You are here Modern cartography helps us map out our interconnectedness By Julie Nixon Maps have long

been a valuable part of the story of humankind. Interestingly, one of the oldest known maps is not of the earth, but of the heavens. Consisting of dots scraped into a stone wall at the Lascaux caves in France, this ancient “map” represents a portion of the night sky: the stars Vega, Deneb and Altair, and the open cluster of Pleiades. This ordinary sketch from 16,500 BC was the genesis of a curious phenomenon: nearly all maps ever created have been drawn using this linear spatial direction, looking straight down from the sky. When we think of a “map”, most of us likely visualize this nonrealistic geographical representation of an area, with places and objects labelled. Maps created with a horizontal or oblique perspective, or even some other dimension, are somewhat unusual. Although traditionally a tool used to diagram spatial information, artists and scientists have begun investigating other ways, often very creative ways, to arrange data. From then to now, the motivations have been similar, but the agencies are vastly different. With liberal access to information via the Internet and an endless selection of digital tools currently available, dynamic mapmaking by virtually everyone has taken the cartography world by storm. Mapmaking has become extremely accessible to all kinds of people. Moving away from the realm of academia and into the space of art, emotion and curiosity, maps are stimulating new ways of making sense of our communities and our society, in a much broader and more sensitive way. Maps are reasonably subjective as well — a kind of self-portrait influenced by the experiences and imagination of the mapmaker. And when we utilize artistic forms of mapmaking, we enhance our own metacognition — learning about ourselves, our values and our perceptions. Through maps we are given the opportunity to find connections between “things, place and complex concepts together in a graphic image full of information and beauty,” writes Sheila Harrington in the book Islands in the Salish Sea: A Community Atlas (TouchWood Editions, 2005). “Maps reveal what connects us and what divides us.” Conventional maps recorded the details of where people lived; now maps reveal how people live. A little research into modern cartography uncovers many types of maps with diverse approaches: cartograms or anamorphic maps (where area is replaced with an alternate thematic variable and the map space or geometry is reshaped or rescaled to express this information), geopictorial maps (artistic, often cartoonlike 3D or flat map illustrated with buildings and animals, most often used for tourist maps), neogeography (for example, geotagging your photos from a road trip using an online program like flickr), infographics (conceptual information mapped visually, not spatially), memory maps (drawing maps from memory), barefoot mapping, green mapping. As “subversive cartographies”, these maps present alternative viewpoints that effectively unsettle the established order. “Maps are no longer cast as mirrors of reality, instead they are increasingly conceived as diverse ways of thinking, perceiving and representing space and place which express values, world-views and emotions. Maps are no longer part of an elite discourse: they can empower, mystify, and enchant”, write Chris Perkins and Jörn Seemann (call for papers for the 2008 Association of American Geographers meeting, “Subversive Cartographies for Social Change”). More than ever before, subversive mapping has an agency that can exist apart from conventional cartography, and even challenge it. One of the biggest trends in subversive cartography is known as “asset mapping”, which “involves documenting the tangible and intangible resources of a community, viewing it as a place with assets to be preserved and enhanced, not deficits to be remedied” (“Community Asset Mapping: Trends and Issues Alert” no. 47; by Sandra Kerka, 2003). Community-based mapping is experiencing huge growth all over the world. A local pioneer of community mapmaking, geographer Dr. Briony Penn has run mapping workshops for the past 15 years, helping to “train the trainers” — giving them the tools and knowledge to map their own home places, and to discover the social, ecological, historical and economic assets of their communities. “That’s the whole point: connecting people to their place,” says Penn. There is a natural human

