Destabilizing Playgrounds: Cartographical Interfaces, Mutability, Risk and Play
In this chapter I will examine the triadic relation between play, digital mapping and power. I look at how playing with cartographical interfaces is a central and never neutral activity to digital mapping that invites users to change cartographic landscapes in playful and subversive ways, and thus containing potential to changing the very nature of maps and the spatial relations they invite us to produce. Since the emergence of digital maps, cartography has changed drastically. Digital maps allow for a greater degree of two-way interaction between map and user than analogue maps. Users are not just reading maps but can constantly influence the shape and look of the map itself. Used on our mobile phones, on our computers or as satnavs in our cars, maps have become more personal—transforming while we navigate with and through them. Digital maps have thus altered our conception of maps as ‘objectified’ representations of space that has been a touchstone for centuries (Anderson 1991; de Certeau 1984; Crampton 2001; Harley et al. 1988). Instead, I will argue in this chapter, maps have become more open to playful, subjective and subversive practices. Play is understood here as a range of activities that go beyond ordinary life by taking on a playful attitude (Cermak-Sassenrath 2013) and as activities of pleasure (Fiske 1993) although not necessarily fun (cf. Malaby 2007). I will probe is where exactly this room to play resides in the particular case of digital mapping and to what extent this gives users agency. Certainly, the image of the map has become mutable and seems to be open to play, but that does not necessarily mean that the power lies solely in the hands of the player/user. How does power work in such ever-transforming neo-cartographies and what affordances does the user/player have to change power-relations?
The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Research Council under the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007–2013)/ERC Grant agreement no 283464.
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