[Week5_Map As Media] Counter-Mapping, Radical Cartography

What is Counter-Mapping?

Counter-mapping = critical cartography = subversive cartography = bioregional mapping = remapping = ethnocartography = alternative cartography = mapping-back = counter-hegemonic mapping = public participatory mapping

‘Counter-mapping’ is the map-making process whereby communities appropriate the state’s techniques of formal mapping and make their own maps as alternatives to those used by government (Nancy Peluso, 1995). Counter-maps become tools in the broader strategy for advocacy as they articulate community claims for rights over land. In addition to representing geographic information, counter-maps negotiate between central social, cultural and historical notions. Source: newmedialab.cuny.edu

There are numerous expressions closely related to counter-mapping: ethnocartography, alternative cartography, mapping-back, counter-hegemonic mapping, and public participatory mapping. Moreover, the terms: critical cartography, subversive cartography, bioregional mapping, and remapping are sometimes used synonymously with counter-mapping, but in practice encompass much more. Historically, cartography has been a fundamental governmentality strategy, a technology of power, used for surveillance and control. Source: en.wikipedia.org


Reading Response

1) Jeremy W. Crampton and John Krygier, “An Introduction to Critical Cartography,” ACME: An International E-Journal for Critical Geographies 4:1 (2006): 11-33.

Jeremy W. Crampton and John Krygier defines critical cartography as a one-two punch of new mapping practices and theoretical critique. Critical cartography challenges academic cartography by linking geographic knowledge with power and thus, is political.screen-shot-2016-10-05-at-12-04-49-am

This journal explains what is critical cartography as counter-mapping by narrating the historical concept of critique as politics of knowledge. As mapping technology evolved by the evolution of digital technology, anyone can make a map that has an argument. In the past, only people with power were able to make, manipulate and distribute maps. Also, only governors and politician had a concrete geographical concept of the region that they control. Counter-mapping challenges the existing governors’ maps.

I didn’t know the meaning of “counter-mapping” itself, but through the readings, I became aware of the concept of counter-mapping as critical cartography, and it was interesting there were lots of political power structures behind map making process. Digital revolution and open source enable people to access to sources and make maps freely regarding image-making itself has power to influence other people.


2) Dee Morris & Stephen Voyce, “William Bunge, the DGEI, & Radical Cartography,”Jacket 2 (March 20, 2015).


3) Annette Kim, “Mapping the Unmapped” In Sidewalk City: Remapping Public Space in Ho Chi Minh City (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015): 84-149. See also http://slab.today/


4) Nancy Lee Peluso, “Whose Woods Are These? Counter-Mapping Forest Territories in Kalimantan, Indonesia,” Antipode 27:4 (1995): 383-406 [a hinge to next week’s discussion]

Forests are repositories of great wealth and ecological importance; politically, they are much more than that. Mapping of forest resources is, therefore, an intrinsically political act: whether drawn for their protection or production, they are drawings of a nation’s strategic space.




[Week 4_Map As Media] Class Exercise – Cognitive Map

In Map As Media class of week 4, cognitive mapping, we practiced quickly how to create a cognitive map. “Cognitive Mapping” is a more about subjective mental representations of map-making.

A cognitive map (sometimes called a mental map or mental model) is a type of mental representation which serves an individual to acquire, code, store, recall, and decode information about the relative locations and attributes of phenomena in their everyday or metaphorical spatial environment. The concept was introduced by Edward Tolman in 1948. The term was later generalized by some researchers, especially in the field of operations research, to refer to a kind of semantic network representing an individual’s personal knowledge or schemas. (From Wikipedia)


Our group members’ majors varied as Urban Studies, Media Studies and Design and Technology(me). So our perception of the school building was different from each other. So we decided to map out how we experience the school building differently, and how the elevator system affects the way of experiencing the building. I sketched out a map through my perception toward school elevator system.



Some critical thoughts when drawing this map.

  • Each size of floors is different based upon uses and importance in our group members’ cognition.
  • Express elevators are only available to access to specific floors. It shapes our way to experience the school building.



The final map sketch is a bit crude, but it was a good exercise to know the key value of cognitive mapping. It’s a map that is shaped and visualized from our cognition, perception, and mental process as well as an Interesting thought process and a tool for critical thinking, and further, critical cartography.








[Map As Media] Resources


Maps reveal, delineate, verify, orient, navigate, anticipate, historicize, conceal, persuade, and, on occasion, even lie. From the earliest maps in cave paintings and on clay tablets, to the predictive climate visualizations and crime maps and mobile cartographic apps of today and tomorrow, maps have offered far more than an objective representation of a stable reality. In this hybrid theory-practice studio we’ll examine the past, present, and future – across myriad geographic and cultural contexts – of our techniques and technologies for mapping space and time. In the process, we’ll address various critical frameworks for analyzing the rhetorics, poetics, politics, and epistemologies of spatial and temporal maps. Throughout the semester we’ll also experiment with a variety of critical mapping tools and methods, from techniques of critical cartography to sensory mapping to time-lining, using both analog and digital approaches. Course requirements include: individual map critiques; lab exercises; and individual research-based, critical-creative “atlases” composed of at least five maps in a variety of formats.

Fall 2016 Website (Course Blog)