hasn’t manipulated the imagery itself, and her method is easily understood and can be replicated. She describes the process to be a curious one where she had always been navigating Google Satellite view with the labels turned off. In my attempt I did the same, however I used the history feature to collect older images. I happened to do this a few years back for a project, where I collected nearly all the roundabouts in Qatar as they were gradually being replaced by traffic signals. I was not aware at the time that there was an artist doing the same thing but for different purposes. It is easy to understand that anyone can do this as the platform is easily accessible. The subject matter, although, would differ from user to user since there is so much that can be collected. My process proved to be useful as I was always curious how many roundabouts there are. There were many, and what I learned is that they looked much better from above as each had different two-dimensional geometry patterns made using grass and other plants. I would never have noticed these patterns on the ground, and so it was quite fascinating to discover them online. This tool is simple as it does not require any advanced skills and it has proved useful to track changes over time. As my thesis is focused on a specific area, I hope to create a database of images that would visualize patterns in the urban landscape.

Roundabouts
Industry
Green

Map Critique: Data in a Map Bucket

I wanted to look at Here’s How America Uses Its Land, by Dave Merrill and Lauren Leatherby, from July 31, 2018 on bloomberg.com. The two data reporters framed the app as a way to look more closely at how wealth is created (which is a whole problematic Bloomberg framing for a different critique). Merrill and Leatherby preface the piece by saying how well the economy is doing, but that they want to ‘decipher’ how the ‘1.9 billion-acre jigsaw puzzle of cities, farms, forests and pastures that Americans use to feed themselves, power their economy and extract value for business and pleasure.’

Merrill and Leatherby use the six land types designated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and display land use by the quarter million acre.

This is both a map and not a map – they use the implied rearrangement of all of those quarter million acre squares, from their original geographical arrangement into bands by use type. Merrill and Leatherby then step through each of the six buckets, showing first where that land use is located around the country and then how much area it would occupy if squished all together. They break down the larger designation, such as ‘special use areas,’ and how much of that is a national park, an airport or a golf course.

The map is a presentation of the data but is presented as a way to understand land use. The framing, helping us understand where the last quarter’s growth came from, is somewhat lost in the post itself.

Some choices that Merrill and Leatherby make are to exclude Hawaii and Alaska, because the ‘[s]pecial-use land and forestland make up the biggest land types in those states.’ This may keep the percentages from being weighed by Alaska’s area, but Hawaii and Alaska are part of the U.S., and if we have vast areas that are forestland, that seems important to consider. The one outside source that is referenced is The Land Report magazine. I wanted similar facts to be included about more of the land types, or to have information about how much of the economy is created by each sector, as is done for the urban environment.

In Against Infographics, Daniel Rosenberg contrasts the art maps of Gert Jan Kocken with the example Edward Tufte has made sure we are all aware of, Charles Minard’s figurative maps. Rosenberg says of the map, ‘[n]ot only does it combine all the data, it rigorously excludes everything else.’ This pinpointing is missing in the Bloomberg map. Many of the most interesting details are in among several other things, though the data given was not consistent.

What I think works best about this treatment is that many of us have a sense of how big Connecticut is in a way that we might not know what two million acres is. However, this is geared for a U.S. audience, or at least a U.S. centric one. The assumption of familiarity with the areas used is only a helpful tool for those of us for whom the size of Florida is a helpful explanation.

While my main critique was that Merrill and Leatherby used the data they had rather than collating from various sources, I enthusiastically did the same. Similar to the portal that Sarah showed us a few weeks ago, Washington, D.C. has an open data portal from which I could find most of the vectors I wanted. I wanted to show both how the land use was divided up in DC, and also how a single source of data missed a good part of what was going on. I used the Future Land Use, from 2011, as well as other data available from the city data portal, to help give the land use some context and a double check. For example, the classification for ‘Institutions’ in land use was largely places that are universities, but when comparing with the Universities and College Campuses, there was some but not complete overlap.  

One of the things that I was most curious about when I first saw the Bloomberg map this summer was the amount of land, in any of the categories, that was not usable for its named type of activity because it was a road or a parking lot. The DC data included a map of roads, which to my great appreciation was the shape of the road rather than a line of the center. Looking at the roads data, about 36% of area that is classified as residential in land use is a road. So while the area shown for residential use is true, zoning or tax wise, it is only two thirds true in terms of where a house could be built. This looking at the data and also at what isn’t in the data is part of what I wanted to do because I left the Bloomberg map with a lot of questions that I wanted to be able to answer.

I know that any project has to be built within constraints, and I appreciate the map Lauren Leatherby and Dave Merrill created for what it did show.

