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Rethinking Maps

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In this paper we argue that cartography is profitably conceived as a processual, rather than representational, science. Building on recent analysis concerning the philosophical underpinnings of cartography we question the ontological security of maps, contending that it is productive to rethink cartography as ontogenetic in nature; that is maps emerge through practices and have no secure ontological status. Drawing on the concepts of transduction and technicity we contend that maps are of-the-moment, brought into being through practices (embodied, social, technical); that mapping is a process of constant reterritorialization. Maps are never fully formed and their work is never complete. Maps are transitory and fleeting, being contingent, relational and context-dependent; they are always mappings; spatial practices enacted to solve relational problems (eg, how best to create a spatial representation, how to understand a spatial distribution, how to get between A and B, and so on). Such a rethinking, we contend, provides a fresh perspective on cartographic epistemology, and could work to provide a common framework for those who undertake mapping as applied knowledge (asking technical questions) and those that seek to critique such mapping as a form of power/knowledge (asking ideological questions). We illustrate our argument through an analysis of mapping practices.
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Progress in Human Geography
DOI: 10.1177/0309132507077082
2007; 31; 331 Prog Hum Geogr
Rob Kitchin and Martin Dodge
Rethinking maps
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Progress in Human Geography 31(3) (2007) pp. 331–344
© 2007 SAGE Publications DOI: 10.1177/0309132507077082
I Cartography’s ontological crisis
Maps have long been seen as objective, neutral
products of science. Cartography is the means
by which the surface of the earth is repre-
sented as faithfully as possible. The skill of the
cartographer is to capture and portray relevant
features accurately. Cartography as an aca-
demic and scientific pursuit then largely con-
sists of theorizing how best to represent spatial
data (through new devices, eg, choropleth
maps, contour lines; through the use of colour;
through ways that match how people think, eg,
drawing on cognitive science; and so on). In
the latter part of the twentieth century, the
science of cartography was influenced deeply
by Arthur Robinson. He recast cartography,
focusing in particular on systematically detail-
ing map design principles with the map user in
mind. His aim was to produce what he termed
‘map effectiveness’– that is, maps that capture
and portray relevant information in a way that
the map reader can analyse and interpret
(Robinson et al., 1995). Since the mid-1980s
this particular view of cartography has been
Rethinking maps
Rob Kitchin1* and Martin Dodge2
1NIRSA and Department of Geography, National University of Ireland,
Maynooth, Co. Kildare, Ireland
2Department of Geography, University of Manchester, UK
Abstract: In this paper we argue that cartography is profitably conceived as a processual, rather
than representational, science. Building on recent analysis concerning the philosophical
underpinnings of cartography we question the ontological security of maps, contending that it is
productive to rethink cartography as ontogenetic in nature; that is maps emerge through practices
and have no secure ontological status. Drawing on the concepts of transduction and technicity we
contend that maps are of-the-moment, brought into being through practices (embodied, social,
technical); that mapping is a process of constant reterritorialization. Maps are never fully formed
and their work is never complete. Maps are transitory and fleeting, being contingent, relational and
context-dependent; they are always mappings; spatial practices enacted to solve relational
problems (eg, how best to create a spatial representation, how to understand a spatial distribution,
how to get between A and B, and so on). Such a rethinking, we contend, provides a fresh
perspective on cartographic epistemology, and could work to provide a common framework for
those who undertake mapping as applied knowledge (asking technical questions) and those that
seek to critique such mapping as a form of power/knowledge (asking ideological questions). We
illustrate our argument through an analysis of mapping practices.
Key words: cartography, maps, ontogenesis, ontology, practice.
*Author for correspondence. Email: rob.kitchin@nuim.ie
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under challenge. On the one side have been
other ‘scientific’ cartographers seeking to
replace Robinson’s model with one more
rooted in cognitive science (eg, MacEachren,
1995) or visualization principles (eg, Antle
and Klinkenberg, 1999); on the other have been
critical cartographers who, drawing on critical
social theory, have questioned the rationale
and principles of cartography, but often
have little say about the technical aspects
of how to create a map or how maps work
(Crampton, 2003).
Focusing on the latter, in his now classic
analysis, Brian Harley (1989) drew on the
ideas of Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida
to argue that the process of mapping was not
a neutral, objective pursuit but rather was one
laden with power. He contended that the pro-
cess of mapping consists of creating, rather
than simply revealing, knowledge. In the pro-
cess of creation many subjective decisions are
made about what to include, how the map will
look, and what the map is seeking to commu-
nicate (MacEachren, 1995; Monmonier, 1996).
As such, Harley noted, maps are imbued with
the values and judgements of the individuals
who construct them and they are undeniably
a reflection of the culture in which those indi-
viduals live. Maps are thus the product of priv-
ileged and formalized knowledges and they
also produce knowledge about the world.
And, in this sense, maps are the products of
power and they produce power. In contrast to
the scientific view that positions maps in
essentialist terms, Harley cast maps as social
constructions; as expressions of power/
knowledge. Others, such as Denis Wood
(1992), Mark Monmonier (1996), John Pickles
(2004), and ourselves (Dodge and Kitchin,
2000) have extensively demonstrated this
power/knowledge revealing the ideology
inherent in maps (or their ‘second text’) and
how maps ‘lie’ (or at least provide selective
stories) due to the choices and decisions that
have to be made during their creation, and
through how they are read by users.
In the 1990s, similar criticisms were levelled
at geographical information systems (GIS). In
the provocative book Ground truth (Pickles,
1995), a number of authors applied Harley’s
ideas to GIS to argue that the ‘positivistic’
claims of GIScience were hollow; that despite
the claims to ‘god-like’ positionality and the
neutrality of products GIS was a situated and
valued-laden pursuit. In combination, the
application of critical theory to cartography
and GIS has produced the fields of ‘critical
cartography’ and ‘critical GIS’, respectively
(see Harris and Harrower, 2006).
