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For an art against the cartography of everyday life
2010-10-02 10:35:32 - by Nicolas Malevé

A beautiful synthesis of the questions surrounding the emergence a few years ago of Locative Media. By Rian Griffis.

«The title of this essay is a remix of the title of an essay by artist Martha Rosler originally published in 1979, “For an Art Against the Mythology of Everyday Life”. Rosler’s text is an engagement with what was then the emerging context now often referred to as “post-industrial globalization.” More specifically, it is an engagement from the perspective of someone attempting to make things – art works – that can “address these banally profound issues of everyday life, thereby revealing the public and political in the personal”. She was particularly interested in both the oppressive and potentially liberating aspects of “mass media.” Here, I want to take up where Rosler left off, discussing the potential of art, and technology, to “step toward reasonably and humanely changing the world” using the example of what is commonly referred to as “locative media.”»

Read online

Rian Griffis references a few interesting resources, among others a polemic started from Questioning the Frame a text by Coco Fusco. A good part of the responses are compiled here.

Of interest too is Drew Hemment’s The Locative Dystopia.

Urban Versioning System v1.0
2009-08-11 15:45:13 - by Nicolas Malevé

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A quasi-license by Matthew Fuller and Usman Haque.


Take the separate domains of Free Software licenses and of spatial construction. Consider each of them as a series of types of entity, composition and relations. What series might be invented to run across the two of them? This document is a quasi-license. If its constraints are followed in the production of spatial structures, whether buildings or more fleeting constructions, you, and others, will be able to make something new, or reversion something already there and you will be able to express clearly how others can participate or make use of the work you are creating.

The production of structures to articulate, produce and protect space, often coded under the disciplinary term ‘architecture’ is arguably one of humanity’s oldest activities. Countless technologies and legal frameworks have grown along with this process. Formerly one of the most collaborative endeavours, architecture now often functions in opposition to such collaboration. On the one hand it reinforces, and is reinforced by, whatever accretes as the currently dominant political system and some contend that this relationship makes it ineligible as a means for authentically confronting structures of power.i On the other, making buildings is a substantially collaborative effort, always involving teams and multiple kinds of expertise and decision making. All that may be required to free up construction is to render its repertoire of collaboration more expansive. Recent social, cultural and technological developments, particularly in the fields of software and electronics, suggest strategies for productive mechanisms that exist substantially within a given political frameworkyet still are able to provide clear indication of political alternatives. These alternatives in software, Free, Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS) are highly pragmatic, do the work required of them but also reinvent forms of production in a way that set up real possibilities for freedom.

Why is this relevant to the making of urban spaces? For the first time in the history of humanity more of us live within cities than outside them.ii It is vital to begin to think through how we can become more consciously involved in their design, production and inhabitation. While there is a concern about how much individuals can, with good purpose, affect their environment it is clear that we are all, collectively, and in ways strongly shaped by the kinds of collectives we form, having some sort of ecological impact. Therefore ways of organising frameworks, in formal or less formal ways, for collectively productive activities are becoming increasingly important to attend to. A discussion of the processes through which humans construct cities could appear to support the argument that there is a distinction between “artificial” and “natural”. In fact it demonstrates the opposite: just as with any non-human entity we collectively construct our ecological and architectural frameworks and these frameworks tend to overlap with those of others. These overlaos have consequences. The difference is (or should be) that we consciously recognise our interdependence and thus must consciously act upon it.

Architecture, which exists at the very moment when space is defined, constructed and experienced through activity, is perhaps the most common shared enterprise of them all. A city is a city if it is lived-in: otherwise it is merely a pile of bricks, cables and concrete. Our interdependence however does not mean that anyone is ‘naturally’ dependent on the current state of cities or societies. The proportion of the earth’s inhabitants ‘depending’ on systems of neo-liberalism or oligarchy, for instance, are rather pitiful compared to the amount of natural and human resources they require to maintain their unabashedly vampiric positions. Such a situation deserves some regeneration.

In order to develop thinking about such interdependence and collaboration we might as well start from where it is blocked. The architectural profession remains relatively steadfast in a distinction that divides designers from users, even though technology increasingly provides grounds for diminishing that distinction, either through networks (electronic, social, geographical) that provide people with better access to cross-collaborative tools and multi-disciplinary inputs or through responsive building technologies that can place people themselves at the helm of the configuration/design of their own spaces.