 

The Mapping Arts- Noriko Ambe

Noriko Ambe’s Flat File Globe project, exhibited at Josee Bienvenu Gallery in 2006, constitutes semi-architectural art pieces using a variety of materials such as metal cabinets, cut-out books, and wall pieces (Goodman 2006). The randomly cut out papers piled on each other filing in the cabinets, and the books cut-out next to each other make and depict the sentiment of natural landscape. While her work appears to be a topographic representation, she engages the audiences into layers of papers using cabinets “as a metaphor for the human body as emptiness.”

“Of her sculptural work she says, ‘I want to attain something sublime.’ Ambe cuts into paper to create negative forms representing herself, with undulating lines tracing her actions against streams of time. Subtle, natural distortions in the layers of paper convey the nuances of emotions, habits, and biorhythms.” (Harmon and Clemans 2009: 216)

The intentional topographic resemblances are a central tenet of her art form. As her three-dimensional art work seems to imply geographical information, it leads the audience to the open question of interpreting her work with limited explanation. Inside of the empty human body, Ambe says that the layers of paper are visualized “intersection of the stream of vertical time with the present.’ This leads to the questions of “What is Ambe trying to show through the layers of paper projecting through time passing?” “What process did Ambe go through to create these maps?” “Whose body is Ambe trying to visualize?” These questions allow us to investigate how bodies intersect with captured emotions and temporality. Building upon the intersection, the diversity of her projects’ formats suggest a variety of individual subjectivities and experiences.

In her self-explanatory statement, she explains the intersection of time and the concept of “empty-self” as the major inspiration of her work. She considers her work into two levels of mapping—producing the artwork, the product of map. Her work of randomly cutting and layering the papers is her way of mapping the present condition of herself. The cutting of papers which she describes it as following: “When I am drawing or cutting lines, I am interested in observing the power of the changing and growing shape. This dynamic shape itself becomes an entity—another geography.”  (Ambe 2013) The action of creating another geography is based on the division of positive and negative shapes by cutting a paper, which represents the reproduction of the universe. The layers of papers representing the time passing by, like the rim of a tree, while creating the depth of the piece. In this, Ambe’s creation of Flat File Globe is both a map of herself in the mapping process, which leads to the creation of a map.

Flat File Globe Red Tank A, 2007
Flat File Globe 3B, Red Version, 2007 (detail)

Ambe’s artwork, in this regard, liberates the audience from the idea of maps. The topographic visuality of the map captures the taken-for-granted expectation of the audience and sabotages the visual cues (D’lgnazio 2009). The simple explanation of metaphor of cabinet as human body inverts the preexisting perception or knowledge of the map. The “random cuts” of the papers becomes a pure aesthetic pursuit from the data-based understanding and interpretation of nature and its scenery. While Ambe’s work significantly functions as the saboteur, the message of her map can be unclear due to its open-to-interpretation feature. However, the Flat File Globe project is ambivalent in that while the maps actively engage audiences to interpret and understand by themselves yet may result in unexpected(?) or unintended interpretation.

 

What I take on from Ambe’s map is the humanness and its diversity. Among the projects, I was particularly intrigued by the cabinets in the concept of limited and same frames can provide essentially different experience. Within the cabinet, Ambe recreates the intersection of time through the papers which led me to think about experience. An experience varies by each individual and while it happened in the past, it constitutes the human in the present. From her work, the passage of time and the understanding of the past makes a different landscape within the limited setting. The diverse experience through time leave a trace in the body, and thus each piece leads to different and distinctive outcome. Building on this, I want to utilize the same frames to map the day of the group meetings that marriage migrants and their potential spouse meet for the first time. The frame represents the meeting process itself, as the venue and the process of the meeting are basically the same. However, the potential couples go through various experiences. They can be chosen or choose to get married, they can feel anxious, relieved, happy, jealous, or sad from the result of the meeting. Their change of emotions will be the content filling in each frame. I attempt to map the diverse experience and emotions of the marriage migrants in a visualized format—in color (and possibly shapes).

One thing highlighted from the talks with my interlocutors was that they situated themselves within the relation to others from their experience. They perceived themselves relatively lucky as they met their spouse at the first group meeting, while others who have been in the system for months. The reasoning of their partner or the partner’s family members for choosing the migrant as the one, became the grounds for the migrants to stand out from the others and something to be proud of. It is not clear if it was their strategies to help me to understanding better or their ways of understanding, but they explained their status within the relationship of the others in the process of the migration. By using many and different shapes of the frame,I tried to visualize this relativity.

Reference

Ambe, Noriko. 2013. “Artist Statement” at Noriko Ambe. Accessed [November 13, 2018]. http://www.norikoambe.com/texts/artiststatement.html

<https://www.norikoambe.com/works/index2014.html>

D’lgnazio, Catherine. 2009. “Art & Cartography.” in International Encyclopedia of human Geography: 190-206 . Rob Kitchen & Nigel Thrift, eds. Elsevier Press.

