Critical and Social Cartography

How might we identify the practices of responsive/responsible social and critical cartography, amid the proliferation of digital spatial media? To address this question, this seminar begins with the premise that cartography is not ‘dead’, although certainly challenged by the advancement of GIScience. Rather, the renewal of geographic representation can be charted as paralleling the advancement of neogeography, the saturation of location-based services, the marketization of geodesign, the reconfiguration of the humanities toward the spatial and the digital, and the drumbeats of ‘big data’, ‘the death of theory’, ‘quantified self’, ‘smart cities’, and ‘cyberinfrastructure’. In addition to these various stratifications, the contemporary resuscitation of mapmaking also opens a space for new discursive-material investigations and destratifying practices for (more-than-)representational geographies. However, where and when are the moments of fracture, of potential deterritorialization? How might we examine the histories of these reterritorializations in mapmaking, to inform our social and critical cartographies?

In this seminar, we will emphasize digital spatial technologies/practices and their implications for politics and subjects, new forms of social control and exclusion, as well as debates about representation, epistemology, and method. We will read work from some of the well-established historical materialist, political economic, and feminist theorizations of geographic representation, as well as work by poststructuralist scholars that interrogates the subjectivities, embodiments, and more-than-human relations that emerge from and with geographic technologies. More specifically, the course energies will cluster around three investments:

1. Engagement and Representation. We will examine the historical precedents for the emergence of digital mapping, with particular attention to the ways in which maps engage.

2. Digital Mapping Histories. We will take up the emergence of digital mapping at Harvard and will explore the holdings within the university archives (as well as materials in Loeb) to situate our current preoccupation with digital spatial representation and mapping practices.

3. Critical Mapping Rhizomologies. We will discuss the ‘classic’ scholarship that interrupt cartography and GIScience to better understand the timing of critical GIS as well as other variants of the GIS & Society tradition.