Grounding Knowledge

Date/Time: 11/03/2014 from 6:00 pm - 8:30 pm


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? This seminar looks at a number of ways in which these questions might be addressed.

  • Øyvind Eide  ‘Sand in the Mapmaking Machinery:The Role of Media Differences’
  • David Pinder‘Map and be mapped: critical cartographies in societies of control’
  • Iain Boal ‘The Micropolitics of Place: West of Eden and MayDay Rooms’

Chair : John Wallett

Venue : City Centre , Queen Mary University of London




Øyvind Eide holds a PhD in Digital Humanities from King’s College London and has worked in various positions at The University of Oslo from 1995 to 2013, most recently as a Senior Analyst at The Unit for Digital Documentation. Currently he is a Lecturer and research associate with the Chair of Digital Humanities at The University of Passau. His research interests are focused on the modelling of cultural heritage information, especially as a tool for critical engagement with the relationships between texts and maps as media of communication. He is currently engaged in investigating the limitation of texts and maps as means of conveying geographical understanding, using conceptual modelling of texts as his main method. “I hope to gain new knowledge about how people express themselves in verbal texts about geography, as opposed to map based expressions. In the longer term, I hope this will help us understanding more about the reasons why some cultures are very map oriented, whereas others know about maps, but only use them in very limited areas.” See also Oyvinde’s website

David Pinder is Reader in Geography and Director of Graduate Studies here at the School of Geography, at Queen Mary University of London. His work centres on urban culture, politics and art. Among his publications is the book ‘Visions of the city: utopianism, power and politics in twentieth-century urbanism’, and a guest edited issue of the journal ‘Cultural Geographies’ on ‘Arts of urban exploration’. He is currently working on a book about artistic urban explorations and psychogeographies.

Iain Boal is a social historian of science and technics, with a special interest in the built world and the commons. He is associated with the Retort group based in the SF Bay Area, and is a co-director of MayDay Rooms, an educational charity in London. He performs on occasion with The Wolf in Winter, a group of musicians and remembrancers from the Celtic fringe. He is an author of Retort’s ‘Afflicted Powers: Capital and Spectacle in a New Age of War’. He co-edited ‘Resisting the Virtual Life’ (City Lights) and ‘West of Eden: Communes and Utopia in Northern California’ (PM Press). His history of the bicycle in planetary perspective, ‘The Green Machine’, is forthcoming from Notting Hill Editions. He is affiliated with the Geography Department at UC Berkeley, has been a Fellow at Birkbeck, University of London and a Guggenheim Fellow in Science and Technology.


Øyvind Eide

‘Sand in the Mapmaking Machinery:The Role of Media Differences’

“In his 1766 book ‘Laokoon’, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing argued that painting should depict bodies in space, whereas poetry should present actions in time. Few involved in contemporary literature or art would accept such a restrictive poetics. The idea that the sign systems we use to create our expressions should have a comfortable relationship to their objects of reference feels quite foreign to us. Yet, Lessing was not only presenting a set of rules for artists and poets based on his own time and temperament. In his summary of enlightenment ideas, in his conclusion of a discussion with its roots in antiquity, he also pinpointed distinctions which go far beyond the prescriptiveness of his argument. There are indeed differences between visual and verbal media. Media can be mixed, various form of cross-over and hybrid works push against and question those differences, but the borders are still there. They are strongly connected to the different sign systems of the visual and the verbal. In my presentation , I will show how these differences play out in the relationship between texts and maps. I will document a number of textual means of expression which are not translatable to maps. I will not claim the two should be separated; on the contrary: because of their different sign systems and because they can present different if overlapping views of the world, combining them is necessary to get anything like full geographical stories.”

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

David Pinder

‘Map and be mapped: critical cartographies in societies of control’

“Maps and mapping have long been associated with the exertion of powerful interests, from being weapons of imperialism and tools of state power to means of planning, framing and conducting war. Maps have further become an elemental means by which places and experiences are defined, engineered and commodified. This presentation addresses aspects of the current interest in alternative, participatory and grounding mapping in this context, and specifically in relation to practices utilising digital technologies and the geospatial web. Focusing on selected artistic mappings, it seeks to trouble celebratory claims of empowerment and democratisation that often accompany discussions of ‘new’ cartographies. Instead it centres on more ambivalent practices of overidentification, reworking and appropriation. In the process it finds critical significance not only in their participatory turns but also, and more particularly, in their reflexive engagements with the terms of participation and with the systems of militarisation, securitisation and surveillance through which they operate.”

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Iain Boal

‘The Micropolitics of Place: West of Eden and MayDay Rooms’

Iain will describe two collaborative mapping projects, widely separated geographically yet connected historically and personally: (i) the ‘West of Eden’ project, one of a number of critical cartographies of the SF Bay Area, excavating occluded histories of the intense pulse of commoning and antinomian energies that flowed through San Francisco and its hinterland in the 1960s and 70s, and (ii) MayDay Rooms, a new ‘archiving from below’ initiative located at 88 Fleet Street as a safe haven for documents of the counterculture and emancipatory movements threatened with loss and erasure.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –


Venue: City Centre Queen Mary University of London

Loading Map....
- - -