As Denis Wood (1993) and Jeremy
Crampton (2003) outline, however, Harley’s
application of Foucault to cartography, and
therefore nearly all critical cartography that
follows, is limited. Harley’s observations, while
opening a new view onto cartography,
stopped short of following Foucault’s line of
inquiry to its logical conclusion. Instead,
Crampton argues that Harley’s writings
‘remained mired in the modernist conception
of maps as documents charged with ‘confess-
ing’ the truth of the landscape’ (p. 7). In other
words, Harley believed that the truth of the
landscape could still be revealed if we took
account of the ideology inherent in the repre-
sentation. The problem was not the map per
se, but ‘the bad things people did with maps’
(Wood, 1993: 50, original emphasis). Harley’s
strategy was to identify the politics of repre-
sentation in order to circumnavigate them (to
reveal the truth lurking underneath), not fully
appreciating, as with Foucault’s observations,
that there is no escaping the entangling of
power/knowledge. Another strategy to address
the crisis of representation has been the pro-
duction and valuing of counter mappings –
maps made by diverse interests that provide
alternative viewpoints to state-sanctioned and
commercial cartography (Wood, 1992).
Again, this strategy does not challenge the
ontological status of the map; rather it simply
reveals the politics of mapping.
Crampton’s (2003) solution to the limita-
tions of Harley’s and Wood’s strategies is to
extend the use of Foucault and to draw on the
ideas of Heidegger and other critical cartogra-
phers such as Matthew Edney (1993). In short,
332 Progress in Human Geography 31(3)
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Crampton outlines a ‘non-confessional under-
standing of spatial representation’ wherein
maps instead of ‘being interpreted as objects at
a distance from the world, regarding that world
from nowhere, that they be understood as
being in the world, as open to the disclosure of
things’ (p. 7). Such a shift, Crampton argues,
necessitates a move from understanding car-
tography as a set of ontic knowledges to exam-
ining its ontological terms. Ontic knowledge
consists of the examination of how a topic
should proceed from within its own frame-
work where the ontological assumptions about
how the world can be known and measured
are implicitly secure and beyond doubt
(Crampton, 2003). In other words, there is a
core foundational knowledge – a taken for
granted ontology – that unquestioningly under-
pins ontic knowledge. With respect to cartog-
raphy this foundational ontology is that the
world can be objectively and truthfully mapped
using scientific techniques that capture and
display spatial information. Cartography in
these terms is purely technical and develops by
asking self-referential, methodological ques-
tions of itself that aim to refine and improve
how maps are designed and communicate.
(Crampton, 2003, gives the examples of what
colour scheme to use, the effects of scale, how
maps are used historically and politically.) In
these terms a book like Robinson et al. (1995) is
a technical manual that does not question the
ontological assumptions of the form of map-
ping advocated; rather it is a ‘how to do
“proper” cartography’ book that in itself per-
petuates the security of cartography’s ontic
knowledge. In this sense, Harley’s questioning
of maps is also ontical (see Harley, 1992), as his
project sought to highlight the ideology inher-
ent in maps (and thus expose the truth hidden
underneath) rather than to question the proj-
ect of mapping per se; ‘it provided an epistemo-
logical avenue into the map, but still left open
the question of the ontology of the map’
(Crampton, 2003: 90). In contrast, Crampton
details that examining cartography ontologi-
cally consists of questioning the project of car-
tography itself.
Such a view leads Crampton, following
Edney (1993), to argue for the development
of a non-progressivist history of cartography;
the development of a historical ontology that
rather than being teleological (wherein a
monolithic view of the history of cartographic
practices is adopted that sees cartography on
a single path leading to more and more com-
plete, accurate and ‘truthful’ maps) is contin-
gent and relational (wherein mapping – and
truth – is seen as contingent on the social, cul-
tural and technical relations at particular
times and places). Maps from this perspective
are historical products operating within ‘a cer-
tain horizon of possibilities’(Crampton, 2003:
51). It thus follows that maps created in the
present are products of the here-and-now, no
better than maps of previous generations,
simply different to them. Defining a map then
is dependent on where and when the map
was created, and where and when it was
engaged with, as what a map is and the work
that it does in the world has changed over
time (see also Livingstone, 1992; 2005). For
Crampton (2003) this means that a politics of
mapping should move beyond a ‘critique of
existing maps’to consist of ‘a more sweeping
project of examining and breaking through
the boundaries on how maps are, and our
projects and practices with them’ (p. 51): it is
about exploring the ‘being of maps’; how
maps are conceptually framed in order to
make sense of the world.
Similarly, John Pickles (2004) seeks to
extend Harley’s observations beyond ontic
status, focusing on ‘the work that maps do,
how they act to shape our understanding of
the world, and how they code that world’(p.
12). Pickles’ project is to chart the ‘practices,
institutions and discourses’of maps and their
social roles within historical, social and po-
litical contexts from within a poststructural
framework that understands maps as com-
plex, multivocal and contested, and which
rejects the notion of some ‘truth’ that can
be uncovered by exposing ideological
intent. Pickles’ detailed argument unpicks
the science of representation, calling for a
Rob Kitchin and Martin Dodge: Rethinking maps 333
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postrepresentational cartography that under-
stands maps not as mirrors of nature, but as
producers of nature. To paraphrase Heisenberg
(1959, cited in Pickles, 2004), Pickles argues
that cartography does not simply describe
and explain the world; it is part of the inter-
play between the world and ourselves; it
describes the world as exposed to our
method of questioning. In this sense, a map
‘is not a representation of the world but an
inscription that does (or sometimes does not
do) work in the world’ (Pickles, 2004: 67).
Thus ‘[m]aps provide the very conditions of
possibility for the worlds we inhabit and the
subjects we become ...They have literally
and figuratively over-coded and overdeter-
mined the worlds in which we live....
Maps and mapping precede the territory
they “represent” ’ (p. 5); they do not ‘simply
represent territory, but are understood as
producing it’ (Pickles, 2004: 146). For
Pickles, maps work neither denotatively
(shaped by the cartographic representation,
labelling, interbedded with other material
such as explanatory text, etc) or connota-
tively (what the mapper brings to the repre-
sentation in terms of skills, knowledges, etc)
but as a fusion of the two. Pickles thus pro-
poses a hermeneutic approach that inter-
prets maps as problematic texts, texts that
are not authored or read in simple ways.
Rather than a determinate reading of the
power of maps that seeks to uncover in a lit-
eral sense the authorial and ideological
intent of a map (who made the map and for
what purpose), Pickles expresses caution in
fixing responsibility in such a manner, recog-
nizing the multiple, institutional and contex-
tual nature of mapping. Similarly, the power
of maps as actants in the world (as entities
that have effects) is seen as diffuse, reliant
on actors embedded in contexts to mobilize
their potential effects:
All texts are . . . embedded within chains of
signification: meaning is dialogic, polyphonic
and multivocal – open to, and demanding of us,
a process of ceaseless contextualization and
recontextualization. (Pickles, 2004: 174)
Alongside a hermeneutic analysis of maps,
Pickles proposes that a postrepresentational
cartography consists of the writing of denatu-
ralized histories of cartography and the pro-
duction of de-ontologized cartography.
