Reflexive Cartography addresses the adaptation of cartography, including its digital forms (GIS, WebGIS, PPGIS), to the changing needs of society, and outlines the experimental context aimed at mapping a topological space. Using rigorous scientific analysis based on statement consistency, relevance of the proposals, and model accessibility, it charts the transition from topographical maps created by state agencies to open mapping produced by citizens.
Adopting semiotic theory to uncover the complex communicative mechanisms of maps and to investigate their ability to produce their own messages and new perspectives, Reflexive Cartography outlines a shift in our way of conceptualizing maps: from a plastic metaphor of reality, as they are generally considered, to solid tools that play the role of agents, assisting citizens as they think and plan their own living place and make sense of the current world.
- Applies a range of technologies to theoretical perspectives on mapping to innovatively map the world's geographic diversity
- Features a multi-disciplinary perspective that weaves together geography, the geosciences, and the social sciences through territorial representation
- Authored and edited by two of the world's foremost cartographic experts who combine more than 60 years of experience in research and in the classroom
- Presents more than 60 figures to underscore key concepts
Cartographic Interpretation Between Continuity and Renewal
On the Trail of Chora
This chapter surveys a number of research trends from the last few decades and zeroes in on the semiotic approach as a potential ground for advocating new cartographic modes. By shifting our focus of interest from maps as territory mediators to maps as operators capable of eliciting action, this approach unveils the specific contexts that need to be addressed in order to take control of the communicative outcomes of maps. Two cartographic phenomena are submitted as especially crucial: self-reference and iconization. The former marks a map's propensity to be accepted by virtue of its mere existence and to influence communication quite independently of the cartographer's intentions; the latter relies on those self-referential outcomes to present highly conjectural facts as if they were truths. Maps provide a model that replaces territory, yet fails to represent it. Through iconization, maps put knowledge of the material world aside in order to assert another dimension that they shaped and established. In the modern period, such replacement occurred via topographic maps, a translation of Cartesian logic, which posited territory as topos, that is, territory in its superficially abstract sense. As it sets out to abandon Cartesian logic in order to restore the chora - which in fact enhances the cultural aspects of the area and an individual's relation to the place where he or she lives - cartographic semiosis becomes a privileged scenario for identifying areas on which to act.
Cartographic paradigms; Cartographic semiosis; Self-reference of maps; Iconization; Maps and territory; Maps and society; Power of maps
I approach deep problems like cold baths: quickly into them and quickly out again.
F. Nietzsche, The Gay Science, 1882
Society and Cartography
Over the last few decades, studies in cartography have subsumed a number of approaches, points of view, and theoretical considerations aimed at recovering the problematic nature of maps*
and their social role. Attention was paid both to the set of tools used to interpret the history of cartography1
and to the new possibilities offered by Geographic Information Systems (GIS).2
Scholars agree that the symbolic apparatus used to represent the world derives from the values on which a given society is based, values according to which societal knowledge will be organized. Nor is that all. It has also become evident that each society produces particular views of its territory, according to the specific relationship established with it and the practices it is invested with. By now, we are quite removed from studies of cartographic history imbued with scientific positivism. Such studies based their analysis either on the technical features of maps or on the self-evidence of what maps represented, thus sanctioning and strengthening the maps' alleged or claimed objectivity.3
When the notion that maps mirrored reality was finally rejected, maps started to be considered as tokens of the intellectual appropriation humans pursue as they endeavor to master the world. All that enabled scholars to recover a dual cartographic perspective: the notion of maps as social products that show us the ways in which a given society builds its own items of territorial knowledge and the idea of maps as means of communication, whereby these knowledge items are circulated. Maps thus function as symbolic operators
able to affect territorial agents directly. As for the first aspect, it was finally understood that maps are an entirely special type of representation, able to generate a territorial image that stands as a truthful, unquestioned and wholly authoritative final product.4
Secondly, once the self-referential working of maps was highlighted, maps could be seen as a means of communication able to supply their interpreters with strategies for the production, use and mediatization* of territory. In this new perspective, it would be clearly anachronistic to assess cartography in terms of geographic distortion or mathematical projection. From the point of view of information, features of a map that may seem "extravagant" cannot possibly be written off as purely cosmetic, superfluous or accidental. On the contrary, they need to be taken as evidence of a specific worldview. Similarly, it makes sense to deny once and for all the claim that the "scientific quality" of maps is vouchsafed by their degree of accuracy. Even in that case we would be witnessing an attempt to manipulate reality in order to convey a very partial view of it. To be sure, a rich and complex panorama opened up over the last few decades. Within it, the study of maps was problematized; maps were inseparably tied to a set of methodological procedures and critical assessments with which each scholar of cartographic theory, history of cartography, historical cartography but even of participatory or interactive cartography must comply.5
Here I will explore, albeit in broad outlines, the stages through which this cartographic structure was built. My aim is to show its most innovative features and to give relevance to a path that, having been clearly marked, must now be consciously adopted as one's epistemological framework. At the same time, I intend to illustrate the crucial role geographical studies have in this area, because they have promoted awareness of the problematic nature of maps seen as meta-geographical discourse, but they have also disclosed their multifaceted action as self-referential tools and illustrated the key role cartographic semiosis* continues to play.
