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.




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:

Map Critique: Mapping shadows

I’m interested in mapping rhythms of the city, especially those that are hidden or overlooked in some manner. With my artistic practice currently taking the form of mobile projections, I’ve been considering the rhythm of sunlight and shadow in New York City, and how the movement of these elements interacts with our buildings and infrastructure, influences our paths within space, determines the appeal of real estate, and generally creates a sense of place. I think about the privilege of natural light in a city like New York; how rising towers create stunning penthouse views and long, looming shadows over those below. I think about friends who’ve lived in “bedrooms” deemed illegal for their lack of window, and my own experience living in a lofted studio where the loft was so cave-like my circadian rhythm changed. I think about how it’s the shadows of the financial district that conjure feelings of walking the medieval streets of Siena, Italy, despite the stark contrast between architecture and age of the two locales.

This week’s lesson is on critical cartography. My search for a critical mapping of New York’s light and shadows wasn’t fruitful, but it did turn up this interactive map from The New York Times, which is what I’ve chosen for my critique. While my selection isn’t an example of critical cartography, I thought I could analyze it through the lens of critical cartography.

Mapping the Shadows of New York City: Every Building, Every Block was created as part of an online article on So it was either the basis for or at least essential to the article from the start. Living on The New York Times’ website, the map is a digital, web-based, interactive with control of the perspective zoom, layer view, and mouse-hover states. It takes a Godview perspective, so the zoom controls the height of the overhead perspective. You can select from seasonal layer view: winter, spring/fall, and summer. There are two hover states, which are only enabled once you’re zoomed in enough. When you hover over the street, you can view the amount of day spent in shadows across seasons. Hovering over buildings tells you the address or name of the building, in addition to its height in feet and its construction date.

So this map uses digital technology to create a layered experience that measures shadows against time in hours and minutes, season, and evolution of the city’s construction.


Here’s how the the team at Tandon School of Engineering at New York University calculated the shadows:

“To measure shadow coverage, they used a metric known as shadow accumulation, which is simply the total number of minutes that a given point spends in shadow over the course of a day. Point A is darker than Point B because it has been in shadow for one more minute. But Point C will accumulate the same amount of shadow as Point B, because it receives one minute of shadow from both Building 1 and Building 2.”

This process made me think of Annette Miae Kim’s Sidewalk City: Remapping Public Space in Ho Chi Minh City, in which she details her process of using ‘ghost map logic’ with transparent circles, and their increasing brightness with overlap, to “show space constructed by human activity.” In NYU’s case, this overlap method is used to generate the data, while Kim uses it in her representation of the data. Overall, I feel the NY Times’ presentation of the data makes sense in the context of journalism and current digital journalism trends, but this information could really benefit from the variety of representations that critical cartography supplies.

Mainly, I think we could humanize the data. NY Times presents a map that’s completely devoid of human presence except for the mouse interaction from the reader. What I see is 4 colors, 3 with gradation changes to show the seasonal shadows, a traditional gridded base map of streets and building outlines, from the Godview perspective, and I’m asked to care about what happens with my mouse hovers and clicks? Quite sterile and actually overwhelming in its monotonous presentation, even though I know there’s really cool information and implications unfolding in those shadows. This is where the context of journalism comes in and lends the human-centered focus with text: the written article sheds light on how this relates to human society, history, and economy — why we should care. In this way, I can see the fulfilling narrative power that Kim speaks to in Sidewalk City when addressing the image+text topic in mapping.

With my interpretation, I would humanize the data by putting the tools in the hands of the user, placing the user and the data in the space, so they can experience it at human scale. I would create a performative cartography experience where users go to shadowed locations with a portable projector in hand and control projections of the visualized data about that space in situ, experiencing how the changing light affects the image’s display. 

Users would be directed to specific locations to project visuals based on that location and its shadows. The visibility of the image would ebb and flow with the light of the day, season, and street activity. So you might be learning about when a building was erected by projecting this data on the building itself while shifting shadows of current construction cranes interrupt this experience, encouraging you to reflect on the rhythmic relationship between structure, shadow, and human in city life.

Key to this experience is that layering of light on shadow on city surface and the interplay that arises as a metaphor for the patchwork quilting of the city itself. I want people to consider spaces that are constantly or never in shadow, partially or intermittently shadowed, why their rhythms are so, who occupies these spaces, etc.