In the eighties and nineties, computers’ impact on the architectural discipline was in the form of design aids. In the coming decades computers will increasingly be a part of the architecture itself, enabling user-centered interaction systems for configuring environmental conditions. We have already seen systems like those that track movements of the sun to control louvres outside a building, or movements of people to adapt light levels inside a building. We have seen “intelligent” devices that monitor temperature to provide us with optimum levels or even walls that change colour as necessary to complement interior designs. However, innovation in the design and construction of the built environment of the future, appears to be split problematically between large developers (who have their own particular efficiencies of scale to optimise) on one hand, and ubiquitous computing technologists (who are developing the systems that mediate the ways that we relate to our spaces and to each other) on the other, with architects finding themselves somewhat irrelevant. People-centered architectural interfaces and responsive building systems are being developed, not by architects but by computer scientists designers and artists working independently or through numerous institutions, with all the historical and commercial associations that these institutions are party to. .

This document proposes that another lesson can be learned for architecture from computing: the way in which software is made. Here, we want to concentrate on the current most significant mode of software development, Free, Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS), steering clear of ubicomp fantasies that may often obfuscate technological power structures.

Read more.

By way of contrast to utopias, heterotopias
2009-07-08 10:08:40 - by Nicolas Malevé

Some fragments, in French and English, of Foucault’s thoughts on Heterotopias.

« On ne vit pas dans un espace neutre, blanc. On ne vit pas, on ne meurt pas, on n’aime pas dans le rectangle d’une feuille de papier...
Il est bien probable que chaque groupe humain, quel qu’il soit, découpe dans l’espace qu’il occupe, où il vit réellement, où il travaille, des lieux utopiques. Il y a parmi tous ces lieux qui se distinguent les uns des autres, il y en a qui sont, en quelque sorte absolument différents. Des lieux qui s’opposent à tous les autres, qui sont destinés à les effacer, à les compenser, à les neutraliser ou à les purifier. Ce sont en quelque sorte des "contre - espaces". Ces "contre - espaces", ces utopies localisées, les enfants les connaissent bien. Bien sûr, c’est le fond du jardin, c’est le grenier, ou mieux encore : c’est la tente d’indien dressée au milieu du grenier...
La société adulte a organisé elle-même, et bien avant les enfants, ses propres "contre - espaces", ces utopies situées, ces lieux réels hors de tous les lieux. Par exemple : il y a les jardins, les cimetières, il y a les asiles, les maisons closes, les villages du Club Méditerranée et bien d’autres... En général, les hétérotopies ont pour règle de juxtaposer en un lieu réel plusieurs espaces (réels ou imaginaires) qui normalement seraient ou devraient être incompatibles... Les hétérotopies sont ces espaces différents, ces autres lieux, ces contestations mythiques et réelles de l’espace où nous vivons. »

Ecouter ici
Retranscrit ici.

« There are also, probably in every culture, in every civilization, real places - places that do exist and that are formed in the very founding of society - which are something like counter-sites, a kind of effectively enacted utopia in which the real sites, all the other real sites that can be found within the culture, are simultaneously represented, contested, and inverted. Places of this kind are outside of all places, even though it may be possible to indicate their location in reality. Because these places are absolutely different from all the sites that they reflect and speak about, I shall call them, by way of contrast to utopias, heterotopias. »


« The heterotopia is capable of juxtaposing in a single real place several spaces, several sites that are in themselves incompatible. Thus it is that the theater brings onto the rectangle of the stage, one after the other, a whole series of places that are foreign to one another ; thus it is that the cinema is a very odd rectangular room, at the end of which, on a two-dimensional screen, one sees the projection of a three-dimensional space, but perhaps the oldest example of these heterotopias that take the form of contradictory sites is the garden. We must not forget that in the Orient the garden, an astonishing creation that is now a thousand years old, had very deep and seemingly superimposed meanings. The traditional garden of the Persians was a sacred space that was supposed to bring together inside its rectangle four parts representing the four parts of the world, with a space still more sacred than the others that were like an umbilicus, the navel of the world at its center (the basin and water fountain were there) ; and all the vegetation of the garden was supposed to come together in this space, in this sort of microcosm. As for carpets, they were originally reproductions of gardens (the garden is a rug onto which the whole world comes to enact its symbolic perfection, and the rug is a sort of garden that can move across space). The garden is the smallest parcel of the world and then it is the totality of the world. The garden has been a sort of happy, universalizing heterotopia since the beginnings of antiquity (our modern zoological gardens spring from that source). »

From Michel Foucault Of Other Spaces (1967), Heterotopias.

