Digital Mapping – The Importance of Space, Place and Time

A short post by myself on the importance of space, place and time in digital mapping at NCRM’s MODE blog.

MODE Blog

Iphone Sukey Author:  Sam Hind, Phd Student, University of Warwick attached to the ERC project Charting the Digital (http://digitalcartography.eu/project.html).

Digital Maps intimately connect the concepts of space, place and time. Each is a dynamic term reaching across bodies and technologies, and none can be considered a priori – as pre-existing epistemological formations. That is, each comes into its own through an iterative process between material worlds, everyday life and imaginative experiences.

Space is not simply Euclidean space – although everyday usage of digital maps is certainly predicated upon geometric calculations and built upon a Cartesian coordinate system. Each pushpin placed onto a map has a unique position. Each building, tree or road can occupy a specific set of coordinates. But this does not explain how digital maps are engaged with and wilfully underplays the performative nature of their use. Those who have conceptualized space (human geographers, urban theorists etc.) emphasize…

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Le Havre

Went to see Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki’s latest film Le Havre earlier this week; a heart-warming story of a young African migrant and a shoeshiner in the French port of Le Havre.

Although unfamiliar with Kaurismäki, his film displayed a similar aesthetic to the work of Sylvain Chomet (Belleville Rendez-vous, The Illusionist), despite not sharing that lusty, frantic animated touch of Chomet’s  feature films. Without revealing too much of the storyline, the lead character – Marcel Marx – is a struggling boot polisher and former Parisian bohemian. Upon stumbling across a young escapee from a failed asylum attempt (Idrissa), Marx proceeds to care for the boy. But with the story hitting city-wide headlines, local police detective Monet follows their every move. Melancholic characters (Marx’s partner Arletty, fellow shoeshiner Chang), juicy cinematography and dry comic exchanges make for a fluid feature-length.  Upon discovering Idrissa has a remaining family member in the UK, Marx commits himself to finding the money needed for their reunion. With Arletty in hospital with cancer, Marx puts on a charity gig with Le Havre rock legend Little Bob; stumping up the money for his supposedly safe (but nonetheless illegal) passage across the Atlantic from fishing trawler to fishing trawler. Snopping Monet tips Marx off when it matters; Idrissa is presumed to have made his journey with success, and Arletty overcomes her illness.

Having watched last night’s Newsnight with a short piece on the French election, this film is released at a rather sensitive time. After the shootings in Toulouse; an event exposing the somewhat fractious political state in the country,  Kaurismäki has succeeded in distilling some distinctly universal themes in national politics; namely those of citizenship, borders, and (illegal) asylum. It was of little coincidence Kaurismäki chose the port of Le Havre; depicted as a gritty, working-class city defined through it’s close network of work/drink relationships played out against an equally cinematic/metronomic background of daily coastal life. The sensitive, selfless nature of Kaurismäki’s lead character, Marx, make for a subtle rebuttal to those that recklessly stoke patriotic pride in the face of genuine humanitarian action. The film explores the warming nature of the latter against the mindless naivety of the former.    

Situated Technologies I

“Si vous réussissez, vous serez bientôt couverts de gloire”
(“If you succeed you will bask in glory”)
The Chappe Brothers 1791

The Semaphore System was an early mechanical informational device to send visual messages across long distances. In it’s initial guise, the semaphore system was devised by the Chappe Brothers to send coded messages from French military forces in the late 18th century. This blog takes it’s name from The Chappe Brother’s invention (synonymously known as a ‘Semaphore Line‘) , and the quote above comes from the first message sent between two signal towers in 1791.

 As a historical example of the nexus of military needs, political and revolutionary events, and visual informational devices, the Semaphore Line acts as a grounding for thinking through the dynamics of geospatial technology, interactive media and the digital frontier. This blog will collate some of the work done at the intersection of these fields.