Denaturalized histories reveal the historiciz-
ing and contextualizing conditions that have
shaped cartographic practices, to:
explore the ways in which particular machines,
disciplines, styles of reasoning, conceptual sys-
tems, bodies of knowledge, social actors of
different scales . . . and so forth, have been
aligned at particular times and particular places.
(Pickering, 1995, cited in Pickles, 2004: 70)
In other words, they consist of genealogies of
how cartography has been naturalized and
institutionalized across space and time as par-
ticular forms of scientific practices and knowl-
edges. A de-ontologized cartography is on
the one hand about accepting counter map-
pings as having equal ontological status as sci-
entific cartographic (that there are many valid
cartographic ontologies) and, on the other,
deconstructing, reading differently, and
reconfiguring scientific cartography (to exam-
ine alternative and new forms of mapping).
While we think Crampton’s and Pickles’
ideas are very useful, and we are sympathetic
to their projects, we are troubled by the onto-
logical security the map still enjoys within
their analysis. Despite the call for seeing maps
as ‘beings in the world’, as non-confessional
spatial representations, postrepresentational
or de-ontologized cartography, and non-
progressivist or denaturalized histories of car-
tography, maps within Crampton and Pickles’
view remain secure as spatial representations
that say something about spatial relations in
the world (or elsewhere). The map might be
seen as diverse, rhetorical, relational, multi-
vocal and having effects in the world, but is
nonetheless a coherent, stable product – a
map. While in some respects Crampton and
Pickles demonstrate that maps are not, in
Latour’s (1987) terms, immutable mobiles
(that is, stable and transferable forms of
knowledge that allow them to be portable
334 Progress in Human Geography 31(3)
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across space and time), they nonetheless slip
back into that positioning, albeit with maps
understood as complex, rhetorical devices not
simply representations. In this sense, Figure 1
is unquestioningly a map.
We think it productive to take a different
tack to think ontologically about cartography.
For us, maps, as we illustrate in the next sec-
tion and explain theoretically in the following
section, have no ontological security; they
are ontogenetic in nature. Maps are of-the-
moment, brought into being through prac-
tices (embodied, social, technical), always
remade every time they are engaged with;
mapping is a process of constant reterritorial-
ization. As such, maps are transitory and
fleeting, being contingent, relational and
context-dependent. Maps are practices – they
are always mappings; spatial practices
enacted to solve relational problems (eg, how
best to create a spatial representation, how to
understand a spatial distribution, how to get
between A and B, and so on). From this posi-
tion, Figure 1 is not unquestioningly a map (an
objective, scientific representation (Robinson)
or an ideologically laden representation
(Harley), or an inscription that does work in
the world (Pickles)); it is rather a set of points,
lines and colours that takes form as, and is
understood as, a map through mapping prac-
tices (an inscription in a constant state of
reinscription). Without these practices a spa-
tial representation is simply coloured ink on a
page. (This is not a facetious statement –
without the knowledge of what constitutes a
map is or how a map works how can it be oth-
erwise?) Practices based on learned knowl-
edge and skills (re)make the ink into a map
and this occurs every time they are engaged
with – the set of points, lines and areas is rec-
ognized as a map; it is interpreted, translated
and made to do work in the work. As such,
maps are constantly in a state of becoming;
constantly being remade.
At the heart of our analysis are two funda-
mental questions. First, how do individuals
know that an arrangement of points, lines
and colours constitute a map (rather than a
landscape painting or an advertising poster)?
How does the idea of a map and what is
understood as a map gain ontological security
and gain the semblance of an immutable
mobile? Our thesis is that ontological security
is maintained because the knowledge under-
pinning cartography and map use is learned
and constantly reaffirmed. A map is never a
map with ontological security assumed; it is
brought into the world and made to do work
through practices such as recognizing, inter-
preting, translating, communicating, and so
on. It does not re-present the world or make
the world (by shaping how we think about the
world); it is a co-constitutive production
between inscription, individual and world; a
production that is constantly in motion,
always seeking to appear ontologically secure.
Second, how do maps become? How does
the constant, co-constitutive production of a
map occur? We seek to answer this question
by examining two vignettes outlining the
unfolding nature of mapping and by drawing
on the concepts of transduction (that under-
stands the unfolding of everyday life as sets of
practices that seek to solve ongoing relational
problems) and technicity (the power of tech-
nologies to help solve those problems) (see
Dodge and Kitchin, 2005).
The argument we forward is not being
made to demonstrate clever word play or to
partake in aimless philosophizing.1In contrast,
we are outlining what we believe is a signifi-
cant conceptual shift in how to think about
maps and cartography (and, by implication,
what are commonly understood as other
representational outputs and endeavours); that
is a shift from ontology (how things are) to
ontogenesis (how things become) – from
(secure) representation to (unfolding) practice.
This is not minor argument with little theoret-
ical or practical implications. Rather it involves
adopting a radically different view of maps and
cartography. In particular, we feel that the
ontological move we detail has value for five
reasons. First, we think it is a productive
way to think about the world, including car-
tography. It acknowledges how life unfolds in
Rob Kitchin and Martin Dodge: Rethinking maps 335
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336 Progress in Human Geography 31(3)
Figure 1 Is this image a map? Population change in Ireland, 1996–2002
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multifarious, contingent and relational ways.
Second, we believe that it allows us a fresh
perspective on the epistemological bases of
cartography – how mapping and cartographic
research is undertaken. Third, it ‘denaturalizes
and deprofessionalizes cartography’ (Pickles,
2004: 17) by recasting cartography as a broad
set of spatial practices, including gestural and
performative mappings such as Aboriginal
songlines, along with sketch maps, counter
maps, and participatory mapping, moving it
beyond a narrowly defined conception of map-
making. (This is not to denigrate the work of
professional cartographers, but to recognize
that they work with a narrowly defined set of
practices that are simply a subset of all poten-
tial mappings.) As such, it provides a way to
think critically about the practices of cartogra-
phy and not simply the end product (the so-
called map). Fourth, it provides a means to
examine the effects of mapping without reduc-
ing such analysis to theories of power, instead
positioning maps as practices that have diverse
effects within multiple and shifting contexts.
