atlas

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.

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.

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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