July 05 2012

Radical Cartography Produces Unlikely Maps and Design Partnerships in the United States’ Northeast

This book and exhibit highlight the designs and issues associated with radical cartography, whether it is tackling urban planning or social inequity

As map-making software grows in popularity, more people than ever have cartography at their fingertips. In response to the growing trend, many mapping projects have begun distinguishing themselves as radical cartography, choosing to highlight, not hide, the process and politics associated with map-making decisions.

At Rhode Island School of Design’s (RISD) Digital+Media graduate program, the Affective Geographies Research Cluster produces experimental maps for issues across the Northeast, ranging in topics from civic participation to sustainable urban planning. According to the group, affective geography has to do with the bodily experience of a space, with a focus on “making felt” instead of “making visible.”

Capitalizing off public places and social media to gather information, radical cartographers often create interactive research projects to collect community facts and stories. The final product often revolves around dynamic information that can be updated or adapted via follow-up interviews or website submissions.

This radical cartography project used participatory design and an unusual map-making approach to express Cambridge, MA's political and land use changes over time

The Institute of Infinitely Small Things, a participatory art and research group, has been working in this vein for the last decade. In 2007, the organization executed The City Formerly Known As Cambridge, a project in Cambridge, Massachusetts that invited public citizens to rename urban streets and landmarks with their own associations. The culminating product included both an accurate city map and the stories collected as part of the process.

Many of these mapping groups have banded into a larger cartography network in the Northeast. Researchers at RISD have plenty of crossover training in skills like web design with Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Center for Civic Media, another alternative mapping group that works with organizations to help them produce their own data visualization materials. All of these multifaceted partnerships point to a great deal of potential for architecture and land use planning firms to harness radical cartography for their own benefit.

What do you think – is radical cartography the way to go? In what cases do you think it would benefit architecture and planning groups?

Credits: Images and data linked to sources.

Lillian Mathews

Lillian Mathews graduated from Brown University with a B.A. in Environmental Studies (Honors) and a focus on Food Systems and Urban Sustainability. She has designed and implemented an arts-based gardening site at a neighborhood center in Providence, Rhode Island, and has completed work in ecological planning and design, sustainable agriculture, and urban planning. She currently resides in the San Francisco Bay Area. Read more at www.makebreadbreakbread.wordpress.com.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, July 5th, 2012 at 4:17 pm and is filed under Community/Economic Development, Education and Careers, Government/Politics, Land Use, Social/Demographics, Technology, Urban Development/Real Estate, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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