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fadaiat 233

starlight and secrets; a short talk

about maps and their uses (1)
brian holmes

Basically I'm going to treat cartography as the perception of the outside world to an inside
art of finding something. Finding a place, the world. And this inside world contains many dif-
place you're looking for, finding people, either ferent things: your past, what's facing you now
people you don't know, maybe even your ene- and the things you're trying to achieve, also
mies, or let's be optimistic, your friends, per- the knowledge and experiences you have as an
haps even familiar people living right next door, individual or a group. It includes your capaci-
but unknown to you in some important way. So ties, the specific skills that you bring to the
what I'm talking about is cartography as the art endeavor, and the psychological processes that
of bringing people together, or as the art of fin- unfold during the creation of this mental map,
ding yourself in a reality shared with others. how it's structured, how you decide to organize
This is the most interesting part of the carto- the elements of perception in order to obtain
graphic act, the possibility of finding shared something useful, in order to locate some place
territories, and the need to think about the or to find somebody, in order to create this way
material and symbolic forms that can make of finding people on a common territory.
such meetings possible.
Then there is another phase which goes from
To speak about this I will draw on something a the contents of the cartographer's mind to the
bit abstract, a diagram made by the cartogra- translation into cartographic language, and this
pher Kolácny in 1969, where instead of talking is clearly the key point, because you have to
about the technique of mapmaking he descri- move from some kind of inner magma, a mental
bes maps as acts of communication. Thus the map or imaginary vision, to a symbolic language
title, Communication of Cartographic that can represent everything in a schematic
Information. The thing I find fabulous is that form, because that's what we always do with
Kolácny begins with reality: there is a first cir- maps, schematize. Cartographic language is
cle designated reality, and inside it there's a made up, for example, of the lines that mark off
second circle which marks off the cartographe- the difference between the land and the sea, the
r's reality. The first point that he wants to make borders that mark the limits of cities or different
is that reality is in fact going to be reality as kinds of territories, the patches of color that can
perceived by the cartographer, the reality to represent different population densities, or
which the cartographer has access, the reality forested areas, etc., and then also the icons
she can see, smell, touch, hear and feel, and that show the emplacement of specific featu-
that she will then try to tell about, to express. res: infrastructure, maybe buildings, etc. These
Next on the left there is a thick black arrow are elements of cartographic language. And the
with a text that says observation selected with elements that are ultimately chosen and the way
a view to creation. From the reality that we they are composed form what Kolácny calls the
see, that we perceive, that we partially unders- phase of objectification. The mind is left behind,
tand, we select certain elements that we want the mental processes are left behind, and the
to represent, and this process leads us to a lit- psychological and intellectual part is converted
tle box which is curiously entitled contents of entirely into an object: the map.
the cartographer's mind. This means that the Now these lines, these colors, this written infor-
filter through which reality will be constructed mation, what's it all trying to say? To unders-
on the map is the contents of the mapmaker's tand it we have to generate a process of deci-
mind, the way she understands reality. Each phering, of decoding, we have to translate it
cartographer has a specific perception of rea- once again into a mental map. And through this
lity, but before beginning to work she has to process the readers of the map are able to
create a mental map, she has to adjust the integrate the information into the contents of
reality she perceives to all the other things she their minds. From the mapmaker's viewpoint
knows about the world, she has to adjust the these are obviously the places where errors