Lire en français, Des espaces autres (1967)

A concept, a sign system and an order of knowledge established at the centres of power
2009-02-05 10:41:44 - by Nicolas Malevé

«When I speak of geography I do not mean the materials we all studied at
school about land masses and cloud formations and climactic zones and
flora and fauna. Nor am I speaking about demographics and national
formations and geo-political resources. Instead I am contemplating the
possibility of rethinking the relations between subjects and places way
from the organising principles of the law; the law of the state that
controls privileged inclusions and desperate exclusions, or the cultural
law of naturalised and essentialised heritages that assume that a place
called France for example , is inhabited by French people who share a
language, a historical culture, a shared set of assumptions and attitudes.
What if a large part of the population is Francophone by coercion, if its
lives out its life in France, in French but also in resistance and in
resentment, if its complex allegiances are elsewhere and its presence in
France is a legacy of colonial histories and of contemporary economic
imperatives. - Could the map of that internally split entity still be
called by the overly simple term of ’France’, still be coloured a uniform
pink or yellow of whatever colour it is the atlas, a colour that would
over-ride all of the contradictory internal differences of which it is
made up?

To speak of Geography in relation to issues of cultural difference, is to
steer clear of identity politics, to navigate away from the internal
coherence of groups with an already established identity ’in common’. In
this form of politics known as identity politics the preoccupation is to
populate existing models of knowledge with a broader range of subjects. It
is to bring difference, whether sexual or cultural, into the existing
paradigms and expand their populations. For me, a far more important
project is to try and actually think difference; different modes of
knowing rather than different subjects within known modes. Geography thus
is a way of speaking cultural difference, a way of acknowledging that all
difference is always epistemologically embedded and subject to regimes
rather than simply subjugated to dominant powers.

It is made manifest in
the world through sign systems that include cartography, border marking,
landscape stereotypes, national cultures and many others. The
intersections between ’geographies’ as articulated through sign systems
and arts practices circulating as visual culture who might just have some
chance of rewriting these systems, is the heart of the subject I am trying
to produce here.

Geography is at one and the same time a concept, a sign system and an
order of knowledge established at the centres of power. By introducing
questions of critical epistemology, subjectivity and spectatorship into
the arena of geography we shift the interrogation from the centres of
power and knowledge and naming to the margins, to the site at which new
and multi dimensional knowledge and identities are constantly in the
process of being formed.»

Quote from Engendering Terror by Irit Rogoff.

En effet... Il me semble, on pourrait concevoir les gens comme des mains.
2008-08-13 15:54:09 - by Nicolas Malevé

... le problème d’une analyse, c’est peut-être pas du tout de faire une "psychanalyse", mais de faire par exemple, on peut concevoir autre chose, une "géo-analyse".

- Et une géo-analyse c’est précisément, ça part d’une idée suivante : c’est que les gens, que ce soient les individus ou les groupes, ils sont composés de lignes. C’est une analyse de linéaments, tracer les lignes de quelqu’un, à la lettre, faire la carte de quelqu’un. Alors là, la question même : est-ce que ça veut dire quelque chose ou pas ? Évidemment elle perd tout sens. Une ligne, ça veut rien dire. Simplement faire la carte avec "les espèces de lignes de quelqu’un" ou d’un groupe, d’un individu, à savoir qu’est-ce que c’est que toutes ces lignes qui se mélangent. En effet... Il me semble, on pourrait concevoir les gens comme des "mains". Chacun de nous c’est comme une main ou plusieurs mains. On a des lignes, alors ces lignes ne disent pas l’avenir parce qu’elles préexistent pas, mais il y a des lignes, bon, de toutes sortes de natures, et entre autres il y a des lignes qu’on peut appeler de bordures, de pentes ou de fuites.

