Mapping the Field

Date/Time: 14/01/2014 from 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm

Seminar Details

The opening seminar introduces some of the main themes of the series and offers a critical overview of recent debates in the theory and practice of critical cartography.

  • PHIL COHEN Navigating the Real? The Map as Model and Metaphor
  • CHRISTIAN NOLD What Does Mapping Map?
  • AURA FILMS The Map is Not the Territory (screening)

Chair : Victoria Boelman

Venue : The Young Foundation

Phil is the author of ‘On the Wrong Side of the Track: East London and the Post Olympics’ (2013) and is currently working on a series of projects related to Olympic Park.

Christian is an artist, designer and researcher working to develop new participatory models and technologies for communal representation and the editor of ‘Emotional Cartographies: Technologies of the Self’ (2009). Aura Films are an independant video production group who produced ‘The Map is Not the Territory’ (2013) to accompany the launch of Phil’s book on East London and the Olympics.


Phil Cohen

Phil Cohen’s work over the last 20 years has focused on East London and has dealt with issues of racism and multiculturalism, public safety and danger, the role of the cultural economy in urban regeneration and popular participation in planning. His research with young people and communities in East London pioneered new methods of visual ethnography and dialogic engagement with informants. His books include ‘Knuckle Sandwich: Growing up in the Working Class City’ (with Dave Robins), ‘Rethinking the Youth Question, New Ethnicities, Old Racisms’, ‘London’s Turning: the Making of Thames Gateway’ (with Mike Rustin) and most recently ‘On the Wrong side of the Track? East London and the Post Olympics’. His memoir ‘Reading Room Only: Memoir of a Radical Bibliophile’ was published this year and a collection of his new research ‘Borderscapes: Between Memory, Narrative and Imagined Community’ is forthcoming from Palgrave Macmillan.

In 2013 he co-founded Living maps with John Wallett.

Christian Nold

Christian is an artist, designer and researcher working to develop new participatory models and technologies for communal representation. He has written the books ‘Mobile Vulgus’ (2001) and ‘Internet of People for a Post-Oil World’ (2011) and edited ‘Emotional Cartographies – Technologies of the Self’ (2009). He has led many large scale participatory mapping projects. In particular his ‘Bio Mapping’ project has been staged in many different countries across the globe with thousands of participants. He has developed experimental currencies, the ‘Bijlmer Euro’ (2010) and Suomenlinna Kuula (2012) and is releasing the book ‘Autopsy of an Island Currency’ in 2014. He is currently working on a PhD in the Extreme Citizen Science group at UCL where his research involves following a series of participatory sensing tools.


Phil Cohen

Navigating the Real:
The Map as Model and Metaphor

From Borges and Houellebecq to Baudrillard and Latour the implications of Alfred Korzybski’s original proposition that ‘the map is not the territory’ have been the touchstone of key debates in philosophy, aesthetics, literature and the social sciences. The terms of these debates have had a direct resonance within cartography in the long standing feud between those whose hold to an enlightenment model and defend the globalising scope of forensic and panoptic mapping techniques, and those who insist on the superior hermeneutics of standpoint epistemologies and maps which portray locally situated structures of knowledge, narrative and sentiment. In this talk I will argue that the advent of new open source digital mapping has in principle, though rarely yet in practice, made this dichotomy between map as model and as metaphor redundant. Drawing on readings of a range of maps I will suggest that the fictive concord (and real disjuncture) between map and territory is as much to be found in scientific as in artist’s methodologies of mapping, the only difference being that in one case it is disavowed and in the other celebrated. The way forward for critical cartography must lie in overcoming this polarity in its practice and in challenging the unequal relations of power which presently obtain between these different strategies for navigating the real.

Christian Nold

What Does Mapping Map?

This presentation looks at a range of participatory mapping practices from locative media to citizen science research into environmental quality to ask what is actually taking place in these projects? Participatory mapping is a peculiar coming together of living entities, electronic devices and issues that creates surprising networks and alliances. The talk will look at the material practices of a number of these projects and explore the ontological ambiguity of sensing. What kinds of relations do mapping projects create for participants and for wider environmental issues?

Screening: The Map is Not the Territory

The session will be introduced with the screening of ‘The Map is Not the Territory’, a short film exploring some issues of representation raised by a map designed by John Wallett for a book about East London and the Olympics.

Venue: The Young Foundation

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