Living Maps Network: map is not territory

Update, 12 August: the 2014-15 season has the title territory is not map, can you see what they did there…

The Living Maps Network is hosting a series of events on the theme of map is not territory, aimed at exploring new directions in critical cartography, ie:

the possibilities of challenging cartographies which marginalize or pathologise populations perceived to be obstacles to ‘progress’, ‘modernity’ or ‘public order’. It will also explore strategies of ‘counter-mapping’ linked to  community action, urban social movements and creative subversion. (Phil Cohen)

The seminars:

Tweeting at @livingmaps and #livingmaps, little traffic as yet, but as the programme proceeds curation is developing.

Mapping the field

Phil Cohen: Navigating the real? The map as model and metaphor

Phil is an urban ethnographer focusing on East London. The author of On the wrong side of the track: East London and the post Olympics, he is working on a series of projects relating to the Olympic Park – see the narrative map produced for the book (plus preso and full project description). His paper looked at issues around concepts of map and territory, followed by a film depicting the technical and aesthetic process of narrative cartography, Lights on for the territory. Over the final credits is a splendid personalised satnav:

Christian Nold: What does mapping map?

Christian is a researcher developing new participatory models and technologies for communal representation (GPS work in Greenwich and Stockport). His Bio Mapping project has been staged in many different countries with thousands of participants – see Emotional cartography and examples. His paper looked at a range of participatory mapping practices from locative media to citizen science research into environmental quality. Participatory mapping is a peculiar coming together of living entities, electronic devices and issues that creates surprising networks and alliances – what is actually going on in these projects?

Hidden histories

Conventional cartographies are good at depicting the visible surface of the world but tend to obscure or exclude its deeper layers of meaning, especially those associated with natural and cultural histories whose material traces may be difficult to decode. This seminar will explore some recent ‘archaeological’ strategies designed to excavate and put these hidden histories on the map.

Toby Butler: Memoryscape: site specific oral history in a community context

Toby Butler is an oral historian with a special interest in the design of urban trails and heritage walks using digital mapping techniques. In his talk he explored the potential of mapping memories for building connections in communities in spatial, historical and social terms, discussing Ports of Call, a community based mapping project around the Royal Docks in East London, and experiential mapping work with Italian-Canadian children in Montreal. For more see the West Silvertown oral history trail and Memoryscape. Update: slides.

Halima Khanom: Digital experiences of Limehouse Chinatown

Halima Khanom’s (@HalimaKhanom90Wander East through East project is an audio trail exploring the hidden history of Limehouse Chinatown, the original London based Chinatown. Inspired by the Situationist approach to urban exploration the trail encourages the walker to critically engage with Limehouse Chinatown, critiquing a homogenous, racialised, and sedentary characterisation of place and suggesting an alternative approach. Update: slides.

Bob Gilbert: Re-walking London

Bob Gilbert, the “green guru of Islington”, is the author of The Green London Way, a 110 mile walking route around London.

There is a story in the pattern of our streets, in the names we have given them and in the weeds that grown on their fringes. They are the stories of the people who have lived and worked there and the communities from which they have come. They are the echoes of lost landscapes; and of past associations reasserting themselves. This talk sets out to explore the lost, or hidden, stories of our locations and to explain, with practical examples, how we can ‘read’ an area. It also looks at the connections between ‘‘natural’ and ‘social’ history: how our transport systems affect the spread of wild plants or what the weeds of a waste land can tell us about world trade or our agricultural or industrial past. It will argue that human community depends on connections: with time, with place, with other people, and with the other species with which we share our space. Faced, however, with the power given to developers and with the demands of a growth-at-all-costs economy, we are in danger of robbing our streets of all meaning and of destroying a sense of place. Understanding where we are is essential to understanding who we are and we should view it as an act of resistance.

Grounding knowledge

The global knowledge claims of Cartesian cartography have been rendered properly problematic, but what are the epistemological groundings of maps that originate from more site specific, partisan and embodied forms of spatial understanding? If maps are graphic propositions about the world, how does their reading differ from that of texts or cultural memoryscapes?

