Thursday, February 19, 2015

Maps and Memes UK book launch

Save this date! The 5th of May is the official launch date in the UK for Maps and Memes.  The launch will take place in the University of London's Senate House in central London (see image above).  The room number will be available at reception.  Drinks and books for purchase will be available at the event.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Geospatial and Visual Methods Lab

The new Geospatial and Visual Methods Lab space 
at Royal Holloway

The new lab space in the Department of Geography features GIS and video software for use in post-graduate teaching and research.  

It is intended as a place for creative and participatory exploration of new ways of mapping, representing, and thinking about space (human, physical, cultural, political and more).

Teaching starts tomorrow with social and cultural geography master's students using video editing software.  We have an Apple TV module to aid with group learning and coordination.

The GVML also has its own new twitter account for keeping up to date with activities and developments occurring here.  Follow us @GVMLab or @gwilymeades for updates.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Heathrow Terminal 5 via Poyle and Staines Moor

Rode right up to the end of the runway on my bicycle
Ate an apple and just waited
Before long a jumbo jet 
Went full-bore across the tops of the signal towers
Air traffic control 
Tower winking
Shuttle pods shuffling along
And another 
This time higher
Took flight right over me
Now situated so close
I had to plug my ears

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Maps and Memes and The Geography of Names

re-blogged from Geopolitics and Security

In a space between two books I find myself launching one while another takes shape.  Out now with McGill-Queen’s University Press, Maps and Memes: Redrawing Culture, Place and Identity in Indigenous Communities theorises the place-meme as a construct for talking about place and space across generations.  I focus specifically on Cree, Inuit, and Northwest Coast Canadian indigenous peoples, and how repetitive commemorative journeys shape intergenerational knowledge, landscape and language.  Place-memes are inscribed and performed, written and embodied spanning brains, bodies, maps, and tracks across the land.  I focus specifically on the northern Quebec Cree community of Wemindji, and their yearly commemorative return to an old dwelling site.  The annual return, kaachewaapechuu, means ‘going offshore’, and it has come to refer not only to a set of linked places through which one passes during the three day journey back; it also refers to a set of ongoing processes.  Land is rising in Wemindji, faster in James and Hudson Bays than anywhere else in the world.  Isostatic rebound, colonisation, the decline of the Hudson Bay company, and fluctuating fur and food stocks and prices all contributed to the re-settlement of Wemindji, and all are commemorated through the performance of the annual return journey.
Cover maps and memes
Place-memes are at base sets of linked names, and these names follow pathways as they are uttered by elders, heard by youth, internalised, performed and in turn passed on through generations.  Place names and the so-called causal theory of names, or communication theory of names drive the theoretical core of The Geography of Names: Indigenous to Post-Foundational.  At the same time, the nature of place-names is itself evolving and changing as emerging social media and mapping platforms allow for ‘geo-tagging’ and rapid re-uptake of new labels, tags, and place-name forms to proliferate.  For example, in London, the twitter hashtag #greatnames tracks how Chinese (and other) visitors to London create descriptive new names for prominent features such as the Thames River, Big Ben, or Tower Bridge.  Coordinate pairs attached to tweets that include the #greatnames tag can be automatically mapped to show new landscapes of names overlain upon older names that have themselves evolved since at least Roman times (when London was established in 43 AD).  This new work takes a global view of place-names, also looking at how maps and politics shape new geographies of names that nonetheless find origins in older times.  It covers British, North American, and Australian spatialities, indigeneities, and neogeographies of names.
These two books fit together quite naturally, with the latter (The Geography of Names) growing out of questions that the former (Maps and Memes) raised.  Whilst the earlier book grew out my work as researcher and consultant based in Canada, I am now a lecturer based at Royal Holloway University of London, with a wide range of world class libraries and colleagues at my doorstep.  The Institute of Historical Research, Senate House Library, British and London Libraries, not to mention the fourteen libraries found on McGill campus in Montreal, all have contributed space, ideas​, and resources towards both books.  An excellent and very engaged set of colleagues at Royal Holloway, and world class librarians at all the institutions mentioned are making the sometimes isolating or stressful process of structuring arguments and book sections much more bearable.  The research overall is moving from questions of indigenous identity and maps towards more fundamental questions of geographical reality and thought.  The Geography of Names is digging into place-names as tools for shaping reality through use in politics, cartography, religion, philosophy, and social media.  Watch this space as new themes emerge, and for sample sections of the ongoing work.
Part of what has made this work possible is the fact that along Hudson Strait, for example, oral histories are beginning to be taken seriously again.  Interviews with elders telling stories over maps in community halls in places like Kuujjuaq, Salluit, and Quaqtaq are becoming a regular occurrence as provincial and federal governments scramble to keep up with land claims after the successes of the Nunavut and Nisga’a territorial governments.
A book launch for Maps and Memes will take place at the Canadian Association of Geographers annual meeting at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver 1-5 June 2015; with another planned in the UK, probably in Canada House.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Counter-mapping Skin

Image source: The Independent

Kevin Pietersen probably did not intend for his new tattoo to be a counter-map.  Continents are shown in a mirror image of how they 'normally' appear, giving them the appearance of being viewed from inside the earth.  I had to think about this for a second, but it would seem to be a mistake, introduced into the representation through the process of transferring it from the stencil to the skin.  It really doesn't have the impact of the classic 'upside down' counter-map of the world though (in my opinion).

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

GIS Movie: Roman Britain from the Air

London is a Roman invention (43 AD)

Why did the Romans build (what we now know as London) here?

Oxford Street, Edgeware Road, and Marble Arch all speak to Roman spatial and planning sensibilities.

Roman walls edge down into the ground, running all the way around the old city, as seen in underground car parks.

Shots of helicopters cut to maps.  We have commentators narrating the entrenched Thames through radio, telling how bridges spanned the river and linked up the old Roman world.  A web of roads across what is now England.

[I saw a white Roman road marker today on my ride up towards St Ann's Hill and Chertsey, at a spot where the Founder's Building jumps up on the hill.  The white stone inscription is faded, fronting the old road bed, saplings folding into forest]

Staines, we know, was a Roman town, bulldozed to make commercial space.  Now Debenham's greets the visitor, calling out across the railway tracks.  Heading north from Chertsey, a cold front down for Christmas Eve, cycling amongst walkers on the Thames.

This is the edge, the way out, tunnelling under the M25 to go home.

GIS Movie: Soldier-Poets of the Somme

A GIS movie par excellence, much of the story is told through animated low elevation mapping of the fields, battlegrounds, and trenches of world war I.  This movie looks at the experiences of Siegfried Sassoon, Robert Graves, and JRR Tolkien, and the way the war shaped their words and their spaces and came to haunt their lives later on.

French villages, shown on old photographs stitched together to give complete landscapes, tagged with 3D pointer-labels, look old and sepia-toned.  They look bleak, ashy, barren; then we suddenly see layered on top what the place looks like today: bright, green, sunny, a far cry from century ago.

Here's a link to BBC Two's player for Soldier-Poets of the Somme.