Goodman, Jonathan. 2006. “Exhibition Review of ‘Flat Globe’ at Josee Bienvenu, New York, 2006” in Sculpture November edition.

Harmon, Katharine and Gayle Clemans. 2009. The Map As Art: Contemporary Artists to Explore Cartography.

Map Critique (Ella Hilstrom): On Broadway

by Ella Hilstrom

Deep Mapping – the mapping, or essaying, of places

What is a deep map? This week’s topic is puzzling and intentionally so. The deep map tends to be an interface that shows complexities found in between the poetic and the “real” with the intention to shed light upon the simultaneous existence of multilayered subjectivities that gesture towards the past as well as the present. The deep map, through its archaeological investigations in both the media, the spatial and temporal becomes a symbol of elastic time. One where the recognition of one “actant” sheds light on a new reality. Deep mappers recognize the power and violence in bringing one perspective to the forefront and instead attempts to present a myriad of layers.

Although time is central to the deep map Ian Biggs argues for its liberation from singular disciplines (2010). Hence for him a deep map is many things and does not need to check certain boxes to come into being. An example of a deep map that attempts to take on a hybrid perspective is “On Broadway.” A map produced by Daniel Goddemeyer, Moritz Stefaner, Dominikus Baur and Lev Manovich who argue that “the project proposes a new visual metaphor for thinking about the city: a vertical stack of image and data layers.” The Map is inspired by pop-artist Ed Ruscha’s “Every Building on the Sunset Strip” which was made during the early 60s when Ruscha attached a camera to his car and snapped consecutive photos along Sunset Boulevard. Manovich and his team use a similar practice along Broadway, the “spine” of NYC. The available data on the interactive map is: taxi drop offs, medium income, Instagram feed, check ins and tweets. Manovich claims that through using these sources of data he was able to present an affluent divide; in the richer areas, there were more taxi drop offs, more Instagram posts etc. The data also presented attraction to landmarks, where parks and sites of spectacles were commonly documented by tourists.

To use Instagram as an archaeological site of investigation is interesting. However, there are certain elements of the presentation of information and use of methodology that are worth paying attention to. First of all, the structure of Instagram hashtags. How does Instagram create its location feed? What is the algorithm behind that? Does Instagram predict which images would be popular? How does that affect the “unbiasedness” of using Instagram as a source of data? Further, the imagery of the Instagram feed as well as the interface of On Broadway refers to a collage where each image is independent and not necessarily interwoven.  The collections of images do not tell a story but demand the user to interact with them themselves. This could be argued to be intentional so not to predetermine the outcome but it also allows for a presentation which suggests objectified “data.” Where the “process” of Broadway has been broken down to measurable and objectified units.

Hence in the construction of the deep map it can be worth-while to apply how anthropologists have criticized Clifford Geertz’s ability to claim thick description. Anthropologists have questioned Geertz’ statement of being able to find objective semiotics within culture and have rather attempted to return the gaze to shed light on the biases that emerges from claiming thick description. Ethnography, “is the source of thick description which reveals stratified hierarchies of meaningful structures” (Geertz, 1973:7) and assumes the ethnographer’s ability to find public totality through the perception of minute difference. The subtle differences can be extracted as the codes of the culture, also known as semiotics. Yet, the outcome of the labor of the attentive observer becomes a fully formed and packaged “ethnography” detached from “subjectivity.” Similar to how ethnography has its connotations, the framework of the map speaks to “collaging,” which has a spatial implication and a history. Each image stays intact, allowing the user to recognize each object. By presenting images as layered in this regard the deep map becomes analogous to the anthropologist’s quest for organizing and smoothing out tensions and complications embedded in their thick fieldwork notes into a streamlined, visually pleasing interface.

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How, then, do we ensure that the aesthetics of the deep map don’t overshadow the continuation of pre-existing power structures? Indeed, sometimes the innovative, the glossy, the new, interdisciplinary, that wave, which we all want to be part of, needs to be criticized in the same manner as the old and unglamorized. The deep map and especially Manovich’s is not as exaggeratedly new as suggested especially as it relies on already visible data. So how can we go beyond the glossy interface of overlaying images whose presentation rather than content suggests a new form of thinking? Further, how could Manovich et al attempt to map that which is not already visible?  

Asking these questions allows us as mappers to recognize the value of the fictive element of map making – fictive, both in narration and presentation – and so I ask what knowledges emerge from returning to the analogue map? In my map, which aims to highlight seemingly invisible actors in Prospect Park, I draw inspiration from Karen Lutsky and Sean Burkholder, who ask us to not “extract meaning but to ask questions?” So to “probe the landscape” of Prospect Park. What can you see and find if someone hints towards something else? In my map, I build upon the work of Jane Bennet (2010), who urges us to recognize matter as vibrant. I ask how a deep map can go beyond the static, although complex and layered, interface. Hence my prototype map is a map that aims to suggest the richness of the soil in Prospect Park by speculatively mapping the mycelium network and the interactions that exist between mycelium, soil and trees. In the map, I am not attempting to prove for example the amount of sugar the tree exchanges for the mycelium’s nutrients, but to shed light on the dynamics.  Through vibrating sensors placed along the soil of my map the vibrations are meant to gesture towards a dynamic ground, one where our ecology is symbiotically shared with other living beings.

