The Citizen Cartographies workshop at Laboral in Gijon, Spain, brought together a series of projects in which map making features as a key element of the process. There were great examples of two aspects of mapping, firstly as a participatory or collaborative process that allows discussion of issues connected to local spaces, often in-situ, and secondly map making as representation and communication. It is clear that mapping can be an extremely useful social tool, the main question I left with was how dynamic processes of mapping can fit into social map making.

The CarTac group, represented by Ana Mendez, Sabina Habegger and Eduardo Serrano talked about a participatory mapping project ‘otra malaga’, in which collaborative maps were made describing or articularling different concerns to do with conflicts and resistance in the region. The described their practice as ‘Tactical Cartography’, that is as much a means of through production as map making and is developed by a transdicsiplinary team. Sabine particularly emphasised their participatory process involving the subject of the map in the process of making the map. As a form for generating dialogue but also to facilitate self-diagnosis of problems and solutions. They aim to map the social networks into the physical territories. She talked about sessions in the field to ‘get into the territory’ and see what is being talked about in the workshops. describing a very involved workshop, but that something extra is added by being ‘on the ground’ seeing the location.

Edouardo described how architecture is a form of knowledge and perhaps surveillance. Street plans that make it easier to see people, house sizes that produce specific family arrangements. He also described the thresholds and borders that are produced between public and private space, the technologies of architecture create specific territories, as to other technologies such as wiki’s etc used in workshops. In these hybridizations of person and machine, how can people represent themselves instead of being represented by other people, and this has repercussions in peoples quality of life.

Jose Perez de Luna talked about Hackitectura.net, using Deleuze and Guattari’s rhizome to discuss maps as non-heirarchical, performative media, that create very specific narratives, as opposed to the trace or copy which have more of a  referent to ‘the real’ through descriptions of mapping processes in the globalization demo’s in the 1990’s he asks whether the social ‘machine’ (guattari) can be reconfigured to enable sustainable cities.

Nancy Hamad and Mansour Azziz presented ‘Solidarity maps’ produced in war times as tools of resistance. Very controlled data visualizations, these maps were made to have fast visual impact to communicate specific aspects of the war(s`0 that were not being seen in global media. Simple, printable, using skills at hand. Maps with very specific stories to tell.

Each of these talks centred around specific issues that were to be communicated, discussed and explored and used maps to tell very different stories, all of them were about describing a situation as experienced on the ground, in a way that communicated that to the outside. CarTac, most of all, described the process of mapping as an en in itself, that many media were used, and it seemed to me that in effect, the map was  a format to have discussions around, to assist in an internal understanding of issues, rather than the external communication of groups like solidarity maps.

Thinking about ‘every map telling a story’, each map maker is like a pilot using both the view from above and the ground in order to tell that story. What was missing though from all these talks is the idea of a map that is USED on the ground. All of them are made to represent data geographically not in order to read the map in situ as a navigator. They navigate the issues and the data, but not necessarily the territory itself.

In thinking about hybrid machines, the gps user could be thought of as a ‘person-map’, embodying the ‘machine’ or system of mapping in themselves as they take on both perspectives and tell both stories. If maps are always subjective then the mapper could be thought of as a pilot, looking as if from above, yet still embodied and subjective.

The second section, the afternoon was about tools and opensource. The first presentation from Open Street Map talked about the need for a map that is not constricuted by the licensing laws that organisations like google have, the need to see data that underlies the map led to open street map, which is created by the input of users and contributers and can be used openly by other applications. One of the more powerful aspects seems to be open layers, I think as a method of filtering data. e.g. it is possible to make a processing app using open street map data. They are also looking at making ‘open sea’ and ‘open sky’. there is also an app called x-plane that is going to use OSM data to genereate views in flight.

Meipi is an open source mapping tool that allows map annotation, superimposing photographs as views within the map. It evolved from a project to allow local people to annotate a map with things that were happening locally, e.g. local news, and to enourage web users to facilitate conversations not only between distant people but also with neighbours. Although there are many applications like this around, this one is specifically aimed at local groups and communities, and because it arose out of a very specific local project rather than a general idea its functionality echoes that local and social purpose. It is now being released as an open-source application.

Metamap does something similar but from a more arts based background. One of the many things they have done is working with GPS and arduino. these were followed by really interesting discussions including Q’s about who makes the maps, (this whole session is run by men!). At there last  Open Street Map conference there were  5 women and 220 men. This led on to a discussion of the drive for objectivity in mapping, despite the fact that we all know maps are inevitably subjective. Questions about whether thre are maps that are participatory that allow for design modification, led to comments about not being able to facilitate that flexibility and still have things work, there are e.g.s of platforms that do this but in reality don’t work.

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