Considering that the del.icio.us bookmark that led me to it included a note
describing MSN Virtual
Earth (via) like this: "Cheap knock off of google maps done with crappy USGS
satellite data," I wasn’t expecting much. Yet, although the perspectives from
MSN present black and white satellite images, the site is, in some ways, better
than Google Maps because of resolution covering some of places I identify
For example, look at these two images of the place where I grew up–the
nearest crossroads and surrounding plots. On the left: MSN Virtual Earth.
B&W, but not too bad. Scaled comparably, Google Maps on the right.
Google Maps has exceptional imaging in particular places, but it also flat-out
fails to offer up the same high quality detail for other places, as shown here.
You’d think I slithered up from the Chlorophyllic Slime Swamps of Central
Michigan if you used Google Maps in satellite view (the same is true for other
locations I’ve tried to check out around CNY). Blobby maps just aren’t
For my purposes here, I wanted to zero in on places I identify with from years
past: zonal memoria. This extends some of my thinking about
Barthes’ call in Mythologies for the work of mapping mythologies, last
month’s entry on the
photographemic map, Jenny’s discussion of
(of intensities and banalities), Jeff’s entry on
cities and imagination, and a chapter of Sirc’s book, "Comp.
Classroom/A&P Parking Lot," where he writes about the derive
or drift, urban psychogeography as tracing street happenings (much credit due for these terms, this thinking).
Because MSN Virtual Earth lets me capture–from a reasonably viewable
distance–these places I remember vividly (places with which I connect, even if
nobody I know is there any longer–shadowy, phantom-filled), I can easily flip
them into a Flickr tag:
memory. The "memory" tag-set collects the annotated places; selecting one of
the thumbnails will summon the aerial view and some few notes. With a few
simple links, I’ve strung the three detailed views together with a broader map
of Michigan, thus making it easy to see these places relative to each other,
making it easy to hop from one to another. Each image is also linked (in
the upper left-hand corner) to
the MSN Virtual Earth permalink for the Mercator coordinates, so it’d be easy to
have a look at the surrounds, scale back the view, and so on. I call this
series "From," which, although a bit flat, suggests to me some interesting
pedagogical uses. For example, in a sequence I used last fall, on
geographies of exclusion, we basically asked students to develop projects
concerned (-first-) with their coming to the SU campus and (-later-) with
geographies of exclusion where they were from. But, in working through the
second bit, I thought we might have done more to address the site of action
(whatever activity, real, perceived, imagined, virtual)–somehow do more with
the problem of scale (Let me tell you about my hometown in general…).
Froms–the annotated, Flickr-batched frames of location that detail
intensely personal connections to places–might be a useful add-on to the
geographies of exclusion framework. For example (?):
Begin with a broad frame (or not…could work without it). A region, let’s
say (unless it’s a district, area). We’ll scale this to be optimally inclusive
of the points represented in the other frames. The other points will show
Still a bit provisional, but I want to post it nonetheless.
Even more aerial detail would be great, but until that’s available, this will
do. And the notes overlay in Flickr (important!) could do with more
detail, development. They’re rather first thoughts, gut level and
sped-through. Like I said, I can imagine developing these with students as
a way to crystallize thinking about space (given, in turn, to analyses of
exclusion or to documentary projects or to practicing a georhetoric of
self-inscription–around home, body, neighborhood). Unlike the
photographemic map, the Froms don’t make use of CMap Tools, yet it could
add a layer of networked (node/link/flow) qualities, I suppose.