Map Critique: Surveys and Grids

This is a map I found in an interview with Bill Rankin. It is a map of the Great Salt Lake as part of an exhaustive mapping project by the United States Geological Survey. It has a light pastel blue representing the water so you can easily make out the grid structure and the county borders. Rankin says in the interview the only way he can think of this map ever having practical use is if someone were to be murdered at sea at this exact spot and you need to sort out jurisdictional responsibilities.

But even though it is absolutely useless as a map of the Great Salt Lake, it is a really telling image of the USGS mapping system, something we’d usually oversee when using maps like these. In other words, it does not really map the lake as much as it maps the grid system as graphic mapping technique. To show you what I mean I recreated the map without the grid.

I hope you will let me get away with this monstrosity as my critical-creative application by arguing that it highlights the arbitrariness, hyperrationality and also the universality of the USGS system both as a technology of mapping and as an instrument of power. And also I want to briefly argue, using an argument form Bernhard Siegert (who we read a couple of weeks ago) and this week’s Peluso text, that Western Scientific mapping and the graphic technique of the grid is a colonial lens – one through which resource and territory emerge simultaneously.

There is more to these county lines. Last week our guest Amir Sheikh talked about the Public Land Survey System from the 18th century, for which surveyors walked the land, staking out square-mile blocks with survey stakes and recording in their field notes every detail about the land they could find. From tree species to rock types to soil hydrology. The brass on-the-ground survey stakes correspond to a grid overlay on the map, which is cross-referenced with the field notes. From this arose a knowledge system that prompted the transition of public land to private ownership. The land, now divided in one-mile sections and six section townships, was valued in part based on their now itemized inventories, beginning a shift from a system of land mapping to a system of resource mapping. This effectively set in motion a process of capitalization in which the rudimentary empirical process of perceiving and recording becomes a logic of accumulation when mediated through the technology of surveying.

We’ve seen in the short Latour text from a couple weeks ago how the accumulation of data on the Chinese island, and particularly the elevation of that data to universal knowledge by the Europeans, create a growing asymmetry between the cartographers-as-surveyors and the people living on that land.

For instance, in Nancy Lee Peluso’s text on the counter-mapping of forest in Indonesia, she shows the disputes between people and the government through the perceived differences in mapping techniques from which arise either customary claims to resource or ‘authorial claims’. She argues that the Indonesian government used Western scientific mapping as an “authoritative resource” to claim not only territory but, at the same time, also the rights to the resources that it holds. She argues that the process of mapping “almost forces the interpretation of customary rights to resources territorially, thereby changing both the claim and the representation of it from rights in trees, wildlife, or forest product to rights in land.” (388) Thus, what makes this system so dangerous is that it maps together territory and resource so that effectively they emerge simultaneously. When mapping techniques force the interpretation of land as monopoly over its resources it employs a language that is at the same time colonial and accumulative. So that is one reason I am skeptical about Peluso’s and Wickens Pearce (last week’s) belief in the appropriation of these techniques by indigenous people as ultimately emancipatory.

To get back to the grid as a graphic operation of mapping, it’s easy to see how the language of the grid is one of knowledge and power. Indeed, Bernhard Siegert argues that “as a cultural technique, the grid’s most salient feature is the ability to merge operations of representation with those of governance.” (97) This is an important point because discussions of these territorial disputes (relevant not only to Peluso’s case in Indonesia but much broader than that) are too often limited to a criticism of power discourse. John Pickles has argued this in a text we read a few weeks ago. A critique of the politics of representation of marginalized groups that often follows from this is by no means unimportant, but it also obscures the way in which technologies of mapping are biased towards certain types of understanding. When techniques of mapping are reduced to theories of power (Pickles 31), the map just becomes an extension of state power, and I feel that Peluso’s article hinges towards this view on mapping. I don’t think it’s enough to say that the map is only an instrument of state power but rather, as this USGS grid shows, it has its own logic that needs to be addressed.

Ironically, this piece of USGS map is already a parody of its own logic. When it fails to map something like this lake, it reveals its own arbitrariness. It doesn’t really need a countermap, because in a way it is a countermap in itself – even if it’s not intended. I just wanted to add my rendition to highlight that.