- Et d’une certaine manière vivre, c’est vivre sur - en tout cas aussi - c’est vivre sur ces lignes de fuite. Alors c’est ça que j’ai essayé d’expliquer, mais chaque type de lignes a ses dangers. C’est pour ça que, c’est pour ça que c’est bien, c’est pour ça que c’est très bien, on peut jamais dire - c’est là que je me sauverai - le salut ou le désespoir, vient toujours d’une autre ligne que celle qu’on attendait. On est toujours pris par surprise. ...

Extrait des cours de Gilles Deleuze donnés à l’Université de Paris 8. A lire et écouter ici.

Shrinking cities
2008-07-07 19:45:33 - by Nicolas Malevé

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Shrinking Cities
Project Office Philipp Oswalt, Berlin/Researcher Tim Rieniets, Tanja Wesse (graphics), Berlin
Title: "World Map of Shrinking Cities 1950 - 2000"
Graphics, 2006
(c) Project Office Philipp Oswalt
Whether in the USA, Britain, or Belgium, Finland, Italy, Russia, Kazakhstan, or China: everywhere, cities are shrinking. The dramatic development in eastern Germany since 1989, which has led to more than a million empty apartments and to the abandoning of countless industrial parks and social and cultural facilities, has proven to be no exception, but a general pattern of our civilization. Shrunken cities contradict the image, familiar since the Industrial Revolution, of the "boomtown", a big city characterized by constant economic and demographic growth. Shrunken cities spur a reconsideration not only of traditional ideas of the European city, but also of the future development of urban worlds. The drastic changes in cities caused by shrinking thus present not only an economic and social, but also a cultural challenge. Urban shrinking can hardly be affected by city planning, and it brings numerous problems. New types of cities arise; we do not yet have ways of thinking or of using their specific character.

A project initiated by Federal Cultural Foundation

The power geometry of it all
2008-06-10 21:59:49 - by Nicolas Malevé

A Global Sense of Place – by Doreen Massey
From Space, Place and Gender. Minneapolis : University of Minnesota Press, 1994.

Imagine for a moment that you are on a satellite, further out and beyond all actual
satellites; you can see ’planet earth’ from a distance and, unusually for someone with
only peaceful intentions, you are equipped with the kind of technology which allows
you to see the colours of people’s eyes and the numbers on their number plates. You
can see all the movement and turn in to all the communication that is going on.
Furthest out are the satellites, then aeroplanes, the long haul between London and
Tokyo and the hop from San Salvador to Guatemala City. Some of this is people
moving, some of it is physical trade, some is media broadcasting. There are faxes, e-
mail, film-distribution networks, financial flows and transactions. Look in closer and
there are ships and trains, steam trains slogging laboriously up hills somewhere in
Asia. Look in closer still and there are lorries and cars and buses, and on down further,
somewhere in sub-Saharan Africa, there’s a woman - amongst many women - on foot,
who still spends hours a day collecting water.

Now I want to make one simple point here, and that is about what one might call the
power geometry of it all; the power geometry of time-space compression. For
different social groups, and different individuals, are placed in very distinct ways in
relation to these flows and interconnections. This point concerns not merely the issue
of who moves and who doesn’t, although that is an important element of it; it is also
about power in relation to the flows and the movement. Different social groups have
distinct relationships to this anyway differentiated mobility: some people are more in
charge of it than others; some initiate flows and movement, others don’t; some are
more on the receiving-end of it than others; some are effectively imprisoned by it.
In a sense at the end of all the spectra are those who are both doing the moving and
the communicating and who are in some way in a position of control in relation to it -
the jet-setters, the ones sending and receiving the faces and the e-mail, holding the
international conference calls, the ones distributing films, controlling the news,
organizing the investments and the international currency transactions. These are the
groups who are really in a sense in charge of time-space compression, who care really
use it and turn it to advantage, whose power and influence it very definitely increases.
On its more prosaic fringes this group probably includes a fair number of western
academics and journalists - those, in other words, who write most about it.

