Sunday, July 24, 2005

From: Zonal Memoria

Considering that the 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 with. 

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 cutting it.

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 attention and psychogeography (of intensities and banalities), Jeff's entry on virtual 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 (?):

From: Michigan
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 here.

 From: West Branch (Dam Rd.)
Pt. 1: This one is from somewhere in Ogemaw County, Mich. (maternal grandparents). 

 From: Drummond Island (Socia Rd.)
Pt. 2: Drummond Island, Mich.  Although my paternal grandparents now live in Seattle, this is the place I associate most with them, with my dad's growing up.

 From: Mt. Pleasant (Remus Rd.)
Pt. 3: Where I'm from.  A zone memoria.

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.

Bookmark and Share Posted by at July 24, 2005 4:06 PM to Distances