Map Critique: Undesign the Redline

Above: Image of large format map from the Undesign the Redline exhibit.

Link to full exhibit:

Map Critique: Undesign the Redline

Undesign the Redline is a multimedia, multilayered critical mapping and popular education project aimed at explaining and challenging the long-lasting impact of redlining, a 1930s discriminatory lending policy that led to systematic disinvestment from communities of color. Drawing on archival, cartographic, and participatory methods, the project created generative spaces for people to come together to learn about redlining and take action to undo structural inequalities and imagine a radically different future for their neighborhoods. For the purpose of this critique, I will focus my analysis on the cartographic elements of Undesign the Redline, although the project also includes non-cartographic components such as filmed interviews and timelines.

In the map pictured above, the map creators used an archival Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC) map of the Bronx as a base map to show what areas of the borough were “redlined.” In the 1930s, the HOLC, a federal agency created to facilitate homeownership through low-interest mortgage loans, drew maps of every major American city to assess lending “risk.” Any neighborhoods that contained more than 5% African-American residents were redlined, a policy that “explicitly devalue[d] areas based on race”. The map-makers made certain editorial choices to show the weight of redlining and how it set neighborhoods on a particular path that continues to have deep ramifications today. Firstly, the redlining map is used as a base map, which indicates that it is a starting point for the analysis presented. Secondly, the red box that contains the explanatory text about redlining immediately pops out to the viewer and establishes a clear visual hierarchy. Thirdly, the text above the map reiterates that the structural racism inherent in redlining maps has created conditions that “largely remain today.”

The map creators then layered the initial base map with subsequent harmful policies that have systematically and repeatedly dispossessed the residents of redlined communities, from urban renewal in the 1960s to mass incarceration today. By connecting redlining to other racialized practices such as blockbusting, a 1950s-real estate practice that hinged on the fear of the “invasion” of people of color into white space, the map shows how land value has been constructed to equate whiteness with profitability. The map and text work together to reveal how white supremacy has been baked into the materiality of the city through a pattern of discriminatory policies. Following Denis Wood’s framework, we can take a closer look at the map’s presentational codes and discursive tone to further unearth the purpose of the map and the response it aims to trigger. Here the dominant graphical elements are the repeated use of the color red, the bold, all-caps text, and strong statements regarding “structural racism.” The tone appears loud and agitated, inviting the map reader to feel a sense of alarm and crisis. Based on its content and graphic elements, we can conclude that the purpose of the map is twofold: 1) To expose the persistence of structural racism and classism over time and its impact on our urban environments 2) To make the viewer feel unsettled and to raise their consciousness on a critical and pressing issue.

The producers of the map are the team members of Designing the We, a social innovation design studio with a focus on community-driven social and economic development. Residents of the Bronx may have also have participated in creating this map. The booklet that describes the project states that part of creating the interactive exhibit involved “in-depth exploration of local history and context, including participatory action research with community members” (page 3). The “community members” are thus both the potential producers and receivers of the map – through the participatory research process, they unravel layers of policies and historical processes that have shaped their physical environment, and present their findings to fellow community members in a way that is powerful and agitating. The map serves both as a pedagogical and generative tool to stimulate critical discussions and a collective visioning process.

The map was presented to viewers as a large format, printed map as part of the Undesign the Redline exhibition. In contrast to digital maps that we interact with through web-platforms on a laptop or phone device on a detached, individual base, the size and materiality of this map confronts the viewer to reality in a way that is immersive and visceral. The exhibit as a whole is something to be moved through physically and to experience collectively in a shared space. The viewer thus encounters the map in a way that is embodied and experiential. The title of the exhibit, “Undesign the Redline,” indicates that the aim of the project is future- and action-oriented. The purpose is not only to learn about the root causes of urban inequality through an interactive exhibit, but to collectively identify ways to move forward and disrupt the course of history. The map provides a tool to nourish subsequent conversations and workshops to vision alternatives for community-driven development.