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References:

Bennet Jane, 2010, Vibrant Mater: A Political Ecology of Things, Duke University Press: Durham and London.

Biggs Ian, 2010, “Deep Mapping as an Essaying of Place,” http://www.iainbiggs.co.uk/text-deep-mapping-as-an-essaying-of-place/

Karen Lutsky and Sean Burkholder, “Curious Methods,” Places Journal, May 2017. Accessed 07 Nov 2018. https://doi.org/10.22269/170523

Map Critique: Spreading Deep Mapping Very Thin

I have chosen LaToya Ruby Frazier’s short film LaToya Ruby Frazier Takes on Levi’s for my map critique. Although I would like to describe the film as a mapping process rather than a map itself.  The film is mapping process of Braddock Pennsylvania, Frazier’s hometown. Frazier describes her project as an “archive of the economic and environmental decline of her hometown”. This process is in response to a Levi campaign claiming Braddock as “the new frontier”, an underdog story of a city that bounced back when the Steel industry deserted the town. Frazier has a story to tell of disenfranchisement and exploitation. At the time this video was created, if a non Braddock resident were to look at a more traditional representational map of Braddock they would see a town with an old manufacturing district that has been reformed, in its place a hub for the hospital industry. Frazier contests this claim: she says on the ground it is not “revitalized”; the people are suffering from the injuries and diseases as a result of the intensive industrial labour that dominated Braddock in the era of Steel.

Les Roberts writes: “very little of what deep mappers are doing is in fact oriented towards the production of maps so much as immersing themselves in the warp and weft of a lived and fundamentally intersubjective spatiality.” This quote is my primary argument illustrating why LaToya Ruby Frazier Takes on Levi’s could be considered a mapping process. Frazier seeks to illustrate the hidden relationships between the people and the town of of Braddock in a dynamic and visual manner.

In terms of the form of the mapping process, it is focused on expressing the sounds, sights and emotion of the labour endured by the citizens of Braddock. Frazier’s use of the material object of Levi’s jeans as bridge between the narrative she knows and the narrative Levi’s has created is both complex yet easily understandable to viewers. Her own emotion is always present in the frame, declaring her narrative subjective and powerful. She unpacks Braddock’s layers of history, while expressing the ways in which objects change when they are ripped away from their spatial origins. In New York City Levi’s are fashionable, in Braddock they have historically served as a uniform for the hard labour of steel work. Frazier has done an excellent job of setting a “base map” by starting the video with her own story of growing up, in tandem with the photography she took when she was younger. 

Les Roberts discusses the possibility of ‘spreading the art of mapping too thin’ with the expansion of the term deep mapping; LaToya Ruby Frazier Takes on Levi’s could be considered an example of this. I have chosen a map that is a bit of a strech as a response in support of Frazier, as a response to companies like Levi’s who often rewrite or remap history without the “cartographic hoops” that Roberts speaks of. I argue that Frazier is purposely challenging the mapping process, “spreading the art of mapping thin” in order to respond to the large companies like Levi’s that often co-opt the culture and stories of marginalized communities and form them into something else. Frazier is declaring her narrative to be just as important as the one formed from the outside.  

Inspired by Frazier’s work I have created a video mapping process for myself. Last week I returned home for a short amount of time and during my journey I drove from Cleveland, Ohio to Athens, Ohio. Coincidentally, my atlas is focused on these two sites and the people who journey between them. Just as Frazier focused on creating a visual experience of labour and trauma in Braddock. I choose to create a map that is focused on the experience of travel between these two places. My map is set up as if the person is in the car with me, looking out the right and left side of the passenger windows. I chose this set up as an alternative method of expressing travel, hoping to illuminate the spaces between the destinations.

links:

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1GqUaX82abo1cFzrssmUjuW4ctYZc7CjN

