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Mapping the privatization of war
2006-10-26 23:02:19 - by Nicolas Malevé

Un point de départ assez riche pour une série d’exemples de Cognitive Mapping, engagés dans la dénonciation de la politique américaine au Moyen Orient: Subtopia, a field guide to military urbanism

Entre autres, Mapping the ??War on Terror?? :

The map was assembled by the ??mutual support network?? and rushed to press just before the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. The map has a low-tech, DIY aesthetic, designed to be reproduced by photocopy on the front and back of a standard sheet paper. The icons are composed of cut paper, arranged on a found map. The map was available at progressive bookstores around town, and was distributed at organizing meetings for various protest events. The list of weapons makers, media companies, and military recruiters helped locate the discussion around the March 27, 2003 direct action. Rockefeller Center ultimately was chosen for its proximity to several points on the map.

et ...

??The Privatization of War: Colombia as Laboratory and Iraq as Large-Scale Application??.

Commissioned for the Gwangju Biennial, this collaboration between artist Lize Mogel and writer Dario Azzellini diagrams the relationships between the United States and private military contractors (PMCs); and their activities in Columbia and Iraq. These nations are two key sites that exemplify PMC operation in the new world order.

The privatization of military services is a worldwide business worth $200 billion a year. PMCs are an enormous part of this economy, offering "products" from logistics (such as building and managing military camps and prisons) to strategic support (radar and surveillance) to open combat and special sabotage missions. PMC corporations are based globally, and recruit heavily in the global south.

(plus d’infos à ce sujet, sur Critical Spatial Practice)

Cognitive mapping
2006-10-03 12:58:53 - by Nicolas Malevé

Je suis plusieurs fois tombé récemment sur le terme cognitive mapping mis en circulation par le philosophe Frederic Jameson.

Un extrait de son texte Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism

We cannot, however, return to aesthetic practices elaborated on the basis of historical situations and dilemmas which are no longer ours. Meanwhile, the conception of space that has been developed here suggests that a model of political culture appropriate to our own situation will necessarily have to raise spatial issues as its fundamental organising concern. I will therefore provisionally define the aesthetic of this new (and hypothetical) cultural form as an aesthetic of cognitive mapping.
In a classic work, The Image of the City, Kevin Lynch taught us that the alienated city is above all a space in which people are unable to map (in their minds) either their own positions or the urban totality in which they find themselves: grids such as those of Jersey City, in which none of the traditional markers (monuments, nodes, natural boundaries, built perspectives) obtain, are the most obvious examples. Disalienation in the traditional city, then, involves the practical reconquest of a sense of place and the construction or reconstruction of an articulated ensemble which can be retained in memory and which the individual subject can map and remap along the moments of mobile, alternative trajectories. Lynch??s own work is limited by the deliberate restriction of his topic to the problems of city form as such; yet it becomes extraordinarily suggestive when projected outward onto some of the larger national and global spaces we have touched on here. Nor should it be too hastily assumed that his model ?? while it clearly raises very central issues of representation as such ?? is in any way easily vitiated by the conventional poststructural critiques of the ??ideology of representation?? or mimesis. The cognitive map is not exactly mimetic in that older sense; indeed, the theoretical issues it poses allow us to renew the analysis of representation on a higher and much more complex level.

Une quinzaine d’années plus tard, dans un texte de Brian Holmes, Imaginary Maps, Global Solidarities, le même concept est remis au travail dans le contexte de nouveaux moyens de communication

Where do maps meet the intricacies of minds, bodies, aspirations? The interaction between mental conceptions and graphic representations can be studied beneath the heading of "cognitive cartography." As Daniel Montello writes: "Map design can be thought of as mind design; the way a map is designed will influence the views of the world it stimulates or inhibits." (2) But cognitive cartography as he presents it is concerned with the psychological mechanisms of perception, what is called "psychophysics." The cartographer uses empirical observation and analysis to determine the most effective means for the representation of data ?? measuring the perceptibility of shades of color, dot size, line thickness, etc. These mundane questions of graphic design, which are directly faced by the practical map-maker, become immediately relevant when you want to "get somewhere" in the world, or to "get some information" from a map. With the advent of Geographic Information Systems, typically combining the resources of satellite imagery, geographically indexed databases, telematics and global positioning technology (GPS), the problem of cartographic information design is burgeoning into a major new industrial field, mobilizing thousands of digital artisans for the creation of products whose efficiency will be "tested by the market." But just what is the market testing for? If you reflect that the basic elements of Geographic Information Systems, and of GPS-based "locative media" in particular, were developed by the US military for the tracking of enemy movements and the targeting of missiles, and if you further reflect that the same systems are now being massively adapted by the private sector for the management of mobile workforces and the statistical targeting of consumers, a feeling of deep disorientation may arise, concerning "the efficiency of efficiency." What kind of world do contemporary maps represent? What is it good for? What is the use of "getting some information," if the results are commercial or military propaganda? Or of "getting somewhere," if the destination is worthless, even repulsive? What shall we make of the contemporary design of our own minds?

The feeling of being irretrievably lost in the process of planetary integration ?? or "globalization" ?? is not new. Twenty years ago, the American Marxist Frederic Jameson wrote of the urgent need for "an aesthetics of cognitive mapping" to resolve "the incapacity of our minds, at least at present, to map the great global multinational and decentered communicational network in which we find ourselves caught as individual subjects." (3) That phrase, "an aesthetics of cognitive mapping," is at once immensely suggestive and at least partially misleading. It is suggestive, because the word aesthetics evokes an experiential and experimental domain, whose questions are both theoretical and sensual, fully embodied and self-reflexive. The notion of aesthetics points to all the formal, emotional, and associational dimensions that come into play when we ask ourselves questions about a particular artifact that we find in front of us: like a map. What is it? What isn’t it? Is it good? Why? What for? How does it relate to other, more familiar things? How can it be played with, reinterpreted, turned upside down? How can it be reworked, reframed, refolded ?? estranged and transformed for another use? Twenty years ago, Jameson pointed to the striking absence of aesthetic objects, and particularly maps, that could both mediate the debates over the globalization process and help the participants to internalize some of their results, so as to create intuitive, embodied representations of the contemporary world. Cognitive mapping in this sense is about orientation, about situating yourself, achieving a better fit between your body/mind and a mutating earth. In fact, the major intellectual project of the worldwide Left in the 1990s was to map out the political economy of neoliberal capitalism, which had literally produced a new geography. In that respect Jameson’s question was a decade ahead of its time. And yet his phrase was also misleading, because the word "cognitive" tends to reduce the interaction of mind and map to the level of individual contemplation, or even to psychophysics ?? as though it were a matter of a purely functional nervous system staring into its cartographic mirror. Whereas recent history, since the massification of access to the Internet, tends to show that the aesthetics of cognitive mapping only becomes effective, only opens up a public inquiry about the ways the globalization process can be conceived and embodied by its subjects, when it actually transits through the "great global multinational and decentered communicational network" in which we are individually and collectively caught ?? both as moving targets and as potential actors, that is, as political beings.