But there are also groups who are also doing a lot of physical moving, but who are not
’in charge’ of the process in the same way at all. The refugees from El Salvador or
Guatemala and the undocumented migrant workers from Michoacan in Mexico,
crowding into Tijuana to make a perhaps fatal dash for it across the border into the US
to grab a chance of a new life. Here he experience of movement, and indeed of a
confusing plurality of cultures, is very different. And there are those from India,
Pakistan, Bangladesh, the Caribbean, who come half way round the world only to get
held up in an interrogation room at Heathrow.

Or - a different case again- there are those who are simply on the receiving end of
time-space compression. The pensioner in a bed-sit in any inner city in this country,
eating British working-class-style fish and chips from a Chinese take-away, watching
a US film on a Japanese television; and not daring to go out after dark. And anyway
the public transport’s been cut.

Or - one final example to illustrate a different kind of complexity - there are the
people who live in the favelas of Rio, who know global football like the back of their
hand, and have produced some of its players; who have contributed massively to
global music, who gave up the samba and produced the lambada that everyone was
dancing to last year in the clubs of Paris and London; and who have never, or hardly
ever, been to downtown Rio. At one level they have been tremendous contributors to
what we call time-space compression; and at another level they are imprisoned in it.

Mapping Me / Mapping You
2008-04-06 19:44:14 - by Nicolas Malevé

April 25, 18:00 - 20:00, in Recyclart

A roundtable meeting about cartography between An Mertens (and other members of
Saturdays, Woman and Free Software)
, Liesbeth Huybrechts (Cultural studies PHD KuLeuven, researcher, curator),
Nicolas Malevé (Tresor software, Towards.be) and
Peter Westenberg (Routes + Routines) investigating GEO data control, different layers
and perspectives on the art of mapping, subjective cartographic perception and /Home as private territory.

  • w h e n : April 25, 18:00 - 20:00
  • l o c a t i o n : Recyclart, GARE BRUXELLES-CHAPELLE, Rue des Ursulines 25, Brussels

Future Map
2008-02-11 17:21:09 - by Nicolas Malevé

From the text Future Map, by Brian Holmes

"The trading function are overlaid on a map of the Middle East, like windows of geopolitical opportunity. This interface, and the lure of profit it offered, would be the electrodes attached to the precognitive lobes of the investors. If they produced striking images, then preemptive policies would follow."

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"The PAM trading interface is literally a “future map.” It is also a perfect example of what Foucault calls a “security device,” and it offers precise insight into the dynamics of surveillance under cybernetic capitalism. It is not a police program, but a market instituted in such a way as to precisely condition the free behavior of its participants. It produces information, while turning human actors into functional relays, or indeed, into servomechanisms; and it “consumes freedom” for a purpose. Like all security devices, it serves two functions. One is to optimize economic development: in this case, the development of financial speculation. But the other function is to produce information that will help to eliminate deviant behavior, of the kind that can’t be brought into line with any “normal” curve. This is the double teleology of closed-loop information systems in cybercapitalism. The map of the future is always a promised land to come. But there are always a few enemy targets on the way to get there. The question is, do you hold the gun? Do you just watch as the others take aim? Or do you try to dodge the magic bullet?"

Read the essay

We are Zumbi
2007-12-07 21:20:00 - by Nicolas Malevé

Found in the blog Critical Spatial Practice, an article about the cartography made by the group Frente 3 de Fevereiro. This group has been created after the death of a young black man, Flávio Sant’Ana, by the São Paulo military police.

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Frente 3 de Fevereiro

A few quotes from their manifesto We Are Zumbi: A Cartography of Racism to the Urban Youth

Thus we began our cartography trying to decompose the historical thread that has been rendered “natural” through new social practices. But how are these practices structured? What are the limits of the slave legacy in our quotidian experience? How can we break free from this logic by inscribing other forms of sociability?

Cartography is to us more than a map. It is writing understood in a larger sense, a stance before the world. We are cartographers when we recognize and organize that which instigates us to act, giving us hearing, a voice and form to our anxieties and desires, poetically expressing and inscribing onto reality that which moves us.

Everything that voices the movements of desire, everything that serves to coin expressive material, is welcomed. All entry points are good, so long as there are multiple exits. That way the cartographer uses a variety of sources, not only written or theoretical [...]. The cartographer is a true cultural cannibal: always expropriating, appropriating devouring and giving birth, trans-valuing. The cartographer is always seeking elements/nourishment to compose his/her cartographies

Thanks to Muriel Claeys

Cognitive and cartographic representations
2007-09-06 13:21:23 - by Nicolas Malevé

A dense paper that tackles many important themes for a subjective collective cartography: data collection from subjective perception of space, the comparison of subjective datasets, how to map them, which protocols to use, etc.

