First Person Eye On Event Coverage Conflux 08
Cartography Aids Social Change NYC
Regina Debatty Moderator
By Donald Schwartz, FC Technology Moderator
Author’s Note: This story is a work in progress covering the presentations of Lize Mogel, Brooke Singer, and John Emerson at Conflux 08, September 11-14 in NYC. Repeated attempts to contact two of the panel’s participants as well as the event’s host were unsuccessful. I still haven’t given up upon hearing from them and when I do I’ll update the story.
Please feel free to post any questions you feel are relevant to the topic.
Lead: Maps Are More than A Place for Getting Directions
When many people think of a map they see a tool to show you where places are, where you are or where you want to go. In the hands of activists, designers and writers they can be an important catalyst to social change.
Maps can show you more then the lay of the land by changing their design layout. Maps can also alter how we see our world, understand power relationships, process work and/or how we can garner meaning from numerical data. In example after example, digital media artist Brooke Singer, inter-disciplinary artist Lize Mogel, writer, programmer and graphic artist John Emerson showed numerous examples of the power of map creators to alter our perspective.
The map layouts ranged from simple alterations of world maps where the prominence of one country was replaced in the center by another, to a display where the southern continents were shown in the traditionally southern continent position. Some viewers might see the world as turned upside down, but is it? Take a look at Australian McAuthor’s “Universal Corrective Map.” Sources:
McArthur’s Universal Corrective Map of the World
A New World Map with Mecca as the Center of the World
Brooke Singer Explains the Significance of the Map Creator’s Point View
There has always been a perspective problem according to Singer, assistant professor of New Media at SUNY Purchase, with how we understand the size of the land masses that make up the earth. When the land masses are transferred from a round globe to a flat, 2D map some continents and land masses become squeezed, others elongated as in the commonly used Mercator map. Singer suggests that the adjustments are a “translation” made by the map’s creator. What the map creator, called a cartographer, does to accommodate the limitations of a flat surface is a “representation.”
Buckminster Fuller created a flat map called the Dymaxion Map that attempted to limit these distortions by seemingly unfolding the round world on a flat surface in a number of oddly shaped cut out forms that are strung together much like attached dolls cut from a folded piece of paper.
By linking all the continents together in what appears to be singular, continuous land mass, Singer endorses the view shared by The Buckminster Fuller institute that shows a united world.
Singer’s has determined that “when artists make maps there is no pretense that what they are creating is being made by a scientist.”
Maps as a Means of Showing a Scheme or a Path through Information – John Emerson
John Emerson, author of articles on graphic design for Communication Arts, PRINT and the Wall Street Journal, views map creation as “maps are a significant means for challenging the existing social structure.” He said that maps can accomplish this goal by “showing relationships between people and other institutions” and “allows them to navigate complex power relationships.”
A number of Emerson’s examples might not be considered maps, but rather graphic illustrations or even charts as in the case of the Overton Window named after Joe Overton the former vice-president of the Meckinac Center for Public Policy. While not agreeing with the political message of this list of words displayed vertically, Emerson saw this map as an example of how radical ideas become politically possible by making them visually accessible.
In an example of a technique (???) called acid mapping, concepts presented graphically become tools for community organizing by revealing formerly unseen assets and available capacities. (show acid map)
Emerson said of a map created in 2003 called the NYC Guide to War Profiteers, that the illustrative map showed viewers who benefits from (????) helping to guide group conversation as to places where they might be able to do something to intervene. (word choice ??)
NYC Guide to War Profiteers
Lize Mogel – Maps That Show Where the Garbage Goes and How Globalization Works
Lize Mogel, co-author of “An Atlas of Radical Cartography” showed examples of the revealing power of maps created by socially, progressive activists.
A map, titled South to North, by documentarian and artist Ashley Hunt, shows “the topography of ideas” and “how maps communicate the familiar by telling a different story of globalization.” Hunt’s map displays the world in text and images. Quote: Interpretation ??? Source: http://www.an-atlas.com/contents/mog_lew.html.
The Cupworks map titled “The New York City Garbage Machine” shows where the garbage goes in a chart-like map that traces the path of what we dispose of with all the interested players assuming their position in the whole process. Source: http://www.an-atlas.com/contents/cup_rogers.html
About The Moderator
Regina Debatty who writes on the convergence of art and technology served as the panel’s moderator. Debatty has blogged since 2004 on her blog, We-Make-Money-Not-Art.
Websites of Presenters:
* John Emerson – http://www.backspace.com/
* Brooke Singer – http://www.bsing.net/blog/
* Lize Mogel – http://www.publicgreen.com/projects/