What if Borges’ (or, more properly, Alfred Korzybski’s) map/territory
contrast is just an overplayed maxim, a dwindling truism due for reversal?
(Fine, so I’m not the
only to consider the question.)
The aggregator turned up
a report about laws in the Philippines and Malaysia that ban what is being called
"participatory GIS", the ad hoc mash-up efforts combining cartography
technologies with material models in an effort to define boundaries for lands
held by indigenous groups. The ban on such processes is, in itself,
fascinating (a way to keep the partitioning of the land specialized, in the
hands of experts). But
I’m also struck by the layers to this story, a coordination of compositional and
rhetorical elements–mental models of spaces, the image-assisted translation of
mental models into scaled relief maps made of various materials, the use of these
constructs for legal claim-making, the implied omnipotence of Google Earth.
From the report, the moment of reconciliation between satellite imagery and
the experiences and memories of the person and tribe (map as totemic?):
The modeling technique often starts by showing village elders satellite
images, which they use to record their mental maps of tribal territories,
hunting grounds, and sacred sites.
The material manifestation–something like a folk geodiorama or raised relief map–blends the
latest digital technologies with everyday craft supplies:
[A]ctivist groups…have been helping indigenous communities mix
computers and handheld navigation devices with paints, yarn, and cardboard
to make simple but accurate three-dimensional terrain models.
Simple but accurate? Accurate enough to warrant a ban, anyway.