The map is thus radical in both content and process. Its content is radical because it exposes the power of maps to produce space around us, to define and inscribe what is deemed “good” and “bad,” to delineate borders and “risks” according to racialized stereotypes, to create pockets of accumulation and wealth while others are starved of resources and trapped in decaying cages of disinvestment. The material map – a document bound with ideology, aspirations, and prejudices – produces a material environment at a much broader scale. Undesign the Redline not only exposes but also defies the power of maps, by inviting community members to challenge the future that has been pre-determined for them. It is radical in its process because of its participatory nature: its attempts to connect people in a place, to raise consciousness and agitate, and to create a learning framework  that can be operationalized for transformative action.

My Critical-Creative Application:

Following the Undesign the Redline example, I wanted to draw on critical cartography techniques to spatialize and historicize urban planning policies that have displaced people over time in the Paris area.  To my knowledge, we do not have a public policy in French that is as blatantly racist as redlining, but Paris does have a pattern of systematic displacement of low-income and working-class communities to its periphery. These spatial strategies have not only facilitated capital accumulation, but also squashed potential threats from worker rebellions and anticolonial insurgencies. I wanted to show this pattern and its classist undertones. Starting in the 1850s, I tried to identify major urban renewal policies that have triggered displacement in the Paris area. Because I would like this to be an educational tool accessible to a wide audience that may not be “expert” in conventional cartography, I used hand-drawn illustrations as my “presentational mode.” I simplified the geography of Paris into a basic symbol (a circle with the river Seine running through it), and indicated government interventions and the resulting flows of displaced people through simple icons. Then, I layered the sequence of drawings that show change over time with archival photos and dates that point to key policies and moments of disruption in the urban fabric.

My prototype:  A Short History of Urban Renewal & Forced Displacement in Paris

Navigating New York Exhibition @ NY Transit Museum, 10/11 –

NY Transit Museum Website

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.

State Secrets + Satellites @ Eyebeam, October 25

EYEBEAM ASSEMBLY | INTERNAL USE ONLY, Hosted by Dhruv Mehrotra & Brendan C. Byrne


Website + RSVP

The longest amount of time any area in the continental United States has gone without an update in Google Earth was between 2008 to 2016. The gap lied in a dry lake bed in Southwestern Nevada located in the Tonopah Test Range, a subsection of the Nellis Test and Training Range, which is jointly owned by the Department of Energy and Air Force.

When Eyebeam Resident Dhruv Mehrotra and writer Brendan C. Byrne discovered this gap and realized they could purchase the rights to the satellite image themselves, they bought it in an attempt to push Google into completing its dataset. However, the purchase came with a set of its own restrictions within layers of legalese, which frustrated this initial intent while prompting an exploration into the most notable phrase that kept appearing: FOR INTERNAL USE ONLY.

What possibilities exist between the fine print, and can creative approaches help to locate grey areas, or loopholes to work within? Can abstraction or poetry obfuscate an original to the point of no longer being confined by a legal document? Where is that line and in how many ways can we collectively push upon the boundaries defined by “internal use?” What are the implications of state secrets and corporate censorship on artistic interpretation?

In an effort to interrogate these questions, Mehrotra and Byrne have commissioned a series of abstracted paintings of the satellite image by artist Sebastian Gladstone, and original poetry by Marvin Mayfield. During INTERNAL USE ONLY, these new works will be revealed and performed to an intimate audience of “internal users,” followed by conversations joined by Washington DC Bureau Chief of Yahoo News, Sharon Weinberger, and copyright lawyer Mark Bradford.

Instructions to become an “internal user” to follow.

Dhruv Mehrotra is an engineer whose work explores networks, conspiracy, politics and power. He is currently a resident at Eyebeam and a researcher at NYU.

Brendan C. Byrne’s criticism has appeared in Rhizome, The Intercept, and The Baffler. His fiction has appeared in Terraform, Big Echo, Flapperhouse, and Dark Mountain.