Map Critique: HarassMap

Since 1999, the United States has seen an increase in the number of women’s empowerment organizations and anti-harassment legislation, nationally and regionally here in New York. In my research, I’ve noticed a spike of anti-harassment campaigns and initiatives between 2005-2015, reaching peaks around 2011. This may have something to do with the Apps Against Abuse challenge brought forward by Vice President Joe Biden and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. According to whitehouse.gov, “The nationwide competition called on software innovators to harness the power of mobile technology to help prevent dating violence and abuse by keeping young adults connected to trusted friends and providing easy access to important resources for help including local police and abuse hotlines.” This seems to explain the surge of apps geared toward creating networks of friends and family to help young women stay connected when experiencing concerns of safety or threats of sexual violence. At surface level, this seems like a move in the right direction, but when I started digging deeper into the apps from this era, I came across a lot of ‘This page cannot be found’, revealing the short-lived nature of these projects. Which begs the question, was this what was really needed? An initiative with this title easily could have moved in many directions, but the parameters laid out seemed to heavily dictate its results. In an era of “the future is female” being slapped on clothing at Forever 21, do women really crave apps that simply react to harassment? The essential aspect of female empowerment is POWER. An app that can make an alarm sound, text a network of friends or simply report post-encounter has nothing to do with taking control over a situation. It is because of this disconnect, that I have chosen to focus my thesis on exploring anti-harassment tactics that harnesses empowerment as a tool to combat sexual violence.

For my map critique, I had a handful of options, as mentioned above, but one organization stood out. HarassMap, an anti-harassment campaign out of Cairo, Egypt with the slogan, “stop sexual harassment, together”. The homepage, with its clean design and simple legend, makes it pretty clear what you’re looking at. The zoomed-out view shows areas of concentration, with the option of zooming-in and focusing on individual incidents. Each point provides the time of the incident, place and a short description about the event. Below the map are options to report your own stories of harassment and intervention. Right off the bat, there’s a pretty clear message that sexual harassment requires intervention. The user has the option to look at the map in three different views: map, chart and table. The chart view shows “Reports over time”, starting with the first reported incident to today. There is an interesting correlation with the highest number of reported incidents around 2011, and the uptick of organizations popping up in the US. The next peak is the highest number of interventions between 2013 and 2014. My guess is this is when the organization had a campaign push, but it’s also possible that politically something was conjuring that contributed to the increased participation. Sadly, like many of these organizations from the same era, it seem to have lost its steam. Without being on the ground in Cairo, it’s hard to say what the reasoning behind this is, but I have a feeling it’s not because this is no longer a problem.

To learn a little bit more about the idea behind the organization, the about section states,

HarassMap is based on the idea that if more people start taking action when sexual harassment happens in their presence, we can end this epidemic together. We support individuals and institutions to stand up to sexual harassment before or when they see it happen. By taking a collective stand against sexual harassment, re-establishing social consequences for harassers – and making role models of people who stand up to them –  we believe that harassers can be deterred from harassing again.

This approach is very different from the organization’s US counterparts, with its mission of immediate intervention from a bystander, versus other apps where the burden remains on the person being harassed. Deeper into the “about” section, they provide steps the organization is taking to get to their final goal. Step 1 consists of “establishing people’s belief that sexual harassment is a crime that is the fault of the harasser”. Step 2 asks individuals to intervene, and institutions to “implement and enforce anti-sexual harassment policies”. Step 3, states the end goal of “zero-tolerance will be the norm and sexual harassment will decrease in Egypt”. Users have the option to continue to learn more about HarassMap’s partners, methodology, campaigns and other resources in various tabs.

My biggest critique of this organization is the idea that harassment requires bystander intervention. Plus, I get the sense (through the map entries and the video under the Campaign tab) that this bystander is expected to be male. I am all for men holding other men accountable, but if the message is that women need men to intervene in order to stop sexual harassment, what agency does that leave women with over their own bodies? As I have started pondering this subject, I have been thinking a lot about how I personally move through the city. Due to the total lack of “raw” data in this area, I decided to start keeping a journal of my harassment encounters.

I tracked the amount of time I spent in public and if I experienced harassment that day. If I did, I divided my experiences into three categories: non-verbal, verbal and physical. In addition, I tracked the time of day it occurred and the location (in a more generic sense, ie. street, train, park, etc.). As I started tracking this data, it occurred to me that in the year I’ve been in NYC, I have already started to engrain tools to preemptively avoid these encounters. I am almost always “plugged-in” to my headphones, causing me to undoubtedly not even register some verbal encounters, but I also have specific paths I take and ones I avoid. I decided to call this concept Spaces of Avoidance.

I took a basemap of my neighborhood and started drawing the most common routes I take, highlighted in yellow. Then, I took red and started marking the areas I avoid due to past experiences of harassment and feelings of unsafety. I have started asking other women in my life to create this same map of places they spend significant time in. I’m interested in patchworking all these maps together, losing the basemap and seeing what it creates. This is almost like a take on the map of avoiding surveillance through Manhattan. Although this does not directly solve the problem of harassment (there is no single answer), it can help women realize what they may subconsciously do everyday to protect themselves and the power they have over their bodies. This map also goes beyond showing women as victims, and emphasizes the burden placed on them everyday to ensure their own safety.