234 starlight and secrets; a short talk about maps and their uses

occur, the moments when the map can fail. grapher's mind back to the cartographer's rea-
Because if the reader is not able to integrate lity, because he knows that the very reality the
the symbolic language of the mapmaker into cartographer perceives is already transformed
her mental map, into something familiar, some- by utopia and fear, by the imaginary ideas of
thing that can be used to navigate through what could be and the objective ideas of what
known and unknown spaces, if the reader is is, which in both cases include things that are
not able to reconstruct this map, then the map- invisible. And for this reason the process of
maker can only consider that it's mistaken, it's choosing symbols, of deciding what kind of lan-
erroneous, it's a failure. People have to be able guage will be used in the maps, is vitally
to follow the codifications back to reality, they important. Because on the far side of the map
should be able to cross through this zone. we have to communicate with people who also
Because the function of the map is to get you see the world through an imaginary filter,
where you want to go, to help you find the per- through hope and fear, also through their inte-
son you want to meet. And in a larger way, the llectual skills, the kinds of symbols they are
function of the map is to bring you to a shared used to dealing with, and the kinds of symbols
reality, a reality where you can act together that are lacking in their lives. So to think about
because you have created a shared understan- the people who are going to read the map, and
ding of the territory you're inhabiting, the the way they are going to use it, what their
country where you're living, the conditions hopes and fears may be, is fundamental if you
under which you meet, and so on. want to communicate to people where you
want to go, the reality you want to share. For
Maps work with imaginary elements and with me, when we crossed the Straits the other day,
hidden elements, they have to do with the sky it was very intriguing because clearly, when we
above and also what's beneath our feet. They got to the other side, we could immediately
deal with utopia, with your vision of the future, realize that the Moroccans don't see the world
and also with fear, with the problems you face the way we do, we don't see the same reality.
in the present. Let's say they're fundamentally The invisible things are absolutely not the same
involved with the stars and the underworld, with in Morocco, for example, a certain kind of
destiny and death. It's important to take this authority and regime that make up the figure
into account, because when you introduce these of power, which is quite different from what we
elements into a map you set off a very deep have here. But the hopes are also quite diffe-
and strong kind of communication. It's a matter rent, and it would be important to know much
of trying to share utopia, which is really the more about them. It's curious that one of the
place you want to reach, although it's not a groups working in Morocco is called Rafts for
specific spot on the earth but rather how it's Life, because what they want is not to go off to
going to evolve, the place we'll meet next year, die at sea, but to stay right where they are and
or five or ten years into the future. This is what live; but it's clear that this is a group of people
we look for, we look up at the stars trying to who have the possibility to make something
read our destiny. And all that can in fact be happen in Morocco, and so they are quite diffe-
written on a map, in the ways you use the rent from those who do in effect get on the
colors, the figures, the lines, how you draw the rafts to cross the Straits.
icons. Each person will fill their maps with all
kinds of utopias, but also with all kinds of fears, The point being that if there's a possibility to
in the attempt to communicate the things we make mistakes in this phase of deciphering the
can't see. For example, the map of the Straits maps, and therefore a chance that you might
tries primarily to represent what can't be seen, not end up in a place where the mapmaker's
the militarization of the territory, but also the and the map-reader's realities coincide, that
cooperative potential of the multitudes. just means there are always reasons to go on
talking with people, imagining other icons and
This need to consider what's in the sky above other patches of color, until we find a territory
and the earth below is fundamental, and that we can really share.
Kolácny knows it. That's why he draws a lighter
arrow that goes from the contents of the carto-

(1) A talk of Brian Holmes -member of Bureau d'Etudes- about the posibility
of finding a common place of action through the maps.

fadaiat 235

PGS versus GPS: on psycho/subjective geographic systems (1)