The Role of Theory in Cartographic Interpretation
To start with, we need to clarify the assumption that underlies critical studies on cartography. Every interpretation relies on a hypothesis. No cartographic analysis may be considered neutral, for each relies on a hypothesis whereby the bits of information obtained from the map are placed within a precise frame of reference, which affects their meaning. This must be asserted to clear up irrelevant doubts as to the usefulness of embracing a hypothesis in the first place. On the contrary, it should be stated that a theoretical approach is still and ever present in any interpretation, for the simple reason that interpretive activities produce knowledge, which is in fact a hypothesis. Hypotheses are nothing but answers to questions or solutions to issues, which eventually fall under the scrutiny of the scientific community of researchers. And the notion that knowledge may be derived from an unwarranted and purely contemplative activity is glaringly removed from fact. Rather, it is the answer to a need, and may be understood only in the light of a human interest which justifies its relevance.6
In our case, therefore, reliance on theory makes sense only when theory is perceived as a tool for clarifying the learning and communicative outcomes of maps. And maps are to be seen not so much as means of recording reality but as instances of a mediatization that intervenes to shape it, as operators able to alter it. Of course, hypotheses gain relevance in accordance with to their ability to enhance the level of inquiry. Insofar as issues are implicit, for instance ingrained in shared beliefs, hypotheses are undoubtedly prevented from assuming the explicit form they need to undergo validation. In that situation, the identification of issues is therefore a measure which increases scientific awareness, to the point that it elicits and sets in motion new processes of discovery.7
Scientific knowledge, then, is always
a theoretical knowledge which always
presupposes an issue. The latter, in turn, may be either explicit or implicit, that is it may be grasped according to a variable that runs the whole gamut from perfect presupposition to full explicitation, passing through intermediate forms. In particular, an implicit hypothesis corresponds to an unspoken issue, which is in itself something quite close to subjective knowledge. Also, such issue may well be preventing
a hypothesis therein raised from taking on an explicit form. The final explanation one provides will appear thus severed from its generative substrate and will produce a set of conditions that prevent real appreciation. So, how to determine the value of a hypothesis, either in itself or in relation to others? How to determine the fairness and competitiveness of an answer? How to justify it without knowing the realm of understanding such hypothesis applies to? Ultimately, an unuttered decision remains an unstated intention and marks the researcher's final denial of responsibility. However, to make a hypothesis explicit is not always compulsory. In some cases, information culled from interpretation is formulated only linguistically, that is, it is rendered in the form of implicit theories, hardly recognizable as scientific points of view about the world of experience. Such information will thus prove unfit to produce a communicative flow. Explication of a hypothesis is, therefore, the first prerequisite for activating a scientific exchange. For, besides providing a test for validating a hypothesis, the assessment and verification procedures within a community of researchers create a forum of exchange and, therefore, an area of shared growth. While I am aware of these issues, in this chapter I chose to analyze, among others, a number of...