Sunday, February 21, 2010

Response to REDEFINING THE BASEMAP by Alison Sant

The gist of this article seems to be a call to reexamine the traditional, static, landmark-based mapping systems. "New mapping" technologies such as GPS and wireless reveal different patterns. Events, flows, routes, processes, and data based on statistical sums of multiple individual humans define the graphic patterns emerging from the locative-media-based mapping. The author cautions us to consider abandoning the traditional basemaps as well, with the view that some emergent pattern may therefore be more allowed to emerge.

I do think there is a lot of promise in locative technologies for mapping. Pulses and flows of life, for example between locations of day (work) time and evening (home) time for many individuals would reveal emergent patterns of home locations for various elements of the workforce. "Routes" prioritize chosen pathways of movement and may be more appropriate to examining the living processes within cities, while traditional "streets" prioritize official named landmarks but do not reveal use statistics or a myriad of other sociological data. Mapping events and processes, and the discovery of emergent patterns based on locative technological mapping, is a promising direction for understanding our lived spaces.

This is technologically-based, however. Without locative technologies, we would not be entertaining these novel emerging potentials. The technologies themselves, therefore, are foundational and pre-defining in much the same way that a "traditional static basemap" may be. Can we drop the "technology" and imagine mappable potentials beyond both locative technology and static physicalities? Conversational topics, perhaps -- admitedly based on the idea of "mapping" cellphone conversations? Aesthetic reactions throughout daily activity, multiplied by all of the people in a locale? Arousal? Interest? Cognative activity or level of awareness? Feelings of wellbeing? How would these be measured?

Additionally, the argument in favor of the traditional "basemap" is its representation of relatively static physicalities. In terms of orientation, that is an important factor. Will there likewise be more "static" processes -- ongoing events -- which emerge from locative mapping? "Most frequented locations", perhaps, by "the highest variety of people" -- would that be a shopping mall? A public park or downtown plaza? Certainly, these will also shift and change over time, but surely there will still be gradiations of permanence in process-mapping as well as mapping of physicalities. After all, the physical, the solid, the static are processes as well.

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