Geography 254: Seeing Geographically: Reimagining Mapping

Geography 254
CCN: 34347
(4 units)
David O'Sullivan
Location: 575 McCone
Times: M 12:30-3:30

Maps have become omnipresent in contemporary media as the means for producing them, particularly on the web, have become more widely distributed and easier to use. The ubiquity of maps naturalizes a conservative cartographic visual imaginary, that understands ‘space’ only via Cartesian absolute coordinates. The contrast with contemporary geography’s rich ontologies of scale, place, spatiality, relationality, and process could hardly be more stark.

This class will pose the question of how contemporary graphic and computational methods might be used to reinvent mapping, to make it more fully geographic. We will begin by exploring the conundrum of how more experimental approaches to space and place emerging out of geography’s ‘quantitative revolution’ in the 1960s into the 1980s became submerged by geographical information systems’ (GIS) mundane, narrow, Cartesian mapping. In doing so, we will consider whether (and which) ideas from that time might be reinvented in the present to yield a variety of more imaginative geographic representations. Examples might include (among many others) network representations, attempts to capture time-space compression, and interactive visualizations.

The class will emphasize a practical assignment in which students (alone or in groups) create new visual representations of topics of interest. Through the semester we will transition from more reading intensive sessions at the outset to a more collaborative ‘studio’ style of working as students develop their ideas. No prior experience with GIS, programming, or design is required or expected.