October 3 Cognitive Mapping Lab

Choose your mission:

  1. You are a government certification agency charged with ensuring that architectural design and urban planning are sensitive to the needs of (1) the agoraphobic (those who fear crowds and potential entrapment), (2) the misophonic (those who are triggered by particular sounds), or (3) the elderly and mobility -challenged. Explore a circumscribed environment: the University Center, the intersection of 5th Ave and 14th Street, or some other nearby location. You migth: note sites / passages / zones / etc that would not be appropriate for your constituents; and sketch out recommended circulation routes, work spots, socialization areas, etc., that might be particularly appealing to them. Your challenge is to create a means of cartographic communication that conveys the importance of these concerns to various stakeholders: activists, city administrators, planners, contractors, etc.
  2. Your international student-exchange group has just time-machined in from 40,000 BCE Eurasia. You can’t read, you’re not familiar with modern technology, and, honestly, all the conventions of urban living are pretty baffling to you. You’re Neanderthals — literally. How do you create a map to help your successors find their way from the Union Square subway to the University Center cafeteria?
  3. You’re nominating Union Square in a global competition for the Earth’s Happiest Places (…or “Safest Places,” or “Most Legible Places,” or “Most Inclusive Places”). You must include a map with your submission. How do you compellingly capture the Park’s superlative qualities?

As you create your maps, you might draw from today’s readings in considering:

  • What particular paths, edges, nodes, landmarks, districts, or other “species” of space might guide your constituents’ way, as they did for Lynch’s research participants?
  • How might your subjects’ navigation become a social activity, as it is for the Perfect City Working Group?
  • How might your constituents, like the Polynesian wayfinders, use the stars  — or some other architecturally-, infrastructurally-, or environmentally ingrained markers or cues — to find their way around? How might they rely on their own spatial memories?
  • Do they, like London’s black cab drivers, have strategies for finding the “shortest and most elegant line between points” or employing other navigational rubrics or schema?
  • How might your constituents denote those places best avoided? Why are certain sites, routes, or regions topoi non grata? What are the ethical implications of “blacklisting” particular terrains, and how can we grapple with those concerns through our cartographic codes and aesthetics?
  • What other strategies might folks employ to make the building or the larger terrain “imageable” and “legible”?

Try sketching out some rough maps representing your cartographic subject(s)’ “sense of place.” You might draw inspiration from Lynch’s maps, but you’re free to develop your own legends and visual language. Consider also integrating or adapting some of Lynch’s other methods – like photography and inventories – or inventing your own.

Resources re: Ecologies, Nature-Culture, Porosity, etc.

Many of your have proposed atlas projects examining Latourian networks of nature-culture, Anthropocenic landscapes, porous geographies and other hybrid spatial forms. I asked my friend and colleague Bobby Pietrusko — who teaches at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, and whose work we’ll be exploring during our “Deep Mapping” week in November — if he could recommend the work of a few designers engaged with hybrid landscapes. Here’s what he recommended:

Anu Mathur + Dilip Da Cuhna

Anuradha Mathur and Dilip da Cunha – Wetness Everywhere from GIDEST on Vimeo.

Nina Marie Lister + Chris Reed

Ecology and Design: Parallel Genealogies,” Places Journal (April 2014)

Projective Ecologies Lecture & Panel from PennDesign on Vimeo.

Bradley Cantrell + Justine Holzman

LAM Lecture 4: Bradley Cantrell, March 13, 2018 from ASLA on Vimeo.



CFP: Media Fields Journal: “At the Edge” – due 11/9

Media Fields Journal is excited to announce the call for papers for Issue #14: At the Edge. Please email submissions to by the newly extended deadline, November 9, 2018. For more information and submission guidelines, visit Media Fields.

While researching the Hells Angels in the 1960s, Hunter S. Thompson wrote, “The edge…there is no honest way to explain it because the only people who know where it is are the ones who have gone over.” Conceiving of the edge as both a site of orientation and a sharp drop-off, Thompson gestures towards its dual denotations: as “the line where an object begins or ends” and “the cutting side of a blade.” Thus, the edge can act both as a form of speculative orientation that provides boundaries or points of entry, and as a threshold that offers the possibility of “going over.”

As contemporary media scholarship continues to think through the proliferation of internet and screen cultures, their edges remain crucial to a comprehensive understanding. Scholars such as Adrian Mackenzie, Lisa Parks, and Mel Hogan have explored media technologies at or beyond their edges, asking how edge environments or experiences might alter their ‘typical’ use. Edward S. Casey writes that edges supply “a species of boundaries, that is, porous edges that take in as well as give out—in contrast to borders, which act to delimit institutions and concrete practices in the life-world.” Casey’s provocation suggests that studying media at the fringes or peripheries of society necessitates a discussion of the edges that construct their marginality. Additionally, edges establish relationalities between entities through their capacity to connect the nodes of distributed networks and complex systems. In this way, exploring media technologies and practices ‘at the edge’ can help locate imagined horizons and connections that inform the boundaries of identity, community, and globality.

