Unreal Nature

July 9, 2016

Uncovering Realities Previously Unseen or Unimagined

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:49 am

… mapping is perhaps the most formative and creative act of any design process, first disclosing and then staging the conditions for the emergence of new realities.

This is from the essay ‘The Agency of Mapping: Speculation, Critique and Invention’ by James Corner found in Mappings edited by Denis Cosgrove (1999):

Mapping is a fantastic cultural project, creating and building the world as much as measuring and describing it. Long affiliated with the planning and design of cities, landscapes and buildings, mapping is particularly instrumental in the construing and constructing of lived space. In this active sense, the function of mapping is less to mirror reality than to engender the re-shaping of the worlds in which people live.

[line break added] While there are countless examples of authoritarian, simplistic, erroneous and coercive acts of mapping, with reductive effects upon both individuals and environments, I focus in this essay upon more optimistic revisions of mapping practices.

… We have been adequately cautioned about mapping as a means of projecting power-knowledge, but what about mapping as a productive and liberating instrument, a world-enriching agent, especially in the design and planning arts?

… its agency lies in neither reproduction nor imposition but rather in uncovering realities previously unseen or unimagined, even across seemingly exhausted grounds. Thus, mapping unfolds potential; it re-makes territory over and over again, each time with new and diverse consequences. Not all maps accomplish this, however; some simply reproduce what is already known. These are more ‘tracings’ than maps, delineating patterns but revealing nothing new.

… Map devices such as frame, scale, orientation, projection, indexing and naming reveal artificial geographies that remain unavailable to human eyes. Maps present only one version of the earth’s surface, an eidetic fiction constructed from factual observation. As both analog and abstraction, then, the surface of the map functions like an operating table, a staging ground or theater of operations upon which the mapper collects, combines, connects, marks, masks, relates and generally explores.

… What remains overlooked in this sequence, however, is the fact that maps are highly artificial and fallible constructions, virtual abstractions that possess great force in terms of how people see and act. One of the reasons for this oversight derives from a prevalent tendency to view maps in terms of what they represent rather than what they do.

… mapping is perhaps the most formative and creative act of any design process, first disclosing and then staging the conditions for the emergence of new realities.

… I am less interested in maps as finished artifacts than I am in mapping as a creative activity. It is in this participatory sense that I believe new and speculative techniques of mapping may generate new practices of creativity, practices that are expressed not in the invention of novel form but in the productive reformulation of what is already given.

More from this essay next week. My most recent previous post from this book is here.

-Julie

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