Critical Cartography

Affective and More-than-Representational Mappings

4111.1 - Enfolding: A Geographical Imagination System

Tuesday, July 4
8:30 AM - 8:50 AM
Location: Hoover

BACKGROUND: Spatial theory in human geography suggests complex understandings of space that break with more common Euclidean conceptualizations. These textual descriptions of situated, dynamic, non-Euclidean, processual, contingent, and topological spaces resist visual representation in familiar Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software. Our research suggests the need for a broader realm of cartographic tools for which those of GIS are a subset. We call these tools Geographical Imagination Systems (GImaginS) and present “Enfolding”-- a software prototype of GImaginS.

OBJECTIVES: Our research draws from spatial theory, mathematics, and quantitative geography to produce novel cartographic representations of relational and non-Euclidean spaces. We aim to (1) produce visual representations that realize and extend complex spatial imaginaries like those found in human geographic theory, (2) create accessible tools for scholars to explore their data and create imaginative, relational, and/or non-Euclidean representations of that data, and (3) develop a grammar of methods and operations to warp, fold, bend, collage, tear, and reassemble absolute and relational spaces that can inform future Geographical Imagination Systems.

METHODS: ‘Enfolding’, our prototype Geographical Imagination System, built as a web platform in JavaScript to maximize its reach among researchers, has at its core the interaction between an interface designed to manipulate spaces with non-Euclidean distances and a exploratory cartographic visualization of the resulting relational spaces. Computationally, we work within the tradition established by Tobler’s (1961) transformational approach to an analytical cartography and the multidimensional scaling (MDS) approaches to visualizing high-dimensional spaces most notably advanced in geography by Gatrell (1983). Yet we extend such techniques to allow for multiple intersecting spaces and measures of distance, to center around exploratory visual analysis, and to recognize the central role of interpretation and positioned approaches to knowing central within much critical social inquiry today. We are thus able to systematically explore how the folding, stretching, and tunneling effects characteristic of relational spaces, as aspired to by Dorling (2012) may be cartographically visualized.

CONCLUSION: Our work provides an interactive and extensible interface for the design of relational and non-Euclidean representations of space. Further, we suggest future directions for innovative cartographic research that builds on and extends contemporary spatial theory.

Nick Lally

Graduate Student
University of Wisconsin–Madison

I am currently a graduate student studying human geography at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. I am a geographer, artist, and computer programmer with research interests in software studies, social movements, visual epistemology, social and spatial theory, and critical GIS. My academic work describes the role of software in constructing the world through its material entanglement with social, political, and economic systems, while my artwork manipulates these entanglements to produce new forms and experiences.

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Luke Bergmann

Assistant Professor
University of Washington

Luke Bergmann is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography at the University of Washington. He received his Ph.D. in Geography from the University of Minnesota in 2012. In teaching and research, he is interested in the both theoretical and applied cartography, using mapping to convey the relations of people, places, and processes while developing associated cartographic practices.

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