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Thursday, May 28 • 2:15pm - 3:30pm
Mapping Digital Ecologies

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A panel of three papers:

Digital Heuretic Mapping Practice: Understanding Positionality and Place Through Mapped Experiences
Clayton Benjamin

Since John Pickles’ 1995 article, "Representations in an Electronic Age: Geography, GIS, and Democracy", critical cartographers (those who apply and operationalize poststructuralist critiques to the study and creation of maps) have wrestled with ways to democratically represent people, spaces, and places through maps. Poststructuralist critiques of mapping are important because historically maps have the potential to control ideologies through systems of governance and power (Elwood, Knopp, Crampton, Krygier, Barton & Barton etc.) Historically, maps have been created and commissioned by those in power to scientifically control political economies, “the politics of production, distribution, and consumptions of resources” (Crampton). For example, governments use maps to regulate taxation; to draw voter districts; to decide where to build roads, public utilities, housing, & governmental services; and for gaining military advantages. Additionally, maps traditionally relied on quantitative data that afforded cartographers and governments the ability to make broad generalizations about the populations they map. Therefore, scholars in critical cartography work to understand how maps are historically and culturally situated in order to reveal their use in negotiating power.

Scaffolded on the work of critical cartographers, I argue that user-friendly digital maps, such as Google Maps and Open Street Maps, can provide everyday users the ability to disrupt the traditional uses of mapmaking in order to understand their positionalities in physical spaces. Using Gregory Ulmer’s heuretics this presentation investigates these positionalities. Ulmers heuretics is based on the Mystory which asks users to trace punctums through a Popcycle to arrive at a dialectical image through choragraphy. Choragraphy is an action that takes place in the liminal/sacred space - chora. Ulmer states, “Topos names the abstract quality of place as a container, and chora names the sacred nature of specific places” (100). Mystory, then, is a process of mapping ideologies. To understand how the governing of place changes our experiences (chora), I reflect on an experiment I conducted that mapped choral data instead of quantitative data and report on the process and findings of doing this type of critical self-reflective work.

I began my experiment by asking two question: As a queer male, how does the governing (both social and political) of places constrain or afford interaction with those places? and How can I navigate hostile social environments without compromising my queer identity? To consult on these questions, I performed a Mystory by collecting stories and images of my travels to different cities which I plotted on Google Maps. The plotted stories became points on the map, that I then read into a widesite, through the surrealist methodology of bulletism, the practice of splattering ink on a surface and connecting the ink drops into an image. Like Ulmer’s choragraphy, bulletism revealed connections between the image I found in the “splattered ink” and the questions I wished to consult on. In this presentation I explain the experiment, my different scenes of instruction, and then show, by using mapping and bulletism, how place influences my identity as a writer and my ability to think through liminal spaces.

The Religious Soundmap of the Global Midwest: Process, Project, and Possibilities
Bobby Smiley

What does religion in the Global Midwest sound like? This question animates The Religious Soundmap of the Global Midwest, a digital humanities project that will invite broad public audiences to experience the religious diversity of the Midwest through sound. Exploring this question and the associated project, the proposed curated talk and discussion will detail the rationale, genesis, and pedagogical applications of the project, discuss project management and the generative possibilities of cross-institutional collaboration, and explore the proposed functionality of the publicly accessible online mapping platform created for the project, as well as its potential audiences. In so doing, this presentation will provide both digital humanists and religious studies scholars with a possible template for piloting similar digital projects in the public humanities.

While scholarship on American religious diversity tends to concentrate on coastal cities, The Religious Soundmap addresses this gap, calling attention to the “global” character of the Midwestern soundscape. Moreover, scholars have recently looked to embodied religious practices, including rituals and sensory behaviors. The Religious Soundmap offers a new approach to studying American religious diversity by listening to the sounds of religious life and locating them in space.