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Cauvin + Bronner

"In order to clearly understand the cognitive representations of the urban space, this paper presents an approach in three steps : identification, which highlights the importance of a place ; its location more or less exact which indicates the level of the individuals’spatial knowledge, and the description which specifies the significant attributes of these places for the interviewed individuals. In order to obtain comparable maps, a precise protocol is proposed for each step."

Read it online

Colette Cauvin, « Cognitive and cartographic representations : towards a comprehensive approach », Cybergeo, Cartographie, Imagerie, SIG, article 206, mis en ligne le 15 janvier 2002, modifié le 03 mai 2007. URL : http://www.cybergeo.eu/index194.html. Consulté le 04 septembre 2007.

Dispatches From the Hyperlocal Future
2007-08-20 14:20:51 - by Nicolas Malevé

A small novel by Bruce Sterling published in Wired, July 2007. The main character, a famous geo blogger embodies the "hyperlocal" utopia.

So what am I doing here in DC? I just finished testifying before Congress about the fast-gathering passport brouhaha. I even rented a suit for the occasion. (And get this: To return it, all I have to do is drop it off at a dry cleaner — transmitters sewn into the hems will tell FedEx where to send it and how to bill me.) I gently opined to the glum congressional committee that sealing borders in a world of location-aware technology is a futile effort doomed to an ignominious defeat. Yes sir, just like digital rights management!

Too bad none of the assembled officials could remember digital rights management. But that makes sense. Another 10 years and nobody will remember passports, either. I leaned into the microphone to deliver the money line. "Hyperlocality is transforming our lives at every scale: bodyware, roomware, streetware, cityware, nationware, and global ware. From nano to astro!"

Reading this gives a strange feeling in our Belgian context where the Mercators of Val Duchesse are fighting over the inner borders of a micro-nation.

Remapping the world : International conference of critical geography
2007-07-25 17:47:35 - by Véronique

Remapping the world

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Imperialism and Resultant Disorder : Imperatives for Social Justice - 3-7 December 2007 - Mumbai, India

Between 1997 and 2005, four Critical Geography conferences have accomplished much toward elaborating and refining critical geographies by stimulating constructive debates, collaborative projects, and building connections among critical geographers and other scholars and activists worldwide (see the International Critical Geography Group web site, http://econgeog.misc.hit-u.ac.jp/icgg/). Following these highly successful events, we invite you to join us, the International Critical Geography Group, for the Fifth International Conference of Critical Geography in Mumbai, India, 3-7 December 2007, at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences(TISS).

Visualisation techniques for temporal information
2007-07-09 18:18:37 - by Nicolas Malevé

A wonderful document produced by Joe Parry who runs the very richVisual Design and Analysis weblog

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Visualisation Techniques For Temporal Information
by Joe Parry

«This document is a high level overview of graphical representations of temporal information. It is intended to be a short personal guide to the relevant literature and applications. It is intended to encourage further reading and research, rather than being a definitive review.»

Read it!

OSGeo Journal
2007-06-13 20:55:41 - by Nicolas Malevé

The first volume of the osgeo (Open Source Geospatial Foundation) journal is out.

The OSGeo Journal is a digital publication containing case studies, news, tutorials, project updates and more. With a general aim at promoting, highlighting and educating readers about open source geospatial applications in general, but also provides updates on OSGeo projects.

Link to the complete issue in pdf

Cartography and the Technologies of Location
2007-06-01 18:21:41 - by Nicolas Malevé

Suggested by Femke, a text by Graham Harwood that questions maps and software.

« Forgetting the invisible city is a normality for most of us : a common sense that can help amass someone an empire a small business or - as in Bristol - transport people half way around the world against their will. This forgetting offers us a temporary blindness that allows us to go about our daily business, walking past the sick, the homeless or the building built on glories that meant other peoples’ pain. In the same way that we forget the map and remember the journey, we also forget the software that wrote this text. »

Read online

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