 

Trevor Paglen @ Swiss Institute, November 1 @ 6:15pm

Swiss Institute Website

How does technology learn to see the world? The interdisciplinary practice of Trevor Paglen brings us ever-closer to this question’s elusive answer. Merging practices of photography and sculpture within broader fields of science, engineering and investigative journalism, Paglen generates illuminating observations into how artificial intelligence develops the capability of sight, and how human biases can shape this technology. In 2017, Paglen debuted a new body of work that investigates the intersection of artificial intelligence and sight, “invisible images.” Paglen delineates invisible images into three categories: training libraries, machine-readable landscapes, and images made by computers for themselves. In his talk at Swiss Institute, Paglen will elaborate on these technologies, and how he has used artificial intelligence within his own practice. The resulting works are uncanny, alien and sublime, giving form to the precarious potentials of these superhuman algorithms.

Please RSVP to rsvp@swissinstitute.net. Please note: events at Swiss Institute are limited capacity, and entry is on a first-come, first-served basis.

Trevor Paglen is an artist whose work spans image-making, sculpture, investigative journalism, writing, engineering, and numerous other disciplines. His work is included in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Smithsonian American Art Museum; the Whitney Museum of American Art; Berkeley Art Museum; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; and the Nevada Museum of Art. He has launched an artwork into distant orbit around Earth in collaboration with Creative Time and MIT, contributed research and cinematography to the Academy Award-winning film Citizenfour, and created a radioactive public sculpture for the exclusion zone in Fukushima, Japan. He is the author of five books and numerous articles on subjects including experimental geography, state secrecy, military symbology, photography, and visuality. Paglen’s work has been profiled in the New York Times, the New Yorker, the Economist and Artforum. He is a 2017 recipient of the MacArthur Foundation Award. Paglen holds a B.A. from U.C. Berkeley, an MFA from the Art Institute of Chicago, and a Ph.D. in Geography from U.C. Berkeley.

Swiss Institute would like to thank UBS for their support of this event.

Image: Trevor Paglen, Rainbow (Corpus: Omens and Portents) Adversarially Evolved Hallucination, 2017. Copyright Trevor Paglen, Courtesy of the Artist and Metro Pictures, New York.

World Map of Multi Platform Cultures & Transmedia Rituals by Gary Hayes

Sailing through Transmedia Landscapes

Gary Hayes is one of a handful of transmedia storytellers and theorists around the world who has actively explored the practice of creating and experiencing a transmedia narrative through spatialization of media, more specifically, through spatial visualisation.

A broad definition of “transmedia narrative” is the “process of conveying messages, themes, or storylines to a mass audience through the artful and well-planned use of multimedia platforms” (Gomez, 2011). – Transmedia Digest

Hayes’ Mapping Project “World Map of Multi Platform Cultures & Transmedia Rituals” consists of two maps that represent a comparative study of the multiplatform media world in the 1970s versus in 2010, the same year that these maps were originally created.

Despite its unique nature and having been originally self-published by the author on his professional website under a freely shareable creative commons license, I was surprised to discover that this set of maps is relatively unknown and uncirculated within the transmedia community. The maps were published as part of a longer 2013 article rewritten from a keynote presentation talk and were used to contextualize the ‘state of the multiplatform transmedia industry’ during that year.

The top of both the maps states that it is ‘a metaphorical chart representing the key fragmented lands of media.’ The key difference between the two maps is the depiction of change in the media landscape due to this transforming fragmentation. The first map of 1970s represents a closed territory with clear, distinct generic media-nations of television, music albums, cinema and so on, positioned in high-color contrast against each other. While both these maps are thematic and designed to be of epistemological (and to some extent, of pedagogical) value to multiplatform storytellers, the function of the first one seems to be to serve the purpose of the second map depicting the year 2010, which is both of higher relevance to the transmedia conversation and can be used as a reference or an iterative base map by professionals to visualize the most current state of the creative media world.

This second map renders massive, ‘world-scale’ free-flowing blocks of ‘continents and islands’ to represent highly diverse yet highly specific forms of media. This conscious specification of labelling media platforms as branded entities as opposed to popular genres (eg. youtube volcanos vs online video and new world of warcraft vs. massive multiplayer online games) paints a much more accurate picture of ownership and therefore, accessibility within the mediascape. Instead, the author chooses to delegate the ‘genres’ or ‘channels’ to the surrounding waters (eg. Ocean of 3D games, Bay of Social Media, Sea of 2D Media).

Although the boundaries of these media-nations seem fairly arbitrary, with no metadata provided to imply their demarcation, rendering this industry terrain as an actual geography allows us to understand their relative sizes and therefore, relative significance. While there is no definite way to know from the citations, legend or the graphical scale, what exactly these sizes embody, one can assume that they represent a combination of the media-platform’s audience reach, its colonization in media and physical space, and its monetary prowess.

