Multiple Performative Mapping: a Way to Challenge Spatial Configurations

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Conference Session Call Multiple Performative Mapping for TRADERS MEDIATIONS Conference at RCA London (November 2016). Chaired by myself together with David Hamers.

Multiple Performative Mapping: a way to challenge spatial configurations

With the widespread adoption of mobile phones it is increasingly more common for people to alternate between the physical and the virtual, being ‘here’ and ‘there’ at the same time. Coupled with map apps – in which the map is continuously updated in correspondence to one’s movement, search history and preferences – new forms of encounters and co-presence in public spaces have emerged. It is unclear how the use of such apps – accompanied with an increasing amount of people withdrawing themselves to a so-called media-cocoon [i] – affects the public realm. What are the (social) implications of the blue dot and its undercurrent algorithm, on the collective experience of the city and collaborative practices in it?

The digitisation of maps and map apps have, on the one hand, enabled citizens to alter power relations through prosumer mapping [ii]. On the other hand, with the prefix ‘geo’ that is attached to nearly every media-related subject (with which people are traced, tracked and tagged) we are seeing the rise of corporate and political use of mapping through geo-googlisation and geo-exclusion; a location based awareness that is dictated and conditioned by algorithms. Thus, our surfing on the Web – based on the algorithmic undercurrent of Google– becomes authoritative for the way in which we navigate through space [iii]. In academia, the prefix ‘geo’ didn’t go unnoticed either. Where social sciences, media and cultural studies have undergone a spatial turn (locative media) geography has witnessed a media turn (mediated localities) (Thielmann, 2010:1).

There is, however, a critical and conceptual difference between the noun ‘map’ and the verb ‘mapping’. Where maps (the ones we generally use in our daily lives) tend to measure, notate and coordinate the world around us, mapping (the iterative process of making and remaking maps) opens the process up to participation. The question we’d like to address in this session is in what ways digital mapping – a spatial practice that has the potential to challenge or alter existing configurations of space – enables participation in public space. We are interested in a wide range of cartographies and methodologies which include but are not limited to the following themes:

–        Performative mapping (embodiment, materiality, temporality, realtime, delay, non-representational theory, subjectivity, gender, postcolonialism, posthuman etc.)

–        Playful cartographies (realtime mapping, collective mapping, location-based games, psychogeography etc.)

–        Mapping and algorithms (modes of inquiry, data collection, visualisation, validation, open source, logic, code etc.)

–        Mapping, Actor Network Theory, and ethnography (human and non-human agency, mapping and community formation etc.)

–        Mapping and urban design (public space design, wayfinding, navigational applications etc.)

[i]   De Cauter, L. (2004). The capsular civilization: on the city in the age of fear. Rotterdam: NAi Publishers.

[i]   See for example OpenStreetMaps. Retrieved from: Last accessed: 14 March 2016.

[iii] Thielmann, T. (2010). Locative media and mediated localities. Aether: the journal of media geography, 5(1), 1-17.

About the conference:

TRADERS ­- ‘Training Art and Design Researchers for Participation in Public Space’ – is a three year EU Marie Curie research project examining different dimensions and roles of participation in public space. In the project’s closing conference we would like to invite participants to join us in exchanging experiences and knowledge in the field of participation in art and design.

TRADERS focuses on processes that bring together citizens, designers, artists, architects, policy makers, local social and cultural organisations, start­-up companies, and industries. Therefore, the TRADERS conference invites participants from a wide range of fields to submit contributions in the form of academic papers for paper sessions, as well as visual contributions of participatory (art and design) projects for an exhibition.

The conference will explore approaches through which artists and designers can pursue the empowerment of publics in the decision-­making for, and co-­creation of, public space. Operating within the context of public space means dealing with discrepancies between a multiplicity of forces (e.g. political, economical, environmental, legal, etc.), concerns (e.g. social justice, privatisation, digitalisation, etc.) and actors (e.g. citizens, policy makers, urban planners, etc.). Artists and designers who aim to empower citizens in often ‘agonistic’ spaces [i] need to mediate between various aspirations in order to help bring about desired social and/or political change. Such a mediation can take shape in many ways: mediating between different stakeholders, between the client and the public, between different publics, between top­-down and bottom-­up, between theory and practice, between ideas and action, between imaginaries and reality, and so on.

In this conference we are exploring six possible approaches to mediation for artists and designers that aim for civic empowerment:

  1. Data Mining­data­-driven methods to mediate between the top-­down and bottom­-up to promote citizen empowerment in the ‘smart city’;
  2. Intervention­ a method to mediate between ephemeral actions and long-­term effects on civic participation in public space;
  3. Play­ mediating between realities and imaginaries of children and adults in their experience of, and participation in, public space;
  4. Modelling in Dialogue­ mediating between different actors and voices by modelling multivocality within participatory processes;
  5. Multiple Performative Mapping­ performative and participatory mapping as a method to mediate power configurations in the digital-physical urban lanscape;
  6. Curating ­- exploring if and how the curatorial negotiates and mediates between knowledge boundaries in art and design.

Through six paper sessions, an exhibition, and four keynote sessions we will ask:

  • What alternative empowering practices exist in art and design that can promote citizen participation?
  • How can artists and designers “make a difference”[ii] within existing/established distributions of power? 
  • How can they use their agency to empower others (e.g. citizens) to bring about desired social or political change?
  • In other words, through what means, modes and/or practices can artists and designers mediate between multiple actors with diverse agencies?

The keynotes will explore how designers’ agency and attitudes towards the design and production of public spaces have evolved over the last decades; how issues of gender play a role in the use, behaviour, and appropriation of public space by a multiplicity of publics; how different participatory approaches can reconfigure existing power relations in art and design processes, and how new technologies can promote greater citizen participation in the design, use, and sustainability of public space.

[i] Mouffe, C. (2000) Deliberative Democracy or Agonistic Pluralism. Political Science Series 72, C. Neuhold (Ed.). Vienna: Department of Political Science, Institute for Advanced Studies (IHS).
[ii] Giddens, A. (1984) The Constitution of Society: Outline of the Theory of Structuration. Berkeley, California: University of California Press. p.14.