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radical geography. part six: breaking out of grid-consciousness. the grid.

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radical geography

radical geography

part six: breaking out of

grid-consciousness

the grid
the grid
  • Everything we've mentioned before — GPS, GIS, modern cartography & modeling — contains the basic assumption of Euclidean space. One dataset is commensurate to another. You can layer datasets upon this grid and get a description of space.
  • What are the implications of dividing the world into a grid?
  • Is it a neutral act?
the grid3
the grid
  • Does it change how we perceive reality?
  • — "grid-consciousness"?
the grid4
the grid
  • The grid encourages the idea of an ordered, mathematically understood, positivistic universe.
  • Is there a radically different way to experience space beyond this Euclidean grid?
  • ("Inhabited space transcends geometric space," writes Gaston Bachelard in The Poetics of Space, and perhaps the best way to experience space beyond the grid is simply to inhabit it.)
grid space
grid-space

What makes a map “good”?

imagination
imagination
  • We have been taught that good maps are scientific, objective, accurate, etc.— because of binaries like those of art / science, objective / subjective, and scientific / ideological
  • What could a postmodern cartography look like?
  • Post-structuralist geographer Marcus Doel asks us to imagine a cartography that shimmers...
  • "What we need is 'a delirious cartography of thousands of plateaus, each one a shifting ice flow' (Fuller, 1992). Post-structuralist geography is a driftwork, a wanton abandonment, an active nihilism."
  • "Streaming. Braiding. Becoming. Schizophrenia. Deterritorialization. This is indeed a beautiful milieu for geographers, engendering remarkable events for those prepared to launch themselves into the flux. Learning to let go, to become alert to difference and differentiation, is the task of critical human geography." (Doel, Post-structuralist Geographies)
imagination7
imagination

No-one really seems to know what a non-Cartesian cartography would actually look like;

though two theorists who have thought about the issue at length are Henri Lefebvre (see Rhythmanalysis: Space, Time and Everyday Life, and The Production of Space) and Gilles Deleuze. While these French philosophers weren't geographers per se, they've heavily influenced geographers.

David Harvey: While I accept the general argument that process, flux, and flow should be given a certain ontological priority in understanding the world, I also want to insist that this is precisely the reason why we should pay so much more careful attention to ... the 'permanences' that surround us and which we also construct to help solidify and give meaning to our lives. (1996)

indigenous cartography
indigenous cartography

“There is an Indigenous Geography in the making – a new approach to land consciousness involving map reading and map-making that is leading to the establishment of an encompassing, innovative and pragmatic new discipline.” —

José Barreiro (2004), qtd. by Johnson, Lewis, & Pramono

indigenous cartography9
indigenous cartography

Did indigenous people make maps?

  • maps actually didn't exist much in the ancient world
  • people rarely made what we would think of as maps before 500 years ago, though they did make cosmological models
  • Krygier & Wood caution against postulating "‘mapmaking’ traditions where instead there were probably traditions of
  • ‘cosmological speculation’
  • ‘property control’
  • ‘centralized management’
  • ‘military mapping’,
  • and perhaps others, including, for instance, the discourse function fulfilled by ‘geomantic site location’; but none precipitating ‘the idea of the map’”
indigenous cartography10
indigenous cartography

“…during the last two or three millennia BC, larger, more complicated societies including Babylonia, Egypt, perhaps the Indic societies centered on Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa, and China began to articulate, sporadically and apparently independently, but among and continuous with other indigenous textual productions –

memorial inscriptions, memory aids, almanacs, genealogies, inventories, histories, and descriptions of routes and territory (in mixtures of sculptural, pictorial, pictographic, syllabic, ductions on this ground. ...

It is critical to accept, as already intimated, that these graphics were not emitted ‘as maps’ by those who made them. To imagine this would be to see them through the conceptual filter created by modern mapmaking.

Until modern times no society distinguished – or made – such maps as distinct from religious icons, mandalas, landscape painting, construction drawings, itineraries, and so on; and current scholarship stresses the continuity between religious iconography and that which materialized on the earliest maps”

indigenous cartography11
indigenous cartography

“…during the last two or three millennia BC, larger, more complicated societies including Babylonia, Egypt, perhaps the Indic societies centered on Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa, and China began to articulate, sporadically and apparently independently, but among and continuous with other indigenous textual productions –

memorial inscriptions, memory aids, almanacs, genealogies, inventories, histories, and descriptions of routes and territory (in mixtures of sculptural, pictorial, pictographic, syllabic, ductions on this ground. ...

It is critical to accept, as already intimated, that these graphics were not emitted ‘as maps’ by those who made them. To imagine this would be to see them through the conceptual filter created by modern mapmaking.

Until modern times no society distinguished – or made – such maps as distinct from religious icons, mandalas, landscape painting, construction drawings, itineraries, and so on; and current scholarship stresses the continuity between religious iconography and that which materialized on the earliest maps”

indigenous cartography12
indigenous cartography

What is a map?

Part of opening the map to non-Western cartographies lies in opening the standard definition of "map." Crampton & Krygier explain that emphasizing the role of maps in human experience, rather than the look or form of them, open the door to many non-tradition and non-western mapping traditions; they site a definition that “maps are graphic representations that facilitate a spatial understanding of things, concepts, conditions, processes, or events in the human world” (Harley and Woodward, 1987).

slide20

Pacific islander stick chart (top)

Ojibway birchbark map (right)

indigenous cartography21
indigenous cartography

Should indigenous communities engage Western cartographic traditions, or not? Many academics & NGO workers believe that Indigenous communities must engage in Western cartographic endeavors or face the “the alternative futures, of not being on the map, as it were, being obscured from view and having local claims obscured” (Johnson et al, quoting Fox & Peluso).

indigenous cartography22
indigenous cartography

“What we are labeling here as ‘Western cartography’ is not only founded within a Cartesian-Newtonian epistemology but is also connected with and has been informed/transformed within both historical and current ‘contact zones’(Pratt, 1992) of the colonial projects of the West.

To engage the technologies of Western cartography is to involve our communities and their knowledge systems with a science implicated in the European colonial endeavor (Harley, 1992b) and is a decision which should be made only after examining not only our past experiences of colonial mapping/surveying but also the long history of Western cartographic traditions.” (--Johnson et al, 2006)

indigenous cartography23
indigenous cartography
  • They continue to list the dangers of adopting Western cartographic techniques uncritically:
  • putting indigenous knowledge into a GIS may diminish it, because it is no longer contextually defined
  • storing information with a GIS makes it easier to be used beyond its original intent & context
  • the source & recipient of information is disconnected in space and time, so it is more difficult to impose moral restraint on its use