Øyvind Eide: Sand in the mapmaking machinery: the role of media differences

Øyvind‘s PhD, The area told as story, explored the relationship between verbal and map based expressions of geographical information. He is currently investigating the limitation of texts and maps as means of conveying geographical understanding, using conceptual modelling of texts as his main method. His presentation showed how the differences between texts and maps play out, documenting a number of textual means of expression which are not translatable to maps.

David Pinder: Map and be mapped: critical cartographies in societies of control

David‘s work centres on urban culture, politics and art. His presentation addressed  aspects of the current interest in alternative, participatory and grounding mapping, seeking to trouble celebratory claims of empowerment and democratisation and centring on more ambivalent practices of over-identification, reworking and appropriation.

Iain Boal: The micropolitics of place

Iain, social historian and independent scholar, described two collaborative mapping projects:

  • the West of Eden project looking at communalism in the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1960s and 1970s
  • MayDay Rooms, an ‘archiving from below’ initiative at 88 Fleet Street, intended as a safe haven for documents of the counterculture and emancipatory movements

Iain is also “one of the planet’s foremost bicycle historians” and has published The green machine, a book on the world history of the bicycle, taking us full circle to

Following the threads

Advocates of ‘big data’ projects suggest that given a large enough sample (“N=All?”) the facts will somehow speak for themselves and the map of the world will merge seamlessly part of that world. But the individual is always embedded in the particular whether using or contributing to a shared picture.

Gianfranco Gliozzo: Crowdsourced data and extreme citizen science

Gianfranco (blog | ExCiteS), formerly of Mapping for Change) reflected on recent trends and contradictions when crowdsourced data meets citizen science. Gianfranco is currently interested in the relation between citizens and their environment, involving spatial analysis techniques, geography, linked data, ecology and ICT.

Nela Milic: A new mapping of Belgrade

Building on her earlier work at Goldsmiths on Balkanising Taxonomy artist and researcher Nela Milic presented her work on the BG:LOG project, “an alternative map and the archive of Belgrade. We are reviving the spirit of the city through memory about the fellowship between people, solidarity, little known big things and events, famous and anonymous neighbours, public spaces and friendships, life and work in the Serbian capital, which changed significantly in the last three decades.” See for example Days of remembrance.

Marginalised bodies, liminal spaces

The modernist dream of a rationalised city depended on the production of mappable public space and free circulation. But urban growth and regulation required rapid transit systems, an apparatus of surveillance, and the privatization of amenities. This has marginalised groups whose style of movement about the city fails to conform to norms of speed and efficiency.

Rob Imrie: Off the map? Disabling designs, impaired vision and the illegible city

The legibility of urban environments depends on signs, cues, and signals, including visual, tactile, and auditory media. In the drive to commercialise and aestheticise urban environments many street environments are rendering places illegible and difficult to navigate or make sense of, particularly for those with vision impairments and different types of cognitive impairment. Is a new form of urban (dis)order emerging as part of faddish approaches to the design of streetscapes, with disabling design, including design that dis-orientates, part of a new wave of urban renewal? Such (shared) spaces can be part of new spaces of exclusion, rendering them ‘places off the map’. See Rob’s page at Goldsmiths for more.

Andy Minnion and Sue Ledger: The enabling city: multimedia mapping for self-advocacy and social inclusion

Andy and Sue have both been working with people with learning disabilities using photography and mapping to co-create new personal maps of local communities that highlight the lives and experiences of people often excluded from their neighbourhoods. Details were shared of two action research projects with people who find conventional communication difficult and whose connections to their local landscapes are rich but whose stories were untold:

  • the Staying Local Project maps lost histories of people with high support needs in London, using mobile interviews, life journey mapping and photography – see the Social History of Learning Disability Research Group (Open) for more
  • Andy of the Rix Centre for Innovation for Learning Disability (UEL) shared “easy build wiki websites” made by east Londoners with learning disabilities, accessible and user centred rich media sites charting local opportunities for disabled people alongside individual strategies for community participation

Both projects are creating new local topologies from the knowledge and experiences of people with learning disabilities and using multimedia advocacy to build social inclusion and challenge the configuration of services and support.

Constructing new geographies

The model of the post modern city as an ‘assemblage’ or ‘space of flows’ poses a special challenge to ethnographers and cartographers to produce more fluid forms of mapping, keyed in to urban networks, while also articulating fixities of power, property, privilege and prestige.