elpueblodechina & yves degoyon

Looking back on several generations of map- system based on market values, incorporated
ping tools and projects, related in particular to to its own logic that is permanently trying to
the locative media trend, still we feel that some renovate itself at various levels, through consu-
levels of representation are missing in most of mer profiles and consumption habits for instan-
the maps that can be produced. We are inte- ce. GPS maps may evolve into futuristic profiles
rested in locating collectives and the activity of of a consumer picking up locations in the globe
the multitude rather than into locating indivi- to experience satellite vision and ultimately
dualistic practices. We suspect that the logic satellite shopping.
under which some geospecific mapping projects
are developed is the logic of the market in its If I track you, spot you, I can control you.
propagation of self referent narratives. MapOmatix is a tool for chameleons. It is about
collaborative imagination, a map that draws a
A subjective positioning system would be deve- tissue of human practices, an active map in this
loped after working on questions such as what sense, since it empowers the activity of collecti-
is the meaning of location when the activities ves. It is giving them a location, in some way a
that are mapped are constituted by human precious materiality and an affirmation to their
practices? Some inmaterial entities are missing precarious activity. People reinventing the city,
in the mapping of human activities, for exam- reinventing cartography and geographical loca-
ple, how can you trace the influence of a writer tion (AutonomiAerea, map organised by
in a network of conversations? When trying to in Barcelona:
give location to the inmaterial, ephemeral, dis-
tributed and non objective nature of for instan- bin/
ce, human labor, human play and civil participa- Some can say, they are mental maps or imagi-
tion, it seems that all monitoring-based systems nary maps...
will fail in locating the subjective nature of flows
of human activity and the processes involved. However, the aims of many groups working on
psychogeography are not on the direction of
Tracking technologies are insufficient to descri- creating new imaginary consumption items,
be inmateriality. If the description of territories more so on fighting back consumption models
is only based on geographical data (GPS), how based on the repetition of self referent narrati-
can we draw a clear picture of human actions, ves that constitute the magic of goods. These
history and struggles? How can maps be made collectives are attractive because they plot rein-
to represent the inmaterial labor of such people ventions in the optic of potlatch pursuing
who cannot afford expensive technology when encounters or meetings encouraged by civil
the techno-positivist approach to cartography is participation and no other commodified gain.
the only one proposed? (GPS could have been
used for instance for going to the desert to The logic of identification walks tightly along
help african immigrants, but these devices were the narrative of war, a subject/object as the
too expensive). target for a gun machine. And war goes along
another logic, that of the powerful, the rich and
In the GPS sense you cannot locate the origin the right.
of a social struggle.
The mapping of subjective activity, that of a
human being acting in her ecology is to be per-
1. PGS VS GPS (I DON'T WANT TO BE formed in a subjective way. This way may be
psychogeographic, derived from the psychologi-
cal perception of places. Mapomatix in this
If independent practices work under a paradigm
sense preserves the subjective nature of what it
of identification they will be swallowed by a

236 PGS versus GPS: on psycho/subjective geographic systems

is mapping and simultaneously becomes a tions, geographical accuracy just doesn't make
nomadic artifact that is a platform for collabora- sense.
tive activity. As a platform it gives materiality to MapOMatix is not centralized and does not
other nomadic agencies. Mapomatix is a Psycho apply any access restrictions to privileged
Geographic System (PGS), its nomadic nature users: The feed of informations comes from the
gives presence to distributed counteraction. actors of the self-organized group, not from a
centralized and privileged data feed. We would
refuse to enter data automatically using a brid-
2. MAPOMATIX AS A GEO-WIKI, ge to a centralized system (satellite or gis
MapOMatix does not require any expensive
In the times of real-time fear watching, when technologies: Another refusal is to let mapping
centralized and controled instances deliver loca- techniques in the hands of high-tech users, pri-
lized and time-stamped information, based on vileged holders of up-to-date gadgets. Every
satellite data but processed through a chain piece of data located on the map can be uploa-
controlled by big telecomunication companies, ded using the web interface, all other ways of
a need for a tool based on the exact negation providing data to the system (through GPS
of these characteristics seems useful and draws telephones, PDAs ) would be easy to achieve
a line between service providers and self-orga- but the need for it is still to be debated. From
nised groups of individuals. its inception and in the context where it was
conceived (the border conflicts in the Straits of
MapOMatix is not real-time: every piece of Gibraltar), the need for expensive technologies
information entered into the system can be has always been perceived as a restriction of
located at a precise time on the time scale. many existing systems.
MapOMatix, in this sense is a geo-wiki where
the state of each map at a given moment can All these choices of implementation are based
be recalled at any time, enabling people to on a philosophy of bringing collaborative tools
visualize the state of a conflict or a territory at to social networks, all shareable and open-
a given date, keeping the history and the source. From the very beginning, all MapOMatix
memory of all actions performed through time. code is available on Source Forge
Used in this way, it also reveals itself as a tool ( By many aspects, it
for the collective memory. is a continuation of former projects of free
media hactivists groups, in that case of the al-
MapOMatix does not guarantee any accuracy: jwarizmi versus CNN (http://www.hackitectu-
the perception of events, place and space is and gollum/gis projects
relative to each individual, each one using her ( MapOMatix is
own subjectivity to describe her perception of part of a wider project of free and uncontroleld
territories. In some contexts (like repression tools for the multitude, one very important fea-
against immigration floods in Marroco, some ture is that these tools can be entirely contro-
accuracy is needed, but this accuracy is left to lled by their users. they are built in a logic of
the people uploading their informations to the nodes and networks, where there's no centrali-
maps. In some other contexts, like elaborating zed database.
a map of control structures or human organisa-

(1) The full version of this text can be found at http://mapomatix.sourcefor-