Throughout the map, data variables such as these are tackled through various design choices, which at certain points raise more questions than answers. For instance, the color choice, wherein the legend is almost misleading and reads groups and types of climate including tropical, temperate and so on. One reading of this could be through temperature and Marshall Mcluhan’s theory of Hot and Cold Media, where cool-colored media-platforms are not high definition and allow looser spaces for participation, such as Valley of Blogs or Deserts of Second Life, as opposed to the hot red New World of Warcraft, wherein the engagement mechanics are carefully designed to elicit fixed responses.

Yet, the more effective of the design choices includes the usage of prefixed and suffixed geographic language such as plains, mountains, dunes, deserts and highlands to highlight qualitative attributes of these emerging media like market value, ability for engagement, limitations etc. Lost Island of QR, for example, connotes the media industry’s ineffective attempts to incorporate QR code technology, or Flickr Reef that holds high-quality, beautiful images but is positioned in a far corner of the world, suggesting limited reach or usage. The rituals of the landscape are therefore depicted in the map’s nomenclature. A map that carries this framework and that is updated to reflect the most current data can be an incredible creative asset and analytical tool for multiplatform storytellers to employ across various stages of the narrative-design-production-release process.

The entire physical landscape is designed around the ‘uncharted transmedia story vortex,’ which we are to navigate by linking these various lands. We see several “Ships of Stories’ sailing these waters, yet the map fails to demonstrate how those sailers can steer toward an “overarching’ narrative or story structure — the fundamental binding force of multiplatform cultures and rituals. It also doesn’t recognize inland transit, which is a more common pattern in transmedia landscapes. An online gamer is more likely to traverse media and participate in a Live Action Role Play than read a novel, preferring to navigate in familiar spectrums.

In 2013, Gary Hayes added a more scalar, quantitative element (see appendix) to his collective presentation (the cartographic maps, the article and the keynote), which adds to the dimensionality of the what can be considered a deep map of the state of transmedia. Despite its shortcomings, however, the map identifies and highlights some key issues within the transmedia storytelling practice and provides a novel way to think about its geography.

Critical-Creative Application Prototype

The prototype consists of 4 maps and uses the critiqued Mapping Project as a basemap to modify, identify and illustrate four different ideas:

  1. This map attempts to add a layer of clarity in transit across different media platforms. It also defines patterns of movement between platforms that share common conventions and those that are more distinct, an aspect noted in the critique.

  1. This set of maps juxtaposes a transmedia map drawn by Disney Productions in 1957 first on the 1970s map and then on the 2010 map to compare the applications of the transmedia method and its also evolution to a certain extent, giving us an idea of the arena or the territory a long-time existing narrative intellectual property occupies within the larger media geography.

  1. This map juxtaposes a form of non-linear transmedia story architecture drawn by Dr. Peter von Stackelberg, based on the popular three-act structure, with the center of ‘The Hero’s Journey’ overlaid on the transmedia story vortex and the non-linear experience converging around this point, another aspect elucidated in the critique.

Works Cited:

1. Hayes, Gary. “Navigating an Expanding Multiplatform Transmedia Universe – Production Keynote.” PERSONALIZE MEDIA, 2013, www.personalizemedia.com/navigating-an-expanding-multiplatform-transmedia-universe-production-keynote/.

2. Stackelberg, Peter von. “Ontology: Characters (Part 4).” Transmedia Digest Narrative Design across Media, 27 Feb. 2012, transmediadigest.blogspot.com/2012/02/ontology-characters-part-4.html.

3. Boukobza, Philippe. “Visual Mapping.” A Visual Map Created by Walt Disney 53 Years Ago, www.visual-mapping.com/2010/05/visual-map-created-by-walt-disney-53.html.

Appendix:

 

Map Critique: ICEwatch

The Map – ICEwatch

In which ways can we map deportation/deportability without rendering the mapped population (more) vulnerable? What are ways in which mapping these topics can benefit affected communities? These questions, which have been occupying my mind for several weeks now, led me to the digital project ICEwatch. Created by the Immigrant Defense Project and Center for Constitutional Rights, ICEwatchmaps ICE raids that have taken place since 2008. While the digital map documents scattered raids all over the United States, the map’s focal point is New York City, where the vast majority of raids have been recorded and visualized. This asymmetrical trend is likely linked to the organizations’ data collection method, which relies on community participation. Only those instances that have been reported directly to IDP, a New York based organization, are displayed on the digital map. The map’s creators are forthcoming about the potential limitations of their data set, explicitly stating “ICEwatch is not meant to be read as a comprehensive report on ICE raid activity or tactics, but as a reflection of the raids and trends seen by IDP”. The data’s visualization from a birds-eye perspective allows the user to explore different layers of information at different scales. When zoomed out, raids are grouped together to illustrate the density of ICE encounters in certain areas. When zoomed in, one can select singular ICE raids, which provide the audience with a brief account of each arrest and the tactics involved. The map itself is accompanied by a brief description of its mission, a key, and a directory of additional resources. A limited number of filters can be applied to the map, such as the time interval or location of raids, as well as varying ICE tactics.