  • Rhiannon Firth (UEL) – Anarchy in the maproom? The case of 56a Infoshop; argues for a critical cartographic practice based on an anarchist ethos of anti- rather than counter-hegemony, drawing ideas of cartographic pedagogy as affect, affinity and performativity; paper
  • Paul Watt (Birkbeck) – Mapping mobilities: the East London diaspora; examines various shifting diasporas with reference to residential, work, leisure and family-related mobilities that traverse East London to the city’s eastern suburban hinterlands
  • Adam Dant – Mapping the new East End; alternative maps inc 50 people of East London, Journey to the heart of East London, Maps of Shoreditch past and future

Communities of resistance

In many urban contexts regeneration has become synonymous with gentrification; it has also provoked different forms of resistance, from fully fledged social movements, to single area campaigns and individual protests. This seminar looks at some local case studies of contemporary regeneration, at how communities of resistance came into existence and the role of ‘counter mapping’ in this process.

Michael Edwards: The New Metropolitan Mainstream: can we map London in an international comparative framework?

Summarised the origins and intentions of the New Metropolitan Mainstream (NMM; blog), an unfunded collaboration among activists and scholars in 36 cities around the world. Founded 25 years ago by the International Network for Urban Research and Action (INURA) it draws its inspiration both from theoretical discussions (Lefebvre via Schmid, Mayer, Harvey) and activist experiences. City teams are collaborating to produce maps and texts which examine processes of capitalist urban transformation, commodification, displacement and also patterns and episodes of resistance—counter-moves by citizens.

Michael (@michaellondonsf; UCL Bartlett School of Planning) is a founder member of the Just Space network and INURA and has been involved in numerous campaigns, most recently in relation to the redevelopment of Kings Cross. He is contributed a chapter to Sustainable London? The future of a global city (2014).

Katarina Despotovic: Urban regeneration as city branding, gentrification and enchantment engineering: the case of  Centrala Älvstaden in Gothenburg

Gothenburg, the second largest city in Sweden, is undergoing a class remake of the city that not only displaces working class housing from its central parts but also privileges and normalises whiteness. The case of Kvillebäcken shows how an area formerly defined as remote was redefined as central during a new phase of remaking of the central city. By an imaginary redrawing of the city map the local political and economic elite decided to exploit and invest in this area. There were colonial dimensions in the rhetoric of the redevelopment as it was presented as an expansion into ‘unexploited and uninhabited areas’.

Martine Drozdz: The (in)visibilities of communities resisting gentrification in London

Offered a critical exploration of different cartographic documents produced while working with various groups involved in strategic action against some adverse effects of regeneration in London. From maps of gentrification showing the contemporary modalities of the privatisation of public assets to the attempt to map contentious activities around regeneration projects using newspaper archives, the presentation reflected on the public (in)visibility of communities in resistance in contemporary London. See Mapping protest over urban space in London, which showed that “what I was actually mapping had more to do with how conflicts were represented in press than their actual geography”.

Very timely. To me the ongoing process of redevelopment in CPH feels very one note, mainstream and flattening, however a lot of the regeneration is taking place in former industrial areas, meaning that the effect on the population is rather more indirect and causes little to zero protest. The NMM mapping approach could be helpful – see Glasgow | London. There’s definitely a process of normalisation going on, with WoCo city branding and the ‘active Danish lifestyle’ to the fore – enchantment engineering? Redevelopment, regeneration, redefinition, remapping, redrawing…it’s gone on for centuries here. The whole of CPH is a ‘display window for sustainable urban development’, a tool in the hands of the city’s political and economic elite and BIG firms, building and promoting their own image of the future. It may be benign, but varied and diverse it ain’t. Oh, and where I live, there’s nowt.

Mapping the future

GIS cartography is increasingly used as a tool of governance, but how far can it be mobilised for radical pedagogies and community action? And do the imaginative and narrative maps produced by visual artists and critics offer a more precise, as well as more poetic, way of representing the emergent political and cultural landscape of London?


  • Louise Francis (Mapping for Change) – Participatory mapping and community action: new directions in citizen social science
  • Ken WorpoleThe emergent landscape of Thames Gateway; cultural critic and environmentalist who has written widely on aspects of contemporary urban design and architecture, author of The new English landscape (2013); see Going Dutch: 21st century parks