September 24, 2018

Narrative spaces

Maps as Media Week 1

This is a post in an ongoing series as I follow along with the Maps as Media course from Shannon Mattern which has materials posted online and is currently running Sep - Dec 2018. See all of my maps as media posts here.

Week 1 - I’m still playing catchup but I’m through all of the reading materials for Aug 29 and Sep 5th.

I’m really enjoying the meditation of exploring the world of maps. Shannon has done a great job curating and pointing to a wide range of perspectives and ideas about maps. I’m really energized to keep up with the course and follow along.

Tons of interesting notes and ideas sparked. I was especially struck by the term “ghost mapping” - the idea of mapping the social-political-biological spread of disease and death (notably in the reading material addressing the spread of HIV/Aids in black Chicago).

Map(s) of the week

Week 1 in class has a session where everyone brings a map. So I’m going to “follow along” in my capacity as satellite blogger and talk about some maps.

I mentioned briefly before that I built an interactive GPS-driven treasure hunt to propose to Erin and I’m really interested in these rich narrative layers that are possible on top of maps and geospatial data.

This quote from Jer Thorp really sums up where I’m headed with these links:

While it seems like a commonly held belief that machines (robots, computers) make better, more accurate maps, it became clear to the mapmakers in the Map Room that the robots, while certainly precise, had nothing to say about the city.


Two maps that I want to discuss and link to:

1) A Barrow by a Beacon by Matthew Sheret

This is a lovely meditation on walking. Every time you load the page the little snippets, photos and memories of the walk load in a random order. Anchored in space/time by their GPS co-ordinates. Isn’t this just a lovely little poetic representation of how memory works? Of course our memories are not in order. They’re related but not completely linear. Meandering. Just like the walk itself.

Read more about the “making-of” over here on this blog.

2) Walking the Arroyo by Jon Kyle

This is on the one hand nothing more or less than a live-blogged walk along a long winding piece of infrastructure. On the other hand - the details of the ever-present map, the iphone-bubbles design of the narrative and the conversational tone make it strangely compelling and fresh.

As Jer Thorp says above - the robots might be accurate but they’re boring! The computer has nothing to say about the city. I’m excited to follow this thread of narrative spaces and storytelling through space and maps.

If you have any interesting experiments or links around narrative & maps please link them below!

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This post was written by Tom Critchlow - blogger and independent consultant. Subscribe to join my occassional newsletter: