Atlas

You Have Explored Elwynn Forest!

For over a month I feel like I have lived, breathed, and ate World of Warcraft: But not in the way most people do. Instead, I was recording videos of playthroughs, watching endless hours of recordings, making sketches and notes, and then finally forming it all on Illustrator and analyzing it.

With “You Have Explored Elwynn Forest” I set about showing readers what World of Warcraft’s human starting level was like for new players. I looked at where my characters traveled, who they met, the quests they did, and how many unsolicited guild invites they got. I also looked at how people behaved in chat, and various other concepts that never map it to mapping form.

Check the it out here: YOU HAVE EXPLORED ELWYNN FOREST

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Mapping Rowan University

Over the last month or so, I have been studying the rhetoric of maps and breaking down the general assumptions that seem to cloud maps: that a culture craves accuracy or that a map (and the map reader) should have one particular goal when approaching a map. With my semiotic and mapping analysis in tow, below is five different maps of the main campus of Rowan University located in Glassboro, NJ. Don’t expect to see sketches of buildings or bus stops here: I decided to map out moments in time: when/where students are walking across the campus and where the graduation commencement is held

These maps also represent the individual who is using this map, so I decided to take that idea a step further and stamp out my personal connection to this campus. The hope is another Rowan University student, using the same legend, can recreate their own trail or create their own map transcript with a completely different result.

I hope you enjoy this literal and figurative journey through Rowan University:

Personalizing Rowan University by Christina Maxwell

Reflections on Golf on the Water

When I began my project for mapping the Camden County Golf Academy, I was sure there were plenty of opportunities for creating a narrative atlas, as Denis Wood did in Everything Sings. There are a lot of players involved in keeping the facility running, a diverse clientele and rhythms, as Wood calls them, that only become apparent within the space after being involved in it for several years. Those opportunities, however, were not as evident as I had anticipated.

Admittedly, the first map I drew was the copy of geese footprints, since it was the first to catch my eye. It wasn’t until I was out in the snow that I noticed the damage to the yardage markers, which I found worthy of note. I thought little details like these would make for the most poetic maps, the kinds of things that would no doubt interest people even if they didn’t “serve a purpose.”

I considered what makes the CCGA the CCGA: history, Rutgers, location, etc. Many people comment on the trophies and awards presented in the clubhouse, so I took that as a cue of some level of significance.

Sadly, the weather dampened some of my plans, as I had some ideas for other maps that just wouldn’t be possible in the wintertime. For instance, I would have liked to have drawn a map of the distribution of golf balls on the ground as they lay at the end of the day, but the biting cold held potential customers back and prevented any meaningful mapmaking. I was also interested in mapping the race and gender and age of each patron, but, again, there were too few (if any) customers on any given day during this project to draw representative samples.

Overall, things came together quite nicely, and the maps lent themselves to discussions inspired by our readings. Each map tells a story, even if that story doesn’t have a “point” in the traditional sense. Here’s a link to the ISSUU, which decided to flip my featured image for some reason.

Mapping Untold Stories

I set out on my local community college campus, Rowan College at Gloucester County formally known as Gloucester County College. Looking around for objects, which turned into mapping different paths on campus. At first I thought that I had known my work. I have been here for five years, but after mapping, I realized that the campus I spend hours on each weekday was as strange, foreign land.

The maps I created on Mapping Untold Stories show people paths and the objects that control not only some paths but create an unspoken life on the campus.

This project gave me insight to others who worked on campus as well. Their wealth of information enabled the success of proper mapping. By talking to those who were more familiar with specific buildings I was able to gather information I was not entirely sure of. Each encounter gave me more knowledge about the campus’ environment than the next. It appeared that the seemingly meaningless knowledge of some, made for the best stories in maps.

Atlas of Us

When I decided on the topic for the Atlas of Us, I had just come to think of maps as an art form and not just a geological tool. The second option for this assignment was to ask my friends or family to draw a map of a location with which we are all familiar. The only place I have in common with a few of my friends is my high school and there are not enough of us to have met the requirements for the assignment. So I began thinking of things which we all have in common which are not concrete. I almost asked my friends to draw a map of me, but I was worried what they would put on it so I turned it around and asked them to map themselves.

ROB: Like a biological map?

ME: If that’s how you’d interpret this.

GAIL: Like where I go throughout my day?

ME: If you’d like.

ADALYNNE: Can I do it in crayon?

ME: Absolutely?

I had attempted to give more specifics on the assignment but ultimately withheld most of them except to say “If you needed to draw something which helped define you to another person, what would be on it?”

Some maps were incredibly explanatory: Rob’s map, for example, comes with labels and buildings and maps out his areas of knowledge; Gail’s map is simply her work day. Other , like Kiel’s and Amanda’s, are comprised of text, although I imagine this has more to do with lack of artistic skill than anything else.

I did find it hard to look at these maps with an unbiased mind. I have known these cartographers for many years, some upwards of 20 years and many things popped off the page to me because of it.

An Emotional Atlas

As I started this project, I wanted everyone to map a specific settting-my Gram’s dining room-at a particular time-Sundays when we met for breakfast. However, I realized that this was a bit problematic in that it would severely limit how the maps would be made.

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The reason I had chosen this time was because of the emotional connection I felt existed with this experience.

Memory plays an important part to the maps. Invariably, any party of that side of the family would be centered around her dining room. It is this identification of the room’s importance to my mappers’ emotional memory that drives their narratives. As a collection, they are trying to prove something, not only to the audience they are imagining but to themselves. This idea greatly affects their maps. How they choose to outline the room does not become a question of technical skill, but also of familial affection. –From my introduction

These maps are not attempting to produce an exact replica of the room. Rather, they are stories. As I have tried to show through a discussion of the semiotics being used by my mappers, the individual maps are use techniques that display and confirm a connection.

See the atlas here.

Maps of the Imagination

I began my project, Maps of the Imagination, wanting something more than a traditional map.  I believed that if I asked others to draw a map of an intangible place, of somewhere they had to imagine completely, the results would be fascinating and a challenge to interpret.

I summarized my trouble with asking others in the introduction of my atlas:

To illustrate how maps are more abstract and more personal than popular belief, I asked twelve people to create a map of his or her imagination.  The task was not easy; the participants, including myself, all struggled with how to portray something in a tangible form that doesn’t literally exist (at least in the way that each of us could see it, with our eyes).  I did not give any instructions about how to create the map outside of using a sheet of paper.  Mo matter how confused the participant looked or how many questions they asked, I would not clarify the information any further.  In this way, their responses would not be influenced by my own conception of an imagination.  

Many people asked me for clarification and I simply refused it to them.  Each map turned out different and wonderful in its own way.  However, the maps all followed similar trajectories, falling into one of four categories:

  1. Maps that looked like maps, either by identifying specific locations or by incorporating roads,
  2. Maps that depicted a single image and needed to be interpreted with semiotics,
  3. Collage maps of words or images, the latter also needing to be interpreted with semiotics, and
  4. Maps that tried to reach for something larger, expressing the abstraction of the imagination.

Once I identified these categories, I could fit the individual maps into each one and analyze them based on readings from Turchi, Wood and Hall.  Finding the quotes themselves was initially challenging, but nothing that couldn’t be fixed by rereading and searching for specific keywords.

After this, the only struggle I encountered was formatting the words and images next to each other in Word before changing the whole atlas into a pdf.  Like most things outside of text in Word, there was only one way to put an image on a page by itself: multiple page breaks and columns.  I can proudly say that I will be better at this the next time around, however.  I have Word figured out and can reproduce the work much faster.

All in all, I like how the Atlas turned out.  The maps given to me by others were more than I could hope for, and each one helped to solidify the points that the authors were trying to say about maps.  In the future, I’m going to look at maps with a much more critical eye.

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Making My Narrative Atlas

Obtaining all of the data for my narrative atlas, titled Feats and (De)feats of Association (a play on a quote by Robert Frost), was actually the easiest part of creating it. The Rowan University Writing Center (RUWC) is a relatively small space wherein the subjects are mostly standing still for long periods of time, making their locations easy to chart. It was finding a ‘narrative’ that really challenged me. Hopefully, I pulled it off.

First I started with an introduction:

Being a graduate assistant at the Rowan University Writing Center (RUWC) for the past two years, I spend a lot of time there—taking in the sounds, images, and movements that exist inside it. If you talked to me before I started Visual Rhetoric and Multimodal Composition this semester, I might have told you that I could explain every detail and happening that goes on within that space. And perhaps I could, but there’s a lot more to understanding a place than being able to pick out any detail about it.

Sometimes, you have to isolate things in order to better understand them. To see everything, in a sense, is to see nothing. Meaning cannot be made from an overwhelming blob of information; it can only be made from reaching into that noisy body of numbers, pictures, and words, pulling things out, and throwing them together like chemicals to see what kind of new compound they might make. As Robert Frost wrote, “An idea is a feat of association,” and this was exactly my intention when mapping the RUWC: to pick out different parts of its space and see what other parts conflict, compliment, and add to each other. It can only help me do my job better—seeing things in a different way—along with reinforcing the idea that maps reveal many things about our culture.

Much like other kinds of narratives, my narrative atlas has characters. There are the tutors, who are my coworkers and the tutees that come in for help. There are the tax volunteers, whom I will refer to as “Tax Workers” so that they better correspond to their “Tax Customer” counterparts (though they are taking a free service). Also, much like other narratives, this series of maps presents conflict and tension at times between these characters.

I intended for the first two maps of the atlas to establish the RUWC’s mission for readers who might not be entirely sure what a writing center does. By mapping the populations of regular tutees and literary vs. nonliterary posters, I got to illustrate the purpose of the RUWC while showing its continuously modified methods of outreach. Furthermore, establishing the place acts as a narrative move—showing the reader the ‘setting’ of the place wherein the action of the story will take place.

Once the setting is put in place, I move on to the conflict between us and the Tax Workers and Customers over the RUWC space. I did my best to characterize them, consistently making them blue and us red. What this turned into—perhaps naturally—as a series of maps that looked a lot like war strategy maps. Such maps were fitting for me to appeal to, and allowed me to frame my narrative as just that: a war. Of course, I had to acknowledge that this was a hyperbolic telling of a petty conflict over space, but using war-like maps worked as a strong exercise in finding and understanding meaning in visual rhetoric.

Once the conflict was established and the plot moves forward, I start to filter my interpretations through a Denis Wood-esque cartographic analysis of the rhetorical moves I was making. I think my most astute analysis came in my last map, “Invasion Pt. III: Compromise.” Here, I analyzed my use of color as a means of separating space:

Invasion Pt. III

The division implies a separation of space, as opposed to specific objects. And, much like the maps of North and South Korea or Israel and Palestine, the straight and distinguishable line separating the central space of the RUWC suggests that there is some sort of cooperation (be it stable or unstable) and understanding between both parties.

In other words, I’m exploiting a widely-understood code: state separation. Making one half of the space red and the other blue touches on separation—and perhaps even a post-conflict separation in my case.

I feel good about how my narrative atlas turned out. I’ll probably look at maps a little differently—particularly at who wrote it and what they might want from me as a consumer, voter, reader, worker, etc. And if I persuaded anyone with my map in any way, I apologize, but I guess that’s the nature of maps.