Fifth, it provides a theoretical space in which
‘those who research mapping as a practical
form of applied knowledge, and those that seek
to critique the map and mapping process’ can
meet, something that Perkins (2003: 341) feels
is unlikely to happen as things stand. Perkins
(2003: 342) makes this claim because he feels
‘addressing how maps work ...involves ask-
ing different questions to those that relate to
power of the medium’ – one set of questions
being technical, the other ideological. We do
not think that this is the case – both are ques-
tions concerning practice.
II Maps as practice – always mapping
[a map ] is like the word when it is spoken, that
is when it is caught in the ambiguity of an actu-
alization, transformed into a term dependent
upon many conventions, situated as the act of
a present (or of a time), and modified by the
transformations caused by successive con-
texts. (de Certeau, 1984: 117)
[a] tool is not just a thing with pre-given attrib-
utes frozen in time – but a thing becomes a
tool in practice, for someone, when connected
to some particular activity ...The tool
emerges in situ. (Star and Ruhleder, 1996: 112;
our emphasis)
Brown and Laurier (2005) note that people
are never simply mappers, but rather mapping
is part of finding a solution to a wider prob-
lem. We think conceptualizing mapping as a
set of practices aimed at solving spatial prob-
lems is highly productive. In this section we
demonstrate this idea by thinking through dif-
ferent ways in which mapping solves spatial
problems, using a set of examples. While
these examples are illustrative in nature, we
believe that they are not extreme or excep-
tional and are representative of the actual,
material practices of mapping (and are based
on our extensive experience of undertaking,
observing and teaching such practices). We
explain how mapping practices work in a the-
oretical and technical sense in the following
section.
Vignette 1
John Doe has been given the task by a gov-
ernment department of reporting on the dis-
tribution of population change in Ireland
between the 1996 and 2002 census.2There
are several potential solutions to this problem,
such as producing statistical tables, figures or
narrative description, each of which consists
of a set of technical practices which can be
used to complete the task. Given the spatial
nature of the problem, producing what is
commonly understood to be a map provides
one viable solution. John’s task as a cartogra-
pher is to construct a spatial representation
using available data that conform to agreed
standards and conventions and which effec-
tively communicates the pattern of popula-
tion change.
Starting from a position of having special-
ized tools (scientific instruments or software)
and resources (boundary and attribute data,
previously mapped information), and a degree
of knowledge, experience and skills, John
works to create a map. The map thus emerges
through a set of iterative and citational
Rob Kitchin and Martin Dodge: Rethinking maps 337
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practices – of employing certain techniques
that build on and cite previous plottings or pre-
vious work (other spatial representations) or
cartographic ur-forms (standardized forms of
representation). This process is choreo-
graphed to a certain degree, shaped by the sci-
entific culture of conventions, standards,
rules, techniques, philosophy (its ontic knowl-
edge), and so on, but is not determined and
essential. Rather, instead of there being a tele-
ological inevitability in how the map is con-
structed and or how the final product will
look, the map is contingent and relational in
its production through the decisions made by
John with respect to what attributes are
mapped, their classification, the scale, the
orientation, the colour scheme, labelling,
intended message, and so on, and the fact that
the construction is enacted through affective,
reflexive, habitual practices that remain out-
side cognitive reflection. Important here is the
idea of play – of ‘playing’ with the possibilities
of how the map will become, how it will be
remade by its future makers – and of arbitrari-
ness, of unconscious and affective design.
John thus experiments with different colour
schemes, different forms of classification, and
differing scales to map the same data. Making
maps then is inherently creative – it can be
nothing else; and maps emerge in process.
For example, using mapping software the
first stage might be to plot administrative
boundaries. In doing so, decisions have to be
made in terms of the administrative units to
use (postcodes, enumeration areas, electoral
divisions, counties, and so on), and the scale
of the display. Next, these units need to be
populated with data. To be able to do this the
data need to allocated to a zone and sorted
into categories that differentiate rates of pop-
ulation change. There are technical solutions
to classification that can be performed using
specialized algorithms. However, John still
needs to determine which algorithm is most
suitable given the structure of the data (eg, to
use the default setting, choosing fixed inter-
vals, mean standard deviation, percentiles,
natural breaks and so on). These technical
solutions are not fixed and essential in their
practice but are also subject to play and pre-
cognitive judgement through the evaluation
of different algorithms in order to determine
which work ‘best’. Alternatively, the classifi-
cation can be devised through a manual, iter-
ative playing with the data in terms of class
boundaries, number of classes, and so on
(which in fact was the case with Figure 1).
Both cases, technical and manual, consist of
practice (of running the algorithm or playing
with the data), and these practices vary over
time, by context, and across people. In terms
of the visual display, a colour scheme needs to
be devised. Similarly, there are technical solu-
tions such as RGB, HLS or HVC models (see
Robinson et al., 1995);3in other cases the
colour ramp is chosen by the cartographer.
Finally, there are considerations concerning
where the legend appears, whether labels
appear on the map and where, and so on.
While some of these practices seem prosaic,
the procession of decisions and actions
‘grows’ the map. Each might seem banal or
trivial, but their sum – the culmination of a set
of practices – creates a spatial representation
that John understands as a map (and believes
that others will accept as a workable map
based upon their knowledge and experience
as to what constitutes a map).
When a spatial representation understood
as a map is printed for inclusion in a policy
document (see Figure 1), for example, we
would argue that its creation is not complete
– it is not ontologically secure as a map.
Although it has the appearance of an
immutable mobile – its knowledge and mes-
sage fixed and portable because it can be read
by anyone understanding how maps work – it
remains mutable, remade every time it is
employed. Like a street geometrically defined
by urban planning, and created by urban plan-
ners, is transformed into place by walkers (de
Certeau, 1984), a spatial representation cre-
ated by cartographers (the coloured ink on
the paper) is transformed into a map by indi-
viduals. As each walker experiences the
street differently, each person engaging with
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a spatial representation beckons a different
map into being. Each brings it into his or her
own milieu, framed by that individual’s knowl-
edge, skills and spatial experience, in this case
of Ireland and Irish social history. For some-
one familiar with the geography of Ireland,
their ability to remake the map in a way that
allows them to articulate an analysis of the
data is likely to be far superior to someone
unfamiliar with the pattern of settlement (to
know what the towns are, what county or
local authority area they reside in, what their
social and economic history is, their physical
geography is, and so on). For someone who
does not understand the concept of thematic
mapping or classification schemes, again the
map will be bought into being differently to
people who do, who will ask different ques-
tions of the data and how it is displayed.