As a part of the pedagogical application of the project, student researchers will produce audio recordings of religion “in practice.” These recordings will be edited, archived, and integrated, along with interviews, visual images, explanatory texts, and interpretive essays, onto a publicly accessible online mapping platform. This innovative digital humanities project will provide new research and pedagogical tools for scholars, experiential learning opportunities for students, and an interactive resource for the general public.

As befits a “skunkworks” enterprise, the project research team demonstrates the value of cross-institutional collaboration and engaged scholarship. The team includes scholars with backgrounds in religious studies, ethnomusicology, American studies, multimedia graphic design, and digital humanities. By piloting the project in two locations,” the each institution's team will be able test ideas at scale as the platform is developed.

The Religious Soundmap will appeal to multiple audiences, including scholars, teachers, students, artists, local historians, public radio listeners, and community activists. In addition, the project will offer opportunities for marginalized or misrepresented religious communities to make themselves heard. Above all, The Religious Soundmap will be a piece of a larger mosaic of approaches to studying the religious diversity of the Global Midwest. By using the complementary affordances of religious studies and digital humanities, we anticipate the soundmap website serving as a portal to connect to other digital projects on midwestern diversity and to religious soundmapping projects in other regions. The Religious Soundmap of the Global Midwest fulfills important scholarly objectives while showcasing the value of the public humanities.

Eco-Mapping: Art, Technology, Ecology
Meredith Hoy

This paper discusses how technology can intervene in defining particular places. The territories, or zones, may be established in a traditional cartographic manner, but my interests lie in determining the ways in which data-collecting technologies can alter one’s sense of nature, the natural, and ecological systems. Ecology is defined as the analysis of the ways in which organisms interact within a given environment. While the notion of “environment” carries many complex associations, one method by which “environment” has been literally charted is through mapmaking practices. However, traditional cartography only supplies a single channel or layer by which the human sensorium can gather information about space and place. This paper will examine projects roughly categorized within the domain of “eco-art” which facilitate a more complex and phenomenologically rich experience of an ecological domain. I will examine the types of questions these projects raise, as well as assessing the ways in which utilizing specific types of technologies, such as sound recorders, FLIR cameras, or mobile devices, alter one’s relationship to the ecological zone in question. I will argue that such technologies, which are often thought to disrupt ecology as well as one’s perception of their immediate environment, can provide a multi-layered, multi-channeled experience, thus heightening one’s sensations of and sensitivities to the surrounding landscape. I will examine several artist projects that have incorporated digital technologies into their work in order to change the viewer/participant’s understanding of ecological systems. I will demonstrate how these technologies contribute to the practice of placemaking, by which abstract space becomes particularized and familiar, imbued with relational significance. Ecological systems can be identified both with the natural world and human-constructed urban landscapes. As such, I will treat data drawn from both types of ecosystems in order to assess differences and similarities in patterns that emerge through technological exploration. Although some of the resulting projects might result in traditional data visualizations, others push the boundaries of material, medium, and conceptual territory to yield visual, sonic, and even tactile experiences of the collected data. In other words, this paper will examine...

avatar for Gregory Donovan

Gregory Donovan

Assistant Professor of Communication and Media Studies, Fordham University
I’m an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication and Media Studies as well as an affiliate faculty member of New Media and Digital Design, Urban Studies, American Studies, and the Urban Law Center at Fordham University. My research explores the mutual shaping of people... Read More →


Meredith Hoy

Assistant Professor, Arizona State University
Art history, theory, locative media, data visualization, ecology, digital aesthetics
avatar for Bobby Smiley

Bobby Smiley

Digital Scholarship and American History Librarian, Michigan State University Libraries
Bobby Smiley is the Digital Scholarship and American History Librarian at the Michigan State University Libraries, and the Book Review Editor for the H-AmRel network. He received his library science degree and a certificate in digital humanities from the Pratt Institute, his M.A... Read More →

Thursday May 28, 2015 2:15pm - 3:30pm EDT
Room 103 Kellogg Center

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