Three elements of ICEwatch deserve further attentionthe way in which sensitive information is displayed, the map’s purpose and intended audience, as well as the way in which the map deals with hegemonic logics.

Counter-mapping efforts often focus on rendering “people, places, and networks that are rarely regarded as cartographically significantb” visible (Mattern, 2017). To become visible, however, is not always desirable as “visibility can also mean vulnerability to harm or exploitation” (Mattern, 2017). Demonstrating awareness of the sensitivity of the mapped subject, ICEwatch explicitly states that the displayed ICE raids are geographically inaccurate. The dots on the map do not correspond to people’s home addresses but are based on zip codes or county names. This tactic allows for the visualization of crucial information, patterns and trends, while simultaneously refraining from rendering a population more vulnerable.

Scholars have noted that subversion is another prominent feature in counter-mapping initiatives (see Morris & Voyce, 2015; Crampton & Krygier, 2006). ICEwatch plays with and subverts hegemonic logics in a unique way: it turns state-imposed logics such as “surveillance” and “deportation” on their head by documenting ICE raids, appearances and tactics and thereby producing a counter-surveillance regime. In this map, it is not the “deportable” who are watched, but the “deporters”. The data, as well, is not derived from the state or other hegemonic institutions but is collected through a bottom-up, participatory approach. Paradoxically, the base map is portraying the exact borders and boundaries (nation-state etc.) that it criticizes. It also relies heavily on a “Western” epistemology, displaying information in purely visual terms. A distanced tone and “fact”-based content overshadow potential artistic, affective or experimental map applications. “Yet”, as Morris and Voyce (2015) point out, “like all forms of representation, maps and counter-maps alike rely on established customs, conventions, organizations and power”. There is reason to assume that this map design was chosen for tactical reasons. The intuitive legibility and navigability of the map, and its thematic focus on both ICE raid locations and tactics give reason to believe that affected communities are the targeted audience. The map reads as a resource that both warns and informs about ICE trends in NYC and its vicinity. The map’s implicit message seems to be that what matters is not the form, but the content. The map relies on a shared understanding of space. In fact, it only ensures easy legibility and therefore its “usability” by reproducing the hegemonic “Western” epistemology.

When I think about the purpose and intended audience of the map, most of my points of critique evaporate into thin air. There is no perfect map. Nor can there be. In light of this, ICEwatch is a surprisingly powerful project. It is a valuable and easily legible resource that benefits not those in power but those who currently need it the most.

A (!) Prototype

How can we create maps that do not rely on state-imposed logics? What are ways to represent NYC without making use of the typical NYC base map, which automatically conjures up naturalized ideas of borders and territories? My prototype map has no base map. It doesn’t reproduce omnipresent visualizations of NYC’s grid street system and state-imposed borders are completely absent. Instead, my map is based on one of MTA’s subway lines. The data and terms used on the map are solely derived from the ICEwatch project, thereby using bottom-up data and terminology. There is no singular way of reading this map. It might represent our everyday journeys through the city, which coincide with invisible, but public ICE raids taking place right above our heads (red = subway stations near reported raids). It could be read as a emotion map where the colors correspond to different emotions in relation to ICE raids. The closer one gets towards locations of ICE reports the more angry or anxious one might get (orange, red), the further away, the more easily we forget those instances again (blue). The map could also illustrate how people’s journeys might be affected by the presence of ICE in the city. Are there certain areas, and thus subway stops, that are avoided by vulnerable populations because they are notorious for ICE raids (such as areas around court houses)? The map could thus also be understood in terms of how journeys might be interrupted or prolonged due to avoiding raid-prone areas when navigating the city. Lastly, stations in proximity to ICEraids were renamed in this map to highlight the fact that what might simply be associated with a geographical location for many, might invoke fears of surveillance, arrest, ruse or police brutality for others. It is also an explicit rejection of top-down imposed categories and names. My map certainly has its own shortcomings, and I find it crucial to emphasize that it is not meant to replace ICEwatch. If anything, it would be an extension of the project, using the same data to produce an additional map that incorporates those artsy and subversive methods that it could not incorporate in its original project due to its goal to maintain easy legibility.

 

 

Sources

Jeremy W. Crampton and John Krygier, “An Introduction to Critical Cartography,” ACME: An International E-Journal for Critical Geographies 4:1 (2006): 11-33.

Shannon Mattern, “Mapping’s Intelligent Agents,” Places Journal (September 2017).

Dee Morris & Stephen Voyce, “William Bunge, the DGEI, & Radical Cartography,” Jacket 2 (March 20, 2015).

Tips for Migration / Affective Mapping

Those of you who are studying migration and affective experience might be interested in the work of Meghan Kelly, a geography PhD student at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. In particular: