Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Making a Map?
If a person uses Google Maps (or Google Local...) to mark all of the breweries in Chicago, let's say, has s.he created a map?
I asked this question today in GEO781, and I learned that just as all comprhetors don't agree on what writing is, all geographers don't agree on what mapping is. I don't want to exaggerate the gape between physical geography and social or human geography, but as these sub-disciplinary orientations go, so goes the willingness/reluctance to regard maps as representational and also rhetorical rather than as empirical or somehow data-rigid.
To the question above, one response (generally) goes: Yes, of course. The map is a symbolic system often consisting of various graphical and linguistic elements, some of which are substantiated by hard data more than others. The beer map combines sign systems: to-scale physical forms (roadways, shoreline), iconic markers (to indicate brewery and pub locations), and toponyms or place-names. Although Google Maps mash-ups involve a common cartographic back-drop or base (the tile images don't change often), the overlays define the maps thematically. In the case of the breweries map, it might be helpful to introduce a scheme for differentiating map types. A thematic map is not merely interpretive, nor is the physical (material) map tidy in its permanence. We can find many examples of their felicitous combination--blended maps that work together to present multiple data-sets.
The negative responses to the question--if I can merge them, fell swoop--identify the factual nature of the physical forms with a kind of primacy. The real places, their demonstrable physicality, offer us proof. The data are reliable, can be validated, and are more likely to be accurate than user-placed markers indicating brew pubs. The physical forms, as represented, are authoritative, in this sense, despite our knowledge that landforms shift over long periods of time, shorelines and other unstable grounds are subject to accretion and avulsion, and the planet itself is fluid-like, taking into account the oceans and the magma.
This is only a teaser, and I know that my vocabulary for engaging the question is lacking much of the nuance it would have if I spent more time studying geography. Still I'm intrigued by some of the tensions I pick up on, particularly as we read articles about cybercartography as remediation, introducing problems and opportunities for the well-guarded post of the cartographer as one who draws and labels paper maps.
Just one more bit from class: Because I'm in back-to-back seminars on Tuesdays, I find somewhat difficult to keep the geography conversations fresh and to return to them later. The second class ends up bumping out all of the short-term goods from the first half of the day. What remains mixes in with the comp theory conversations...result: confusion (heh, it's generative confusion, nonetheless). We read two articles from Political Mapping of Cyberspace (2003); one on authenticity and authentication and the other on confession, parrhesia and communities. The authenticity/authentication article reminded me of Dick Hardt's OSCON Keynote, Identity 2.0. The chapter connects a related set of issues with Foucault's technologies of the self (84), "regimes of normalization" (84), and self-writing (91). It also lead us to a line of conversation about self-identifying in weblogs (v. much related to Jeff's piece from a week ago), including traditions of spoof scholarship, such as The Journal of Irreproducible Results; the falsification of co-authors, as in a colleague of our prof who published an article with a fictive co-author dubbed "Roscoe Gort;" and other variations of "academic fraud" (like the Sokal "Social Text" happening). What might a JIR of rhetcomp look like (just for kicks, of course...a thought-experiment more than a bona fide proposal)?Posted by Derek Mueller at February 28, 2006 7:50 PM to Rhetorico-Geography