Explicit academic engagement with the edge has thus far been situated in sociology, wherein ‘edgework’ came to be known as the study of risk-taking within recreational contexts. Stephen Lyng describes in the introduction to Edgework how leisure practices centered around risk are paradoxically treated as a form of individuality and resistance to a neoliberal society that itself demands economic and social precarity more and more often. Despite this paradox (or perhaps because of it), both individual and systemic risk—living on the edge—can be viewed as a means of exploring broad cultural spaces and their boundaries, such as those between safety and precarity, inclusion and exclusion, and life and death.

The edge as a heuristic thus brings together scholarly work on mediatized practices and spaces by examining exactly how their boundaries actively (re)imagine and (de)construct the dimensions of their existence. In consideration of the utility of the edge to rethink conceptualizations of spaces and boundaries, this issue of Media Fields Journal explores what happens ‘at the edge.’ We invite consideration of sites, works, practices, and systems via the constitution of the edge and its role as a permeable, although perhaps invisible, entity. We welcome work that attempts to locate
edges, and/or engages with the (potentially traumatic) experience of having ‘gone over.’ We further welcome attention to the sociological methodology of ‘edgework’ and how it might productively extend to media studies, perhaps involving industry norms of precarity and the never-ending quest for production on ‘the cutting edge.’

Dimensions of media ‘at the edge’ might include (but are not limited to):

  • Cinematic/Televisual Concerns: Elimination of the visual/sonic edge via wider screens, surround sound, 3-D enhancement, etc.; consumption of the image in edge spaces; representations of ‘going over the edge.’
  • Computational Concerns: Edges and nodes; edges as active and mediating sites; the edges of interfaces or platforms such as the Samsung Galaxy Edge or Microsoft Edge; imagined digital spaces and boundaries.
  • Environmental Concerns: Edges of communities, societies, and/or shared identities; mediating territorial edges; ecological impacts of edgeless or wireless media; media in edge environments such as data centers, server farms, media waste, etc.; edges of technological reach and possibility.
  • Experiential Concerns: Immersive media: virtual reality, augmented reality, and the quest for ‘edgelessness;’ risk-taking individuals and practices as a cultural tradition or rebellion; technologies that mediate risk experiences; sexual practices of ‘edging.’
  • Industrial Concerns: Precarity of media labor and innovation
    practices; economic motivations to produce on ‘the cutting edge;’ speculative horizons of media.

For any inquiries, please contact issue co-editors Jeremy Moore ( and Nicole Strobel (

9/12 In-Class Map Critique

For today’s lab, we’ll break everyone into groups of three(-ish); ask you to review the following list of choices and choose one map to analyze; then give you roughly a half-hour to explore your chosen map, and perhaps do a little background research to find out how it was created, by whom, what their intentions were, how it’s been received by its intended audiences/user groups, etc. Ultimately, you’ll apply some of the evaluative criteria we discussed in the first half of class (you can access the presentation here). We’ll then reconvene and share what we’ve discovered.

Here are your eight options:


A Bear’s Eye-View of Yellowstone: a map-embedded multimedia presentation follows one bear, with a camera around its neck, through Yellowstone. How does a bear experience the world? How does it situate itself within space?


The Center for Spatial Research’s Citi Bike Rebalancing Study: studying Citi Bike use patterns and redistribution options in the hopes of evening out the bike-share geography.




“We believe in a world where all seven billion of us can belong anywhere, #OneLessStranger at a time.” Ahhhh. Touching. Explore AirBNB’s “A World of Belonging” map, including the introductory extravaganza.


Columbia’s Center for Spatial Research has an interactive called We Can that features the people who collect cans in the city and follows each them through their daily journeys.


With all recent legislation about gerrymandering, stats website FiveThirtyEight has made available a tool called The Atlas of Redistricting that “fixes” all those crazy Congressional districts… and there’s a fix for everyone.


The Guardian was covering this summer’s Thailand cave rescue from the breaking of the story to the boys’ eventual rescue, and they used different maps and representations alongside their text to tell the world about it.



The construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline and the ensuing protests were in the news two years ago, as the new underground crude oil pipe posed (and now that it’s up and running, continues to pose) a threat to the culturally significant indigenous lands it crosses through, as well as to the quality of the water supply in four states. This New York Times story covers the pipeline tip to tip.

For another perspective, contrast the journalists’ map above with the one published on a website owned by Energy Transfer Partners, the builders of the pipeline.


Taking data from the UN Human Rights Commission, this map from The Refugee Project shows flows of refugees from country to country over time. Read the story before you get to the map, where each country gets its own treatment accessible as a text drop-down on the left.



Writing Opportunity: Submit Your Work to Territory!

Territory is a literary project about territories and the maps that will always fail to capture them. It’s about the naive dream of objectivity, and how we use the act of representation to both hide and broadcast our subjectivities.

The map has a specific allure. It reduces the complexity of the world to a manageable space, and suggests distant lands are not so distant. In this miniaturized space, it’s easy to envision an entire world. Perhaps too easy—maps often destroy through their creation. They are a barbaric art, or an art used for politics and propaganda.

This is why maps are instruments of both progress and regress. They inspire and enable discovery, but also conquest and colonization. They tell some histories while denying others. They both reveal and conceal the spaces they circumscribe. The map is not the territory, surely, but then why is our world built on so many getting this so wrong?

Territory wants to understand these paradoxes by understanding the maps that inspire them. We invite writers, musicians, and other artists to respond to maps and the fallacies they engender, in turn creating secondary maps. We then present these two maps side-by-side as a means of getting at, but still failing to capture, the underlying territory. We are building an atlas knowing it will be a reduction, an anachronism, a distortion. But we build it anyway.

They’ve issued calls for submisions for three upcoming issues:

10 – Extremes
11 – Twins
12 – Alaska

Some other mapping sources

California Updates, from Anton Thomas,

NACIS, the North American Cartographic Information Society, has an annual meeting where map nerds talk shop and share projects.

The description of presentations from past meetings are all here (select a block of time and the detailed description will show), and they post video of the talks. Some of the presentations are very technical (I developed this command line tool to help make some changes to a geojson file and let me tell you how you can use it), some about process (we are developing maps for outdoor displays at the National Park Service, here are some things we needed to consider), and some about projects that were as much art projects as anything else.

A few talks that I think show the breadth of projects people presented last year (and might be interesting to folks as we start this class) are Aaron Cope (then with the late lamented Mapzen) and Anton Thomas (who hand draws maps of continents) and the lightning talk segment that included both Joel Radunzel talking about what can be read from daily updated maps during a WWI battle and Geraldine Sarmiento’s Morphology project, looking at the shapes of certain things in digital maps, all the railroad lines or all the airports.

This was mostly a group of people who make maps every day, but also who spend a lot of time thinking about how to do so and why to do so in one way or another.

If You Missed Our First Day

Every semester a few students have to miss our first class for any of a number of reasons — because of travel or visa complications, because they’ve added the class after our first meeting, etc. If you’re among those who’ll be joining us late, I encourage you to take a half-hour to look through all the pages on this website:

  • You’ll find the course description and numbers and my contact info on the About the Class page.
  • I describe all of our readings and other resources, and how to access them, on the Resources page.
  • On the Requirements and Assignments page, I list all of your responsibilities: your expectations for attendance and engagement; your reading responses (only two! please don’t wait until the end!); your map critique (you’ll choose a date for your presentation within the next couple weeks), and your final, an atlas (broadly conceived!).
  • Please review our Policies + Procedures, too.
  • In the Schedule + Readings section, you’ll find a separate “block” for each day of our semester. All the texts listed under a particular date are to be read for that class. Again, for more context on how these texts were chosen, see the Resources page.
  • You’ll also find that on each day’s page within the Schedule + Readings section, I’ll post my slides and any other learning materials we use in class each day. Since you will miss — or have missed — our first class, please review the slides and any other materials I post on our August 29 page. I’ll post each week’s materials before class begins — i.e., by 4pm on Wednesdays.

We look forward to meeting you on Week 2! Please come to class having read all the texts listed on our September 5 page, and having contributed a map to our collaborative slideshow. You’ll find comprehensive instructions on the 9/5 page.

Image: Ingrid Burrington’s Missed Connections project [more here]