Nov/03
Matt Wilson

Geodesign as retention: The urgency of the map

Mapping technologies occupy a curious status in society. Profoundly, they are objects of publicity that translate the real world and our being within it. At the same time, they are objective, the products of technicians, expertise, science. This lecture addresses one such recent development in mapping -- geodesign -- to better understand its origins and operative regime, in three parts. First, I develop the notion that maps proceed as retentional techniques, drawing out recent critiques of the ordering of human life around an attention economy. I argue that geodesign, the quantified self, neogeography and big data, are but recent permutations in how we channel our most basic human capacity: paying attention. Location-aware technologies are thus not purely technical innovations: they are evolutions in technosocial relations. Second, I examine calls for geodesign from this perspective, to better understand how the map as design serves to reconfigure time and ‘the future’ through spatial experimentation. I attempt to recover a particular criticality -- as urgency -- within these maps, as technosocial and retentional developments. Finally, I consider contemporary interest in community-based mapping; I reconceptualize these interests in intense, local, and grounded mapmaking as productive of a different map that attempts to resist the speed and gloss of the digital map in our pockets. I conclude by suggesting that the proliferation of spatial media creates opportunities: opportunities for engagement, for creative disciplines, and for industries to fashion new encounters in and with place. The urgency that comes of planetary urbanization demands more experimentation with geographic representation, not less. Through such experiments, we might resist the closure that seems unavoidable in the location-aware future. We might create a new map, a new projective practice, to champion more open and just futures.

Matt Wilson

Matthew W. Wilson, PhD, is Associate Professor of Geography at the University of Kentucky and Visiting Scholar at the Center for Geographic Analysis at Harvard University. He co-founded and co-directs the New Mappings Collaboratory which studies and facilitates new engagements with geographic representation. He is co-editor of Understanding Spatial Media (SAGE) and his most recent book is New Lines (University of Minnesota Press). He has previously taught at Ball State University and the Harvard Graduate School of Design, and his current research examines mid-20th century, digital mapping practices. He earned his PhD and MA from the University of Washington and his BS from Northwest Missouri State University.