Open Access (free)

Time for mapping

Cartographic temporalities

Edited by: Sybille Lammes, Chris Perkins, Alex Gekker, Sam Hind, Clancy Wilmott and Daniel Evans

The digital era has brought about huge transformations in the map itself, which to date have been largely conceptualised in spatial terms. The emergence of novel objects, forms, processes and approaches in the digital era has, however, posed a swathe of new, pressing questions about the temporality of digital maps and contemporary mapping practices, and in spite of its implicit spatiality, digital mapping is strongly grounded in time. In this peer-reviewed collection we bring time back into the map, taking up Doreen Massey's critical concern for 'ongoing stories' in the world, but asking how mapping continues to wrestle with the difficulty of enrolling time into these narratives, often seeking to ‘freeze’ and ‘fix’ the world, in lieu of being able to, in some way, represent, document or capture dynamic phenomena. This collection examines how these processes are impacted by digital cartographic technologies that, arguably, have disrupted our understanding of time as much as they have provided coherence. The book consists of twelve chapters that address different kinds of digital mapping practice and analyse these in relation to temporality. Cases discussed range from locative art projects, OpenStreetMap mapping parties, sensory mapping, Google Street View, visual mapping, smart city dashboards and crisis mapping. Authors from different disciplinary positions consider how a temporal lens might focus attention on different aspects of digital mapping. This kaleidoscopic approach generates a rich plethora for understanding the temporal modes of digital mapping. The interdisciplinary background of the authors allows multiple positions to be developed.

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‘Space-crossed time’

Digital photography and cartography in Wolfgang Weileder’s Atlas

Rachel Wells

This chapter argues that Wolfgang Weileder’s artwork Atlas (2011–present) reveals much about our relation to contemporary photography and its use online, particularly with regard to digital maps. By considering Atlas within Weileder’s wider oeuvre and recent theories concerning both ‘time-space compression’ and ‘the acceleration of the instant’, the chapter argues that the artwork presents a Proustian emphasis on the ‘slicing’ of time and memory across spatial referents. Thus, the artist’s ‘constructive’ photographic practice – to use Walter Benjamin’s term – suggests that the contemporary capitalist culture of the instant image is producing a form of illiteracy in experiencing the nexus between time and space. Maps and digital maps, even when Dionysian in character, can fail to capture this Benjaminian sense of ‘space-crossed time’. In contrast, Weileder’s oeuvre is read as offering unsentimental reference points for locating our own spatio-temporal condition.

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Seasons change, so do we

Heterogeneous temporalities, algorithmic frames and subjective time in geomedia

Pablo Abend

The integration of time has been a neglected topic in Western cartography since geography’s main concern has been to codify spatial knowledge and bring it in a stable form. This has clearly changed with the contemporary hybrid media forms of the digital age, which offer new and multiple ways of integrating time with mapping. The chapter suggests that the main distinction between analogue maps and digital geomedia can be found in the way time is mediated. Using the example of geomedia, like the Aspen Movie Map and Google Earth, the chapter highlights three modes of temporal integration: (1) temporality by animation, (2) temporality by navigation, and (3) algorithmically shaped temporal frames. These already heterogeneous temporalities of geomedia are juxtaposed to subjective perceptions of time, embedded in the real‐time usage of geomedia, augmented with individual memory, and mingled with a longing for the past.

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Joe Gerlach

Nodes, ways and relations; co-ordinates and vectors for thinking through everyday mapping and participatory cartographies. This chapter attempts a narration of a day’s mapping with OpenStreetMap (OSM) in the town of Witham, England. Animating the mundane movements, sensibilities and temporalities charged through mapping, the chapter is a modest intervention in recent critical cartographic discourse that in itself, looks to chart a re-enchantment with maps of late. Thinking alongside Henri Bergson, the chapter suggests that the time-travelling potential of vernacular mapping lies not so much in the vestiges of a chronological temporality, but in the durational lines of cartography.

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Tuur Driesser

This chapter considers the implications of recent developments around object-oriented philosophy, the ontological turn and new materialism for the study of maps. Drawing a line from critical cartography to contemporary debates of non-representational and performative mapping, it argues for an approach that goes beyond textual or representational readings to think about how maps invent, affect and perform. With regards to time, this means an examination not of its representation, but of how maps themselves produce particular temporalities. A case study of the PathoMap describes how digital visualisations in the ‘smart city’ help to produce a regime of preparedness. As ‘device’, the map establishes a rhythm with the city, from emergence, to detection, to intervention; closing down the horizon of possible futures. In contrast to this pre-emptive elimination of uncertainty, it is suggested that a critical object-oriented cartography can point to the potential of maps to prompt the speculative provocation of possibility.

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Maps as foams and the rheology of digital spatial media

A conceptual framework for considering mapping projects as they change over time

Cate Turk

Everyday users depend on maps as stable bases by which to navigate their lives, but map theorists have recently pointed out how fluid and dynamic maps can be. This chapter proposes a conceptual model for studying the dynamism of online mapping. Drawing on Sloterdijk’s concepts of bubbles, spheres and foams, the chapter suggests a means by which contingency and temporal variability can be conceptualised. Taking maps as ‘bubbles’ in an actor-network of 'foam', it demonstrates how they draw together different data within assemblages of producers and users. To illustrate how this model works, the chapter examines ‘crisis mapping’ as online collaborations where volunteers create maps to help understand and respond to natural disasters and political conflicts. It shows how these projects, like bubbles in foam, depend upon internal substance; contingent relationships with assemblages of actors; and the quality of their interface, for their continuing utility through time.

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Mapping the space of flows

Considerations and consequences

Thomas Sutherland

Examining the growing interest in the mapping of ‘flows’, in terms of its historical context and contemporary import, this chapter proposes that such practices reflect and reinforce a theoretical discourse of protean fluidity (with an often quasi-metaphysical tenor). All too frequently, this discourse is left under-analysed; taken for granted as both an empirical banality and transcendental certainty. The metaphor of fluidity, it is argued, has considerable utility, especially in relation to the new modalities of cartography arising from Geographic Information Systems (GIS). However, this aid to understanding needs to be recognised as a particular way of spatially representing time, one that may normalise certain ideological precepts.

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Sybille Lammes, Kate McLean and Chris Perkins

This chapter discusses how Kate McLean uses mapping as part of her artistic-based research into smellscapes. McLean investigates how smell can be mapped when traversing environments in ‘smell walks’ through cities and using gathered olfactory data. Her work is mainly concerned with the ephemerality of smells and how to visually capture this volatility in and on smell maps. These maps are produced as an assemblage of digital technologies and manual techniques, such as drawing and painting. Lammes and Perkins discuss with her how olfactory mapping foregrounds many different temporalities and how it brings us new temporal – as well as spatial – stories.

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Mapping times

Alex Gekker, Sam Hind, Sybille Lammes, Chris Perkins and Clancy Wilmott

This introductory chapter situates ensuing arguments about the relations between mapping and temporality made by the contributors to this collection. It deploys two cases: (1) the film Back to the Future, and (2) the rise of digital mapping, to exemplify complex aspects of these relations and to highlight the ways in which temporality, as well as space, makes a difference in digital times. A grounding of temporal thinking is deployed to explore the intellectual forces that underpin different ways authors in the book reflect on time as against space in this context. A justification is provided for the sectional layout into ephemerality/mobility, stitching memories, and (in)formalising, and basic introductions to subsequent chapter arguments are made.

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From real-time city to asynchronicity

Exploring the real-time smart city dashboard

Michiel de Lange

This contribution unpacks the notion of ‘real-time’ and explores ‘asynchronicity’ as a way to explore temporality in the nexus of urban dashboards. It is argued that attempts to annihilate time as a constraining factor in mapping the urban metabolism bypass the creative and oftentimes messy role of ‘smart citizens’ in shaping their own living conditions. Real-time, in fact, may be at odds with smartness and city life. Notions of asynchronicity can sensitise us to the hidden assumptions and potential fallacies in the rhetoric about real-time, and help to evoke a more engaging role of citizens as ‘city hackers’ with a sense of collective ‘ownership’. Evaluation of recent investigations of urban dashboards is followed by an analysis of the term real-time, building on Barbara Adam’s typology of time. The chapter concludes with some reflections on the implications of the real-time trope, and how asynchronicity provides an alternative heuristic of the real-time smart city.