While all people who understand the concept
of a map beckon a map into being, there is
variability in the ability of people to mobilize
the representation and to solve particular
problems. Moreover, the beckoning of the
map generates a new, imaginative geography
(an ordered, rationale, calculated geography)
for each person, that of the spatial distribution
of population change between the 1996 and
2002 census.
Vignette 2
Jane Doe is travelling from Manchester
Piccadilly train station to the town hall. Ten
minutes after she leaves the station she real-
izes she has taken a wrong turn somewhere
and is now lost. Jane’s problem is to deter-
mine where she is and then to compute a new
route to her destination. One solution to this
problem is consult the street map she is carry-
ing in her bag. This consultation consists of
more than reading an immutable mobile. Jane
does not simply receive information from the
map; rather she brings her own map into
being in the moment through an engagement
with the printed representation. In other
words, the map is remade anew, emerging
from the intersections between the knowledge,
skills and experience of Jane to understand
the language of cartographic representation
and the spatial data within the representation.
Jane makes the coloured ink on the page into
a map through praxis; she works with the
spatial representation to try and make sense
of the world.
In Jane’s case, making sense of the world is
undertaken by making correspondences
between the map and the streetscape. She
looks at the map, then at the road, then back
at the map. She tries to find objects such as
street names or landmarks in the landscape
that she can match to the map and vice versa.
She locates the train station on the map, then
traces her finger along the roads she thinks she
might have taken, trying to locate herself. She
then twists the map, changing its orientation
and glances back at the street. She follows this
by changing her own orientation turning to
face a new direction, shifting her vision from
map to street, gaining her bearings as she
starts to make correspondence between her
surroundings and the lines and symbols of the
map. Jane is thus placing herself both in the
material geography of the street and the map.
In so doing, the map and the world gain legibil-
ity; they get remade in new ways. The process
of mapping then alters Jane’s imaginative
geography of Manchester city centre and also
the spatiality of the street in which she resides.
Map and landscape are folded into each other
to solve the problem of determining where she
is. In other words, the map Jane beckons into
being does not represent a space, or simply re-
present a space, it brings space into being (see
Dodge and Kitchin, 2005). This beckoning is
not determinate and teleological but is contin-
gent and relational, embedded with the con-
text of the moment (eg, anxiety, frustration)
and as an aspect of other tasks (eg, attending
a job interview, meeting friends, etc).
In addition, Jane’s map can emerge in con-
junction with other information, for example,
a street index or a guide book or a note from a
friend providing instructions of how to get
between the station and the town hall (each of
which is also beckoned into being in relation to
each other). Here, the various media and Jane
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work together to link the spatial representa-
tion to the landscape and to traverse that land-
scape. Each adds value to the other, making
the instructions on how to find the location
more intelligible. Indeed, the friend’s direc-
tions augment the other media. If the friend
had drawn a route onto the professional street
map then the map would have been rewritten
in a novel way (what one might call a practice
of ‘overwriting’). The result would be a wholly
new map combining embodied spatial knowl-
edge with direct citations to pre-existing car-
tographic knowledge. Such sketch maps
demonstrate the ability of people to unself-
consciously perform mappings that have suffi-
cient accuracy and clarity to solve the problem
of the moment. Rather than rely solely on the
‘frozen’ cartographic representations from a
‘professionally’ published source, such route
mapping empowers individuals to describe
their place in the world to others.
Once orientated Jane’s next problem is to
determine how to get to the town hall, to
engage with map and the imagined and mate-
rial geography to plot a new route and to then
traverse this route. If Jane fails to place herself
in either or both the map or material geogra-
phy then she is unable to traverse the city
successfully. A solution might be to retrace
her steps until she locates a recognizable land-
mark that allows her to solve the problem at
that location. Another is to ask a passer-by for
help. The passer-by might choose to ignore
the map and give verbal directions to the
town hall based on local knowledge.
Alternatively (s)he might engage with the
spatial representation in partnership with
Jane. As Brown and Laurier (2005) demon-
strate, maps are often beckoned into being
collectively as shared social and cultural prac-
tices. Through collaboration Jane and the
passer-by each beckon their own map into
existence based on their experiences, knowl-
edges and skills, with the conversation and
practices of pointing, tracing, sharing views of
the street, and so on, reshaping each map.
Through this process Jane’s map potentially
gains depth and clarity and becomes easier to
interpret (assuming the passer-by has compe-
tence to be able to help). In this sense, Jane’s
map is a ‘collaborative manufacture’ (Crang,
1994: 686), as is the space they beckon into
being (see Dodge and Kitchin, 2004; 2005).
Similarly, the spatial representation of popula-
tion change becomes a collaboratively manu-
factured set of maps (each different for each
participant) through discussion in a workshop,
with the discussion reframing each partici-
pant’s understanding of population change in
Ireland, or more broadly simply the geography
of Ireland.
III An ontogenetic understanding
of maps
From our examples we would argue that
maps emerge in process through a diverse set
of practices. Given that practices are an
ongoing series of events, it follows that maps
are constantly in a state of becoming; they
are ontogenetic (emergent) in nature. Maps
have no ontological security, they are of-the-
moment; transitory, fleeting, contingent,
relational and context-dependent. They are
never fully formed and their work is never
complete. Maps are profitably theorized, not
as mirrors of nature (as objective and essential
truths) or as socially constructed representa-
tions, but as emergent. In this section we
want to start to think through how maps
emerge through practices drawing on the
concepts of transduction and technicity; to
provide a starting point for conceptually fram-
ing the process by which John and Jane begin
to solve their relational problems.
According to Adrian Mackenzie (2003:
10) ‘transduction is a kind of operation, in
which a particular domain undergoes a certain
kind of ontogenetic modulation. Through this
modulation in-formation or individuation
occurs. That is, transduction involves a
domain taking-on-form, sometimes repeat-
edly’ (his emphasis). Simondon (1992: 313)
explains ‘[t]he simplest image of the trans-
ductive process is furnished if one thinks of a
crystal, beginning as a tiny seed, which grows
and extends itself in all directions in its
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mother-water. Each layer of molecules that
has already been constituted serves as the
structuring basis for the layer that is being
formed next, and the result is amplifying
reticular structure’. In other words, the crys-
tal grows through individuations, that cite
previous individuations, to transduce ele-
ments into a crystal. Using this idea, if we
think of John creating a map of population
change, we can say that the plotting of lines,
colours and so on consists of a series of indi-
viduations that transduces the blank page
into a map, with each individuation citing
previous plottings.
