Friday, November 6, 2009

A Genealogy of Influences.



“..In mapping, one’s objective is to discover” -Robinson and Petchenik.
In presenting a genealogy of maps which could be used as influences for a radical approach to mapping the UT commute, Text Cloud, which is a visual depiction of user generated tags or words of a site or activity presented itself with quantifying the common concerns and suggestions and random thoughts that were expressed by participants when responding to the problems of the commute. This could also be connected to the Transparency Map, by Kerry Mitchell which graphed the appearance of the word 'transparency' for the last 19 years. The fact that the UT participants were so emotional and vehement in their expressions and how much it affected their lives would find voice in the Emotion or Bio-Mappings (TheStockport Emotion Map) by Christian Nold and Julie Mehretu’s Maps of my Life/Sounds of my World.
My Bubble Map

Inspired by Peter Sloterdijk, a German philosopher and intellectual, I imagined myself alone in this world existing in a transparent bubble . So if existence is the field, then I am a bubble surrounded by other bubbles that give meaning to me and my existence. Each sphere is important and how I plot these connection with the other bubbles, defines my life.
To me, mapping is the ingenuity of making these connections with the data I deem important in a field that has been more or less given to me, but which I can manipulate to my design. "Potholes”, “mean drivers” jump at you. It makes you stop a moment and think about the bubble that we live in. In my understanding each bubble has to connect. In these connections, potholes and mean drivers play a part in making the bridge smooth or strained. As I look at it, each person or participant had his own story which is his point of view. These rantings and ramblings and composed thoughts expose more about how we connect with the other bubbles around our existence.

Unlike "tracings" which simply reproduce what is already there, mappings discover new worlds. They uncover hidden meaning and derive inferences from simple data. So a map can exhibit obvious data but mapping probes and derives conclusions and hypothesis.
This Text Cloud of President Obama’s Inaugural speech , done by CNN, quantifies the core of his argument…new nation. A text cloud or word cloud is a visualization of word frequency in a given text as a weighted list. The technique has recently been popularly used to visualize the topical
content of political speeches.
Bio-Mapping/ Emotion Map
Emotion maps can also be an overlapping registration of several maps combined in a way that none of the notations take precedence over the other while giving meaning or subjective interpretation to overlaps.
This map aims to record the trivial and seemingly meaningless conversations and events of our everyday lives and allows us to see them all simultaneously without being constrained to a narrowly defined subject.
When we talk about ‘issues’, our responses are guarded and neatly packaged, but responding to ‘things’ is freer. When a thing becomes explicit or public, I feel it becomes an issue and therefore requires a different response. This mapping captures our response to daily things before they become an issue. It uncovers an issue.
The student data of UT lends itself to this mapping as the opinions and suggestion are vehement and heartfelt. They mean so much to our time in space and our daily interaction with our environment.


Mapping gives a voice to group relocated in a new environment trying to connect to the past that was their homeland. In trying to understand the grid or the framework and the tools the artist used to map,‘Map of my life/Sounds of my World’, a mapping led by Julie Mehretu, where the artist asked the students of East African origin to record the sounds of Minneapolis, where they lived, to draw connections between the home they left behind and the home they inhabited now. The interface was an interactive audio-visual collage of sound bites and photographs contributed by the students. In his book ‘Presence of the Past’, Roy Rosenweig, studies how deeply ordinary people are engaged by the past. It is felt that the past is viewed in a very complex way mainly emphasizing the individual’s interpretation of his and his family’s past and ignoring others. This ‘privatized’ version of their past reinforces barriers and the selective memory could be the bane of communication and peace efforts by resisting rather than promoting change. As in India and Pakistan conflict, as also in the Mid-East crisis, it is difficult to move away from the atrocities to your own group imposed by the other. A rational approach or a middle ground is hard to reach when each groups private memory is so raw, vivid and inbalanced. In mapping, it would be helpful to come with an view that honors the individual point of view but gives a clear and distilled overview. It is evident that the artist is a member ofthis group and is trying to help a group to establish some semblance of home in an alien land.

The Arrival of Transparency-Kerry Mitchell

This visualization captures instances of the word “transparency” in Times articles from 1990 to 2009.
In concept it is similar to the tag cloud or the text cloud.
This is a radial or timepiece graph and the first mention of “transparency” is at the 1 o’clock position. Each ray represents a month; the months proceed clockwise into an explosion of instances of the word.
With globalization, it is time and not place that schedules our public life.
Access to infinite information has changed our perception of it and made the bizarre, normal. Do mapping of these varied extracts herald a new normalcy?

Conclusion
Mappings or radical mappings of an activity like the UT commute and their feelings about the commute could manifest itself into a map that reflects the feelings regarding the commute and the aspects of it that they love or loathe. The first reflection is of discontentment with the roads with its potholes and the manic drivers. A lot of emphasis is laid to mean drivers. Perhaps it is telling that everyone wants some compassion. Each one has a story to tell and is fighting some battle. Being nice is the latent message that you get from the data. An approach could be the Stockport Emotion map or the Twin Cities image/sound map that juxtaposes the grid or the field ( in this case the geographical position) with the abstract like thoughts and memories that the node evokes.. It puts value to trivial and random thoughts that could actually be plotted to have consequential meanings.
The possibility to stretch your mind by comparing and synthesizing various data opens up a realm of possibilities and expands your frame of mind. It uses the information from the x and y axis to construct the z axis.
There is a thought that the more detailed and life like a map is the more redundant and unnecessary it becomes. Maps, like art must have mystery to have meaning and to make sense, and suddenly I understand the meaning of the line ‘ the bane of untrained map readers is not at all the failing of maps, but rather their virtue’ (The Agency of Mapping. P 222) The genius or the lack of it of the designer is in all three but most significantly in the plotting of the extractions. They represent an abstraction of the designers inference of the plotting.
So is the map only as good as the imagination of the maker? Can the map reveal things that the cartographer had not envisioned?
I believe that the map can take a life of its own once the parameters of the grid and the extractions to be plotted are established.
It is definitely a fine line and the culmination is the intent of the designer.
References
Corner, James. "The Agency Of Mapping"
Holmes, Brian. "Counter Cartographies"
wordle.net

1 comment:

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