Imagination Stations: Drifting, Drawing, Mapping explores new ways to imagine and present complex compilations of multi-modal data. The project builds on our previous collaborations (Jung & Hiebert 2015) and expands our vision of bringing together sympathetic trends in qualitative geovisualization and contemporary art. The goal of the project is to establish an interdisciplinary discourse at points of convergence between fields, looking at the ways that a dialogic approach to data generation and mapping might provide new possible ways to imagine geovisual conceptualization. Our research focuses on developing a hybrid framework integrating a range of forms of data, analysis, and representation often considered as incompatible (e.g., quantitative and qualitative, texts and maps, numeracy and visuality, and real and imaginative). We also like to extend the discussion of integrating multiple-modes of data and representation to the next level through the participatory experiential mapping, digital art practices and thinking, and the reconceptualization of mapping and geovisualization. We intend to develop a newly integrated space that can generate stronger and more nuanced geographical and artistic insights into people's embodied experience and encounter of urban space.
In an essay titled "What is a Station?" Molly Nesbit, Hans-Ulrich Obrist and Rirkrit Tiravanija propose a new model of thinking about art, not as a series of objects--nor even as a set of relationships or social gestures--but as a "way-station." That is, for Nesbit, Obrist and Tiravanija, contemporary art can present such interesting opportunities for social and political encounter because people increasingly pass through it rather than encountering it directly: "The Station in other words becomes a place to stop, to contemplate, to listen and see, to rest and refresh, to talk and exchange." In direct contrast to the objectifying gaze of traditional arts analysis, "What is a Station?" proposes a form of art that catalyzes engagement rather than presenting a finished or resolved representation or message, in essence thinking art geographically as a site rather than as objects. A geographic conceptualization of the arts presents an interesting opportunity for other disciplines--specifically, for us, the possibility of bringing a similar methodological approach to the study of qualitative geovisualization--visualization that preserves and represents the contextual meanings and qualitative forms of data with spatial information. Increasingly, it seems, qualitative geovisualization is beginning to embrace abstract modes of data and analysis that value 'representation' and 'mapping' in a different way--from Christian Nold's (2009) examination of "emotional" data to Harris's (2015) spatial narrative of "deep geography" and Heat-Moon's (2011) "deep mapping" as an attempt to present the juxtapositions and interpenetrations of the historical and the contemporary, the political and the poetic, and the discursive and sensual (Bodenhamer 2010). These efforts of reconstructing maps and mapping allow us to explore and attain a deeper understanding of places, as distinguishable from that of the Cartesian world of observation. Indeed, our prior work (see Jung & Hiebert, "Imag(in)ing Everyday Geographies") also contributes to this expansion of possible modes of analysis, proposing a new way of thinking about data in terms of "real," "representational" and "imaginary" registers of analysis.
The past two decades have seen a tremendous growth in efforts to understand the roles of traditional position of Geographic Information Systems (GIS), and their underlying theories in both research and everyday life. These are all parts of numerous emerging ways of conducting critical scholarship with mapping that can be defined as diverse evolutions of critical mapping and critical GIS. Critical GIS in particular tried to find a way of reflect various epistemological and ontologies, and unfolded the mutual relationship between GIS and society (Schuurman 2000; Knigge and Cope 2006; Elwood 2010). A new evolution, resulting in the discussion of qualitative engagement of/with geovisualization, is the convergence of geography, arts, and geo-humanities. We present this new possibility of mapping that can provide a medium of perceptual and creative representations, not just maps of precisely measured objects; however, it aims not to chart what is known but rather to explore what is unknown. We also consider taking post-presentational or "non-representational" perspectives on mapping, which re-theorize maps as a 'process' and 'performance' from a 'representational' (Anderson and Harrison 2010; Kitchin and Dodge 2007). It is a denial of an ontological security of map, but a celebration of maps being [always] of-the moment (Gerlach 2014); transitory, fleeting, contingent, relational and context-dependent. We demonstrate that maps not just re-present the world, but co-constitute and produce that is constantly in motion, or constantly seek to appear ontologically (in)secure.
Situated at the intersection of discourses of contemporary art and qualitative geovisualization, and between conscious approaches on mapping and drawing like Richard Long's land art and inherently spontaneous nature of mapping drift, "Imagination Stations: Drifting, Drawing, Mapping" builds on our previous work by constructing a series of complex data sets that can be used to help re-imagine possible ways of interacting with multi-modal data, meditating on the seductions of mapping the imagination, and examining inter-relationships among Global Positioning Systems (GPS) data, photographs and videos, interviews and electrocephaalography (EEG) recordings. In our previous work we called this kind of compilation a "data portrait." Making these "portraits" accessible to public encounter is the goal of this project--in effect turning "data portraits" into "imagination stations" (and transforming qualitative geovisualization into "creative geovisualization.")
Jin-Kyu Jung's work in the field of qualitative GIS and geovisualization undergirds this project, showing the inherent impossibility of framing any research method or form of representation and analysis as strictly "qualitative" or "quantitative." Jung (2009; 2015) has made efforts to explore innovative possibilities in/with qualitative geovisualization intersected with critical visual methodologies, spatial big data, arts, and digital spatial humanities. Humanistic value-laden (digital) mapping runs counter to traditional Cartesian understanding of the world and GIS, seeking to capture the essence of space and a humanistic embodied sense of place and identity. We build on digital spatial humanities and qualitative geovisualization works by engaging with 'the qualitative,' which is usually about meaning and interpretation, with more emphasis on 'emotion' and the 'imagination'--something we are making room for in our work.
As qualitative geovisualization and digital spatial humanities grapple with the questions of qualitative data, spatial forms of data, and multiple representation, contemporary media arts practice is increasingly focused on amplifying participatory possibilities with technologies. Many scholars argue that this participatory trend in the arts is directly related to the ease with which new technologies enable creative production. Prominent thinkers such as Claire Bishop (2006) and James Elkins (2001) have advocated for an increasingly integrated understanding of community and new media, suggesting that the transformative potential of art is maximized when the boundaries between performance and social context begins to blur. Hiebert (2016) has suggested that this might even be thought of as an "ecology of imaginary friendship" in which relationships between creative, social and environmental practices form the core concern of the analysis. In keeping with these new artistic culture and practice that are further reinforced by the scholarship on the social implications of emergent forms of technologies (for example, Virilio 1994; Turkle 1997; Kroker & Kroker 2010, Cechetto et al. 2017), we will show how new technologies are deeply and unpredictably transforming the ways in which we live, work, research, and play.
Collaborative in vision, participatory and digital in method, and innovative in design, our project seeks to introduce new ways of mixing disciplines, devices and discourses in order to explore original and exciting new forms of geo- or spatial-humanities, geography and art scholarship. From the experience of our earlier collaboration, we learned how to try to hold our own analysis accountable to the propositions of complexity that we were arguing for in the context of the interdisciplinary nature of our project. We will continue exploring both the differences and the common currency between artists and geographers (Driver, Prendergast, & Swenson, 2002), and will resist to the idea of reducing the project to a set of firm or final conclusion. A lowest common denominator of consensus is much less interesting than what we call "a highest point of interdisciplinary convergence"--a place where qualitative geovisualization methods meet the generative, participatory, and creative engagement of new media artists in attempt to render an (un)expected map of the links between the imagination and observation, the imagined and experienced, and representable and unrepresentable.