Transduction occurs because we are end-
lessly confronted with sets of relational prob-
lems – practices in effect aim to solve these
problems (Mackenzie, 2002). In the case of
mapping, those problems include meta-
problems such as the production of maps or
finding one’s way, that in themselves are
made up of hundreds of smaller problems
such as where to place a label, what colour
scheme to use, or how to orientate or make
correspondence between map and territory.
The solving of problems is always partial,
opening up new problems (eg, the plotting of
one line leads to the plotting of the next, and
so on), and contextual (embedded within
standards, conventions, received wisdom,
personal preferences, direction by others, and
so on). In this sense, transduction is the
means by which a ‘domain structures itself as
a partial, incomplete solution to a relational
problem’(Mackenzie, 2003: 10). In the exam-
ples above, the meta-problem for John is one
of providing information with respect to pop-
ulation change in Ireland in a meaningful form
that can be used by the contracting party in a
policy document. This document in itself has
transductive effects, alternatively modulating
how the world is understood, and this under-
standing can then be used to enact policy ini-
tiatives and to transduce material
geographies. The meta-problems for Jane are
to locate herself with respect to map and
location, and then to make her way to the
town hall. Similarly, both imagined and
material geographies are alternatively modu-
lated. Without the map the problem of get-
ting from A to B might not be solved, or will
be solved less efficiently or in a more costly
manner.
As these relational problems make clear,
maps are the product of transduction and
they enable further transductions in other
places and times; they are always in the pro-
cess of mapping; of solving relational prob-
lems such as how best to present spatial
information, how to understand a spatial dis-
tribution, how to find one’s way. Here, we
want to make it clear that we are not drawing
a distinction between what traditionally has
been divided into map-making and map use.
Instead, to us all engagement with ‘maps’ are
emergent – all maps are beckoned into being
to solve relational problems; all are (re)map-
pings – the (re)deployment of spatial knowl-
edges and practices. And all emergence is
contextual and a mix of creative, reflexive,
playful, affective and habitual practices,
affected by the knowledge, experience and
skill of the individual to perform mappings and
apply them in the world. Conceiving of map-
ping in this way reveals the mutability of
maps; that they are remade as opposed to
mismade, misused or misread.
Mapping works because its set of practices
has been learnt by people,4and because maps
are the product of technicity (made by tools)
and they possess technicity (they are a tool
themselves). Technicity refers to the extent
to which technologies mediate, supplement,
and augment collective life; the unfolding or
evolutive power of technologies to make
things happen in conjunction with people
(Mackenzie, 2002). For example, mapping
practices used to produce a spatial represen-
tation understood as a map by its creator are
the product of cartographic instruments
(pens, paper, rulers, software packages, etc)
used in conjunction with people, where the
outcome is co-dependent on both instru-
ments and individual, and embedded within a
particularized context. A spatial representa-
tion can be said to possess technicity when it
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is used by a person to solve relational prob-
lems; to alternatively modulate (transduce)
activity and space. The solution arises from
the conjunction of person and representation;
they are produced through, or folded into,
each other in complex ways. Maps thus
should be understood ‘processually ...as
events rather than objects, as contingent the
whole way down’, ‘as networks of social-
material interactions rather than simply
reflections of human capacities or innately
alien objects’ (Mackenzie, 2003: 4, 8).
Cartography as a profession is thus reposi-
tioned as a processual,5as opposed to repre-
sentational, science.
From this perspective, the important ques-
tion is not is not what a map is (a spatial repre-
sentation or performance), nor what a map
does (communicates spatial information), but
how the map emerges through contingent, rela-
tional, context-embedded practices to solve
relation problems (their ability to make a dif-
ference to the world); to move from essential-
ist and constructivist cartography to what we
term emergent cartography.
Epistemologically, what this means is that
the science of cartography (how maps are
produced) and critical analysis of cartography
(the history and politics of cartography) are
both positioned as processual in nature.
Rather than one asking technical questions
and the other ideological, both come to focus
on how maps emerge through practices; how
they come to be in the world. With respect to
both, as Brown and Laurier (2005: 23, original
emphasis) note, this calls for a radical shift in
approach from imagined scenarios, controlled
experiments or retrospective accounts’ to
examine how maps emerge as solutions to
relational problems; to make sense of the
‘unfolding action’of mapping. As such, carto-
graphic research becomes refocused as a sci-
ence of practices, not representations; on how
mapping is produced, how mapping is contex-
tually co-constituted (within individual, collec-
tive and institutional frameworks), how
mappings do work in the world, how the craft
of cartographers and the lexicon they develop
and use influence how mappings are (re)made,
how this work varies between people and the
relational problems being solved, how maps
gain the status of immutable mobiles and how
this varies, and has varied, over time and
space. Within this conceptual view, technical
questions (ontic knowledge) concerning such
things as accuracy and standards, remain an
important focus of study, but are appreciated
to be contingent, relational and context-
dependent; that addressing technical ques-
tions is in itself a process of seeking to solve a
set of relational problems. In other words, the
focus of attention shifts to the relationship
between cartographer, individuals, and a
potential solution, and how mapping is
employed to solve diverse and context-
dependent problems (eg, how John produced a
map of population change and Jane produced
a map – using a published spatial representa-
tion – to get from one location to another),
rather than a single map being viewed as a uni-
versal and essential solution to a range of
questions (that there can be a ‘best’ or ‘most
accurate’ map that all people understand and
use in the same way to address a range of
problems). This is, we believe, a subtle but
important distinction as it recognizes a funda-
mental shift in conceptualizing the founda-
tional knowledge underpinning cartography,
and reconfigures the epistemology appropri-
ately, without necessarily fundamentally alter-
ing many of the key technical questions at a
technical level (but clearly at a philosophical
level) that professional cartographers are
interested in, while also opening up a set of
wider issues and concerns that we believe
deserves wider attention.
