Networks of Being: Countering Discourses of Measurement
In Angels’ Town, Ralph Cintron critiques the colonial venture of mapping space with a term that he coins “discourses of measurement.” Discourses of measurement are modern methods of control, the “ways by which a precise order (or the fiction of a precise order) gets made” (210). In the book, Cintron elaborates a map of “Angelstown” in order to reveal a change from “islands in a river and nearby forests” to personal property given legitimacy through a formal (colonial) discourse of measurement, arguing that maps are always colonial (37). But what alternatives do we have to colonial maps, now digitized by the likes of Google? These are seen as the maps, from major corporations to the family on a road trip. The only maps that matter.
One answer has to be mapping lived experience. If discourses of measurement are meant to exercise control over the land and people, then our alternative map should be relational. Chan, Duarte, and MacPherson have all highlighted the importance of relationality and history to understanding networks. Essentially, this project would seek to build on those ideas to create a new kind of map. Where discourses of measurement deliberately “bracket” away social injustice and intersectional realities in order to exert control, a proper cartographic response would lie in what MacPherson calls “the cut.” Such a project would stay specifically local to Pullman but in no way divorce itself from global forces. It would allow for lived experiences to merge and overlap, forming a relational network tied to the land and its use.
My first instinct when working on this project last year was to make a map by hand, but now I see that there is no need to resist the digital, simply because of the digital form of dominant neocolonial discourses, such as Google Maps. Instead, I will harness the digital by using social media in order to provide an alternative to discourses of measurement.
Following Chan’s lead in Networking Peripheries, I will aim to keep the project small and locally-focused. In early maps of Pullman, we can see discourses of measurement in the mapping of space by colonial cartographers. These maps projected lots for hundreds of people who had yet to arrive in the area onto land which belonged to Native communities. As time went on, new maps of the area expanded the settlement of Pullman and eventually included the grounds of what would become WSU. Now, Google maps, the City of Pullman, and WSU itself all map the area based on these colonial discourses of measurement, which established roads, neighborhoods, and lots for development well over a century ago. My project will seek first to use Scalar to foreground this colonial history of mapping Pullman as a “reframing” of Google Maps and university mapping data. Next, it will de-emphasize or remove these discourses from the equation and create a new, live map of the city based on lived experience.
The project will harness geotagged tweets in order to map them based on location data. Instead of guiding the map reader via the above-mentioned discourses of measurement, however, this map will rely on locations mentioned in the tweets. As such, the resulting map will be one of connections between people, as well as the land, but not between roads or buildings. The
I have yet to create the Storymaps layer which will map the tweets; this will be the biggest technical challenge, of course, and I could use some help figuring out if it is possible only to map certain tweets. It could be valuable to map only non-English tweets, or tweets in another specific language. Alternatively, the space could be mapped manually via photo and video (which would likely allow for a creative project which also challenged the dominance of the linguistic mode).