Various concepts of the map

We have been discussing the various ways of thinking about the map, as our separate understanding of mapping is quite different on a number of levels.

Marty’s training as a cartographer provides a strong structure of thinking about mapping the earth, geography and land mass, whereas my focus on web and arts has led to a conceptual application of mapping that is driven by a human need for expression and understanding.

One of the topics we have been talking about is how we approach cultural strangers collaboratively because of the diversity of our understanding of how information can be represented in maps. What we are discovering as we pour through books and scan the Internet is that there is an overabundance of both ideas and information that is challenging both of our assumptions about mapping. One book that we have found very interesting is An atlas of radical cartography (2007) as it explores many different graphical and conceptual notions of the map. The editors Alexis Bhagat and Lize Mogel comment that:

The texts and maps in this book also serve this purpose – to unhinge our beliefs about the world, and to provoke new perceptions of the networks, lineages, associations and representations of places, people and power.

This quote and the 10 maps images in An atlas of radical cartography both challenge a traditional understanding of geographical, social and temporal exploration of the map to provoke discussion of “radical inquiry and activist engagement”.

New York City Garbage Machine, by the Center for Urban Pedagogy

Bhagat and Mogel also comment that “all maps have an inherent politics that often lies hidden beneath an “objective” surface”, which is an idea that has great appeal to my activist sensibilities, whereas Marty accepts that all maps are a form of filtering but not necessarily political perse. This filtering can take many forms depending on the information being portrayed – i.e topographical, navigational and territorial.

Just as Bhagat and Mogel sought to challenge the notion of the map, we wish to also challenge our individual perceptions and seek to produce a series of work that will also challenge the viewers concept of the map. One of the issues we both find very interesting is how different forms of mapping traverse left and right brained thinking about the representations of space. The left brained approach is rules based and analytical in how information is represented, whereas the right brained approach is free forming connections between ideas and lateral in nature.

The biggest challenge in cultural strangers is how the work will take form as we have strong views about this project being much more than a travel diary. We also have an awareness of the environmental footprint that our journey will take and this is certainly a subject we wish to explore.