IV Conclusion
In this paper, we have examined in depth the
ontological status of maps. Like Crampton
(2003) and Pickles (2004) we agree that there
is a need to rethink the philosophical bases of
cartography, moving beyond ontic knowledge
to construct new ontologies. Unlike
Crampton and Pickles, however, we have
questioned the ontological security of maps,
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instead arguing that maps are ontogenetic in
nature. That is, maps are never fully formed
and their work is never complete. Maps are
of-the-moment, beckoned into being through
practices; they are always mapping. From this
perspective maps are fleeting, contingent,
relational and context-dependent, emerging
through transductive processes to solve rela-
tional problems. This theoretical turn has led
us to suggest that cartography is processual,
not representational, in nature. Rather than
cartography being narrowly understood as the
scientific pursuit of how best to represent the
spaces of the world (focused on issues such as
form and accuracy), cartography becomes
understood as the pursuit of representational
solutions (not necessarily pictorial) to solve
relational, spatial problems. In so doing, car-
tography shifts from being ontical in status,
wherein the ontological assumptions about
how the world can be known and measured
are implicitly secure, to an ontological project
that questions more fully the work maps do in
the world. This, for us, goes some way towards
resolving Perkins’(2003) dilemma, providing a
theoretical space in which to examine the
technical and ideological aspects of cartogra-
phy, and the full range of mapping practices
including professional cartography, counter
mappings, participatory mapping, and perfor-
mative mappings – all are necessarily selective,
contingent and contextual mappings to solve
relational, spatial problems.
Such a turn also clearly has epistemological
implications with regards to cartographic
research and work, refocusing attention
across the broad spectrum of cartography
(practioners, technicians, historians, critical
theorists, map ‘users’) on understanding map-
ping practices – how maps are (re)made in
diverse ways (technically, socially, politically)
by people within particular contexts and cul-
tures as solutions to relational problems.
Examining these practices can be undertaken
in multiple ways (ethnographies, participant
observation, technical measurement), as long
as they are sensitive to capturing and distill-
ing the unfolding and contextual nature of
mapping. Here, there is an attempt to
observe and acknowledge what cartogra-
phers do (undertake contextual science) – not
what they say they do (undertake objective
science) – and how people bring maps into
being to solve relational problems in ways
that extend beyond a naïve understanding of
map use (ie, collaboratively, in relation to
places and other sources of knowledge,
within context, etc). For professional cartog-
raphers this means taking seriously the con-
scious and unconscious decisions they make,
the way creating a map unfolds in citational,
habitual, reflexive and playful ways; and the
diverse and context-dependent ways in which
maps are brought into being by people as they
live their lives (see Brown and Laurier, 2005).
Such research, we believe, will open up pro-
ductive ways of framing and reflexively refin-
ing cartographic theory and praxis, rather
than simply critiquing the work of cartogra-
phers without providing epistemological sug-
gestions (other than to acknowledge or
reduce ideological bias as with much critical
cartography as presently formulated).
While we have made a start in this paper
to rethink cartography as a processual, emer-
gent endeavour, there is clearly much more to
be done both theoretically and empirically to
extend and expand the ideas we have pre-
sented. We believe, however, that such an
approach will be a productive exercise both
ontologically and epistemologically, strength-
ening the philosophical tenets of cartographic
research and production, and stimulating a
rich vein of empirical, technical and historical
research.
Note
1. As one of the referees of the paper suggested.
2. One of us was involved in such a project.
3. RGB is Red, Green and Blue system; HLS is
Hue, Lightness and Saturation system; HVC
is Hue, Value and Chroma system.
4. Pickles (2004: 60–61) explains: ‘Maps work by
naturalizing themselves, by reproducing a par-
ticular sign system and at the same time treat-
ing that sign system as natural and given. But,
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map knowledge is never naïvely given. It has
to be learned and the mapping codes and skills
have to be culturally reproduced ...The
map opens a world to us through systems and
codes of sedimented, acculturated knowledge.’
5. Our vision of processual cartography moves
beyond Rundstrom’s (1991) process cartogra-
phy – which sees map-making as a subjective
process embedded within a wider social context
wherein the resultant map is immutable mobile
– to recognize mapping as contingent, relational
and continually emergent process. That is, is
more profoundly poststructural in nature.
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In this article, we examine how critical thinking, methods and design are used within the tech industry, using Philip Agre’s notion of critical technical practice (CTP) to consider the rise of ‘cynical’ technical practice. Arguments by tech firms that their AI systems are ethical, contextual, situated or fair, as well as APIs that are privacy-compliant and offer greater user control, are now commonplace. Yet, these justifications routinely disguise the organisational, and economic, reasons for the development of technical systems and features. The article considers how different forms of ‘technical critique’ are used by technical practitioners such as software engineers, applying Agre’s work on CTP, AI planning, grammars of action and empowerment to evaluate, and contextualise these justifications. As Agre understood, technical practitioners are not necessarily ‘a-critical’ or ‘uncritical’ in their approach to the design of technological systems or methods, but ordinarily compare the utility or performance of such according to a golden ethic: ‘does it work?’. Drawing on Agre’s studies of AI in the 1990s, the article considers how and what Agre considered to be the ‘Cartesian soul’ of AI research, on linguistic structuralism, and continues to frame much work within the wider tech industry today. Yet increasingly, as the article shows, ‘narrow’ and cynical forms of technical criticality are being used to legitimise, and publicise, corporate strategies of tech firms, whether through the development of AI systems by automotive start-ups such as Comma, or the management of relations with external developers through APIs, in the case of Facebook. Rather than judging the moral character of technical practitioners, however, the article offers an approach – via the work of Philip Agre – to examine how critical thinking is used, and often abused, within and beyond the tech industry.
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This article engages with new materialist posthumanist philosophy to conceptually approach an ethics of outdoor environmental education with the focus on a pupil’s body. Thinking with place-responsive pedagogy, I aim to extend a conversation toward exploring a child’s body as a place. Place-responsive pedagogy, while it challenges a commonly endorsed child/brain/self/anthropocentrism by paying more attention to a place, its history, and human-nonhuman entanglements, still positions children as intellectual observers (of places) and multisensorial body-mind thinkers. I propose to attend to pupils/their movements as to ontogenetic phenomena. These phenomena necessarily emerge from the surplus of child-place relations. They are intelligent, complex, transmogrifying, attuning with the emerging ecologies, and growing with/from a place. Such conceptualisation disrupts an often-empty rhetoric that ‘humans are part of nature’, offering an account of an (onto)ethics.
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Geomedia reflect the infrastructural, environmental, and practical conditions under which they come into being. By reading traces of and as geomedia in different natural elements, the “thick mappings” of lines presented in this article render the properties of the crossed environments visible. From a historical-anthropological perspective, geomedia have taken on a double perspective in this process since the late 18th century, with the first aerial images. With regard to the movement in the air, on land, and on water, this double mediality concerns the paradox of representing an in situ perspective and simultaneously a line of becoming. Geomedia always exhibit a documentary and a procedural form. These two characteristics are chiasmically linked with each since the Industrial Revolution. Geomedia are practices that reflexively demonstrate how the paradox can be visualized, namely, that a mediated human body on the move is in a stable position, while the surroundings are fluid.
