Drawing, Drifting, Mapping

The Imagination Stationsproject is built around the generation of three sets of data that correspond to the categories of "real data," "representational data," and "imagined data" that we identified in our previous work. The project is particularly interested in participatory, generative and ambiguous forms of data--that is, forms of data that are irreducible to traditional forms of mapping and analysis. We see these forms of data as having dynamic potential, and we set ourselves the challenge of trying to find ways to engage with the data without reducing it to an information set. As part of this process, we want to allow for an element of creativity and serendipity in the data itself, an ambition best achieved by setting loose criteria for what it is that we are actually measuring. We see this as a curatorial approach to generating data in the sense that we will be setting project guidelines for participants, but we do not and will not seek to control the final forms of their contributions.

Participants in the project will be first recruited from undergraduate interdisciplinary classes, including a suite of photography and interdisciplinary art classes as well as new courses that we have recently designed, for instance a course Jung has just developed called "Creative Geovisualization." We also intend to invite other members of the general public to participate in the project, at a later date. Participants will be asked to complete 3 related tasks, the compilation of which will form their contribution to the project.

Part A: "Real" Data (Drawing and Drifting)

Participants will be asked to choose one of two modes of creative engagement: drawing or drifting (described in more detail below) conceived as opposing modes of engagement that will provide points of (data) contrast in the sample set. The purpose of allowing them to choose is to (1) create a modest form of investment in project outcomes, and (2) to reinforce our view that there are multiple ways to look at maps, mapping, and the data that can emerge from intentional activities. In both instances participants will use a Smart-Phone based geomobile App (e.g. Fulcrum) that will track their movements and will be asked to take photographs and/or video as they participate. They will also be asked to wear a portable EEG unit that will monitor their brainwaves during the activity. This data will form Part A of the compiled data set, which also corresponds to our category of "Real Data."

i. Drawing. Drawing--in our project--is conceived as an intentional mode of mark making. Our vision of drawing is inspired by Richard Long's "Field Drawing" (1967) in which he walked back and forth in a field, straight line, until he had crushed the grass and plants, stomped the dirt and ground, and unmistakably left his "mark" on the ground itself. Long documented his drawing with a photograph. Participants in our project will do the same. There are many other instances of this kind of mark making on a landscape, all of which also factor into our thought process and will form part of the pedagogical framing of the project for those involved. Artists such as Anna Mendieta, Robert Smithson, Francis Albs, and Wafaa Bilal will be important reference points for both the explanation and analysis of the "drawings" created.

ii. Drifting. We take the concept of drifting as an extension of the Situationist notion of the dérive. Defined, for the Situationists, as a form of intervention towards the ways that urban landscapes peremptorily fashion behavioral modes of navigation, the situationists initiated a set of "wanderings" through the city (Sadler 1998). Where sidewalks script walking to the curb, and stop signs impose a rhythm on the pedestrian flow, the dérive can be such an interesting concept because it intentionally ignores architectural scripts in favor of affective modulation and spontaneous directional change. This offers a new way to perceive the experience of the city as a sensuous realm that is lived, performed, and imagined. We think of this as the opposite of (conscious) "drawing," allowing oneself to "drift" through the city, all the while being (perhaps ironically) mapped in the process. Mapping "drift" of people and their embodied experienced of urban space also allows us to let maps drift themselves: Drift Map, not Map(ping) Drift. Maps are often prisoners to the data they represent, since they are constrained to perform in a very particular and rigid Euclidian way. We intend to generate ‘drift map' what might be opposite of what we are asking, so, here, maps themselves become a certain drifting ambiguity and fluidity.

Part B: "Representational" Data (Interview and Description)

After completing the creative portion of the project, contributors will be asked to participate in an interview-style conversation about their experience drawing or drifting. We are still drafting the full list of questions, but in part the interview will be designed to gather (1) a narrative account of the "action" (a recounting of what the participant actually did, in descriptive detail) as well as (2) an affective account of the action (what the participant thought about or felt during the process). Participants will be asked to wear the same portable EEG unit during the interview. The session will be recorded and along with the photographic and/or video documentation from the action will form Part B of the compiled data set, which corresponds to our category of "Representational Data."

Part C: "Imaginary" Data (Visualization, Mapping)

The last question in the interview will be one without a spoken answer, as we plan to ask participants--after having described their experience in detail--to simply imagine it again, visualizing the action from start to finish in as much or as little time as needed. This method is derived from biofeedback research and sports psychology in which individuals are asked to correlate states of mind with particular states of performance. In this case, however, the purpose is not to optimize participant experience but to articulate a different register of mapping--that of memory, imagination and affective experience. Participants will wear the EEG unit during this exercise. The compiled EEG data from Parts A, B and C of the project will form Part C of the compiled data set, which corresponds to our category of "Imagined or Imaginary Data."

Anticipated outcomes

As with our previous work, the goal of gathering these complex data sets is not to try and resolve them in an analytic sense but to find methods to make accessible different registers of data that preserve the nuances of the original contributions. Our understanding of humanistic scholarship is less to produce an authoritative or ultimate answer than to prompt new questions, develop new perspectives, and advance new arguments or interpretation. Here, we approach this through the idea of "data portraits" or "digital maps" of contributors and their actions that can be dynamically engaged across a variety of analytic and creative modes. Each "data portrait" will contain "real," "representational" and "imagined" data. Taken together, we conceive of these bundles of data as "imagination stations," archives of various registers of material and creative interaction that we plan to engage.


Imagination Stations