STADSSALONSURBAINS #14

Friday 13/11/2015, exceptionally at 18:30 (!), La Bellone
STADSSALONSURBAINS #14: 
GETTING PLAYFUL? RETHINK MAPPING
A lecture by Christopher Perkins (University of Manchester, United Kingdom) reflecting upon ways in which play might contribute to mapping, change knowledge construction and enable different questions to be asked about the world.
Invited by Cosmopolis Centre for Urban Research

In a manifesto published in 2009 Dodge et al reviewed mapping practice and approaches to the medium. We suggested that researchers might profitably focus on mapping modes, moment and methods, in order to progress understanding. Instead of a narrow and acritical acceptance of mapping as a technology to represent the world, or a social constructivist view of maps as transciptions encoding political economic relations to deliver powerful messages about the world, we suggested that critical approaches to mapping might profitably question the ontic security of the map and adopt post-representational ways of knowing. This kind of processual understanding might more effectively address issues of the affordances, aesthetics, technologies, and potential empowerment that are wrapped up in mapping assemblages. In the six years since the publication of Rethinking Maps widespread adoption of smartphones and the deployment of crowd-sourced collaborative technologies has continued apace. Research from media scholars, geographers, social anthropologists, political economists, sociologists, communications scholars, environmental psychologists and STS scholars has coalesced, developing many different and novel understandings of mapping. Socially networked mapping literally makes a difference (Schwartz and Halegoua 2014); mapping interfaces matter (Galloway 2012); the map is increasingly inhabitable (Thrift 2006); mapping is ubiquitous and mobile (Gartner et al 2007), but also increasingly uniquitous, remade by the user and place, every time a person accesses a mapped display (Gekker 2015).  New spatialities and temporalities are called into being (Hind et al 2015) and the role of the map as narrative is being unpacked (Caquard 2013).

So there are more productive ways forward than are possible in technocratic and functionalist accounts. In this keynote I highlight examples of research that shows this potential, and focus in particular upon ways in which play might contribute to this field. Social practice in many contexts is becoming increasingly ludified (Raessens 2006), and playful modes of mapping are becoming prevalent, even in the most instrumental applications.  Play offers an open-ended metaphor particularly appropriate for our times. To illustrate the potential of this kind of playful rethinking I focus on the mapping modes, moments and methods deployed in a recent experiment on the island of Gozo, The first in a series of multidisciplinary and multinational field encounters took place in March 2015, enrolling the island as gameboard, 35 students from five different universities, four different nations and from six different disciplines. This highlights in a practical context how a playful and processual approach to mapping can at once change knowledge construction, but also enable different questions to be asked about the world. When it is approached in this way the making of maps is understood differently. Deploying the map alters too, and people can begin to appreciate moments and affordances that would be hidden in less playful accounts. Playful assemblages of methodologies are important: auto-ethnographic accounts and visual ethnographies need to collide with tracking technologies.

The time has come to play more with maps!