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In this paper, we mobilise a multiple environmentalities framework that captures overlapping rationalities of governing nature to engage and identify the role of maps and mapping practices in Patagonia-Aysén, Chile, a peripheral region where government and institutional actors have embraced (eco)tourism as a conservation strategy in protected areas. Through interviews with key stakeholders situated in conservation and tourism institutions in both the public and private sector, we identify two dominant environmentalities at play in the relationship between protected area management and tourism development in Patagonia-Aysén: a neoliberal environmentality, which seeks to promote conservation through the commodification of nature as a tourism product, and an environmentality of truth predicated on a singular, pristine and beautiful nature as an object of conservation and advantage for tourism. Through an analysis of conservation maps and mapping rationalities specific to the Cerro Castillo protected area in Patagonia-Aysén, we trace how these multiple environmentalities are consolidated, rendered real and actionable through geovisualisations and cartographic practices. We argue that conservation maps and mapping emerge as an ‘encounter point’ wherein multiple environmentality strategies and rationalities converge, producing a form of governing the spaces of conservation – what we term a spatial environmentality – rooted in neoliberal and aesthetic logics. Spatial environmentality, we contend, constitutes a form of governing conservation spaces by inscribing and assigning (in)appropiate uses to nature that operationalises institutional interests in conditioning the active engagement of ‘environment subjects’ to control, administer, and take care of the spaces of conservation while in turn making environmental stewardship profitable.
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Territorial capital is a policy concept that emphasizes the endogenous development and regional competitiveness of particular territories, calling for place-based territorial approaches and greater convergence between spatial planning and regional development policies. However, spatial thinking and imaging are still missing when this concept is applied. This paper introduces a multidimensional assessment model that foregrounds the spatial dimension of territorial capital and enables integration and visualisation of decision-supporting data in planning processes. Taking Sintra’s region, Portugal, as a case study, the model helps to consider regional development in spatial planning’s strategic visioning as it sets the ground for regional design approaches.
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The project featured in this article experiments with mapping methods as part of a research-creation approach to exploring spaces, times, and movements within materialisations of self. Bringing together adults and children across two cities during lockdown, the project problematises a stance on ‘learning loss’ during the pandemic and instead focuses on the potential of the experiential blurriness of analogue and digital spaces. Rather than seeking to control and structure online learning – thereby denying and limiting its possibilities, explorations, and senses of self – three researchers set out on a speculative approach that acknowledges the dynamic complexity of physical and virtual ways of knowing and being. The article discusses the affordances and challenges that the methodology offers and concludes with the broader implications of this research for reimagined post-pandemic pedagogies. In the end, we advocate for mapping as a way of generously creating spaces and activating meaning-making in diverse learning contexts.
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This article provides a close reading of a book entitled A Little Bit of Beijing published in 2013, which has been well received by the Chinese public. The book presents detailed and meticulous architectural style diagrams, comic strips and panoramic drawings of three urban districts in Beijing. These visualizations provide evocative depictions of the buildings along with their interior spaces in these urban areas, calling for more attention to the role of ‘ordinary’ buildings of small shops in understanding these urban neighbourhoods. In this article, I analyse this book project with a focus on its visualizations through two dimensions: understanding the urban conditions that shape and are visualized by these visualizations and understanding the visualizations as a form of mapping. For the first dimension, I argue that the urban conditions underpinning, and depicted by, A Little Bit of Beijing resonate with the notion of ‘messy urbanism’. For the second dimension, I contend that A Little Bit of Beijing constitutes a form of slow mapping. Viewed from these two dimensions, these visualizations show subversive possibilities in addressing urban transformation issues in China as well as questioning the more conventional ways of mapping urban spaces.
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In recent years, cartographic research has shifted from the cartographic communication paradigm to the scientific visualization paradigm, thus enabling us to explore data visually and allowing us to perceive the unknown. This shift has generated a resurgence of cognitive research which is invaluable in guiding the design and evaluation of effective cartographic visualization tools. This paper provides an overview of the shift towards the visualization science. A critical examination of cognitive cartography is presented, and gaps in research are identified. Current research in progress is presented which integrates the results of previous research in spatial cognition, visualization of spatial information, and on-line map use. Research in progress explores the development and testing of visualization tools, and poses the key research question: Are interactive visualization tools such as hypermap and interactive bivariate maps more effective for communicating spatial information than less interactive tools such as sequenced maps? Cognitive-based empirical research suggests they are, as effective map use involves two important linked processes: visual perception and spatial thinking. The human visual system is very effective at processing images and understanding spatial relations. Subjects are able to make quicker and more accurate judgements of spatial relations when an appropriate mental image has been formed.
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Cartographers have an opportunity now to make fundamental changes in the direction and scope of academic cartography. As a catalyst for change, J.B.Harley's proposal for a "postmodern' cartography is important for text-based societies like ours, but it will restrict our studies unnecessarily if taken alone. I provide a critique of postmodernist thought as applied to cartography, focusing especially on its inability to account for mapping in non-textual, non-Cartesian cultures where action and process are often crucial. Consequently, I propose a process approach to cartography as an additional basis for reorienting the field. Finally, I couple this approach with map deconstruction to interpret recent Inuit (Eskimo) toponymic mapping as part of a lengthy cross-cultural dialogue about Arctic North America. -Author
Book
This book provides an essential insight into the practices and ideas of maps and map-making. It draws on a wide range of social theorists, and theorists of maps and cartography, to show how maps and map-making have shaped the spaces in which we live.
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Maps have long been recognized as important and powerful modes of visual communication. In this paper we examine critically maps which are being produced to represent and promote information and communication technologies and the use of cyberspace. Drawing on the approach of map deconstruction we attempt to read and expose the ‘second text’ of maps of the Net. As such, we examine in detail a number of maps that display, with varying degrees of subtlety, the ideological agendas of cyberboosterism and techno-utopianism of their creators. A critical reading of these maps is important because they are widely reproduced and consumed on the Internet, in business and governmental reports, and in the popular press, all too often without a detailed consideration of the deliberate and intended messages being communicated. As we illustrate, many of these maps not only promote certain ideological messages but are often also poor in terms of cartographic design, with many containing serious ecological fallacies. We restrict our analyses to maps at the global scale.