that’s our goal. It’s the democratization of mapmaking.” writes Penn. ubiquitous advertising and great force of consumerism. with awareness and openness. developing the links between people. builds trust. cataloguing their observations with drawings and short text. Penn agrees. iSee. Traditional mapmaking techniques are manipulated in order to advocate or shape an argument and present powerful information. Radical cartography is a powerful tool and a voice for people to catalyze symbolic resistance to established media. and sharing with others the parts of it that are meaningful to each of us. “We can only judge the value of any one part when we come to know it intimately. 2007). People literally lose a part of themselves with our society’s 9-to-5 pace. knowledge and experience — all the while sharing an understanding of how important it is to protect our land. An Atlas of Radical Cartography). “The often absurdly circuitous routes became sources of both humor and reflection on the changing urban landscape” (from “Tactical Cartographies”. Many artists are turning mapping inside out and upside down. art and activism. geography. is an interactive online map that helps users build “routes of least surveillance”. Before natural history became serious scientific study. Many community mappers are essentially 21st-century naturalists. “The map locates accurately on land those places we value. The Journal of Aesthetics Protest Press.” Common Ground and the university have been developing a strong partnership in order to get more communities and people involved in community mapping.” says Lydon. ordinary people who are concerned with a higher understanding of the natural world and how to conserve it. the New York Civil Liberties Union and the Surveillance Camera Players started cataloguing the cameras’ locations. Locally. government and societal norms. naturalists were more interested in “observation rather than experiment. founder of the organization and current Director at the Office of Community-Based Research at the University of Victoria. And words alone tell only a small part of the story”. empathy and relationships. or for finding new ways of looking at themselves or the world around them. it’s both a “practical and metaphorical” way of analyzing why we’re seeing a resurgence of mapmaking. referring to how community maps created at the grassroots level are increasing being used in planning and community development at a municipal level. Not all subversive cartography artworks aim towards activism. And since maps have often been used for people who are lost. because they have different values. Maeve Lydon. public discourse by concerned citizens could take place. putting it in the hands of people and communities. and presented [their work] in popular rather than academic form” (Apple Dictionary). writes author Sheila Harrington. Early naturalists simply observed and studied the world around them. . After New York City began installing surveillance cameras in Lower Manhattan. Ultimately. There’s much buzz around the potential in this realm of mapmaking. Another growing trend. while providing some space on the paper to wax and paint poetically what those values are. Radical cartographers become “authors of spatial narrative” that confront power and “set the rules of debate” for political.” observes Penn. As well. the Common Ground Community Mapping Project works as facilitator to provide mapping services and learning resources to community groups and schools. There is definitely a motivation of advocacy thinly veiled within the desire to create maps. So this is kind of like using mapping to claim sovereignty over beauty. created by the Institute for Applied Autonomy. economic and social issues (An Atlas of Radical Cartography. as well as our talents. steering clear of as many cameras as possible. In this age of increasing land-use conflicts. says that “visioning” is a powerful and “inexpensive tool for getting all ages involved in planning. . “People are really using maps to find themselves again. and challenges assumptions and breaks down stereotypes. Research revealed two projects in particular that are landmarks of ingenuity. with the debate on the right to privacy unlocked. .” But really it’s about celebrating home places. “radical cartography” bridges the gap between cartography. simply for the joy of creation. plants and people. Community mapping reveals a re-awakening of this exploration and enthusiasm to know local animals. “We what it to be a tool for planning for the region. “Maps have always been controlled by the people who held power .impulse to feel connected to land and other people. these is a renaissance of mapping to mark places of exquisite value in the hopes of saving them. emotions and experiences through participatory mapping enhances the quality of a neighbourhood. in all its dimensions.

realize our interconnectedness. .Artist Stefanie Posavec recently exhibited her work called On the Map.wordpress. as a society. which examines Kerouac’s On the Road in an entirely different way. a “collaborative.net. people who are turning this universal tool into what Penn calls an “instrument of love”. Of all the maps Julie Nixon has come across in the past year of a feverish fascination in all forms of cartography. she’s been most captivated by the stunning infographics of artist Stefanie Posavec. including the following links: Common Ground Community Mapping Project: commongroundproject. “We have to.org. and Sound Transit: soundtransit. senior editor of NotCot. noting themes and patterns — “not unlike that of a surveyor”. She then “mapped” her prosodic findings into a visual representation of “rhythm and structure” of language within the literary space.” Hear hear. says Justine Aw. Users can plan a “sonic journey” from A to B. As Penn emphasizes so succinctly. Cartography has found its way back into the hands of the people.com. And as more people use this instrument. Sound Transit.nl. The Internet welcomes explorers to a whole new world of mapping. and the site builds an aural itinerary in mp3 format. The maps are beautiful graphical portraits of text like you’ve never seen before. Strange Maps: strangemaps. It’s a distinct and remarkable method of mapmaking that diversifies our experiences and perceptions of space and time. online community dedicated to field recording and phonography”. Bio-Mapping: biomapping. contains a library of recorded sounds from cities all over the world. the hope is that we’ll come to better understand where we are and where we’re headed. Posavec carefully combed through the text. counting words and sentences.ca.

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