Thursday, 13 February 2014

Cybercartography, Second-Order Observing and Virtual Connectivity

Cybercartography was introduced by D. R. Fraser Taylor in 1997 at the International Cartographic Conference. It does not just refer to GIS but is related to cybernetics in its connection to social systems and actions that take place at a community level. Feedback loops become significant in cybernetics, and machines (systems, technologies, devices, etcetera) become tools that create engagement and connections rather than something that separates the observer from the action observed. Katherine Hayles explains how, in a world of relationships and networks, an individual constructs its environment through a space of reciprocal actions. (1999: 137) She explains how second-order observing arises when an observer self-consciously describes herself to others and to herself. (1999: 145) Cybercartography is based on second order cybernetics and includes the accessing of multi-sensorial experience, interactivity, digital and virtual systems, and is an inter-disciplinary field of theory. (Taylor 2005: 3) This is how Taylor describes it:
The author sees the paradigm of cybercartography not as a sudden and dramatic shift from past ideas and practice, but as an evolutionary and integrative process which incorporates important elements from the past, redefines others, and introduces new ideas and approaches to both cartographic practice and theory. (2005: 2

Source: Geomatics and Cartographic Research Centre

Cybercartography favours self-reflexivity, heterogeneity and real-world representations. It proposes self-organisation and the retaining of identity through a process of circular interaction that could be described as autopoietic. The originators of the term ‘autopoiesis’, Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela, describe it as a character of living systems where through the circular interaction of its processes it maintains its organisation and retains its identity (1980: 9). They explain that second order conduct is denotative because “it points to a feature of the environment that the second organism encounters” and which can be described. (1980: 28). They also make it clear that for linguistic behaviour to be of an orienting nature there needs to be consensus: individuals need to be able to compare events and experiences that are not only similar but use a shared medium – language (1980: 30). Geospatial technology, used in conjunction with local communities, enables spaces to have a symbolic meaning attached to them by encouraging exploration into areas of creative expression. Virtual geographies have the function of reversing the spectacle, “the secret nodes which connect and route flows of capital”, and help to reveal the concealed “black-box that is anti-market capitalism” (Imken 1999: 103).

Source: Centro de Investigacion en Geografia y Geomatica

In his essay ‘The Convergence of Virtual and Actual in the Global Matrix: Artificial Life, Geo-economics and Psychogeography’ Otto Imken situates the situational control of psychogeography within the computer-generated map, stating that this can help one “tilt a situation into various desired basins of attraction, and then, with a higher-level (almost instinctual) knowledge of the attractor’s neighbourhood, its quirks, probabilities, and back-alley pathways, the expert situationist can reach desired results.” (1999: 103) He goes on to explain that the goal is to create multiple possibilities through various connections, feedback loops and interactions, resulting in maps that capture a moment-in-time, an event. (1999: 103-104) In this essay he also makes reference to the work of Gilles Deleuze and FĂ©lix Guattari in relation to the decoding of capitalism and how the process of mapping can create “syncretic assemblages within the [Global] Matrix”. (ibid.)

Maps of Competence
Cartography: Representation and Revealing the Hidden

Hayles, N. Katherine. 1999. How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press).
Imken, Otto. 1999. ‘The Convergence of virtual and actual in the Global Matrix: Artificial life, geo-economics and psychogeography’, Virtual Geographies: Bodies, Space and Relations, ed. by Mike Crang, Phil Crang and Jon May (London: Routledge) pp. 92-106.
Maturana, Humberto R. and Varela, Francisco J. 1980. Autopoiesis and Cognition: The Realization of the Living (London: Dordrecht).
Taylor, D. R. Fraser. 2005. ‘The Theory and Practice of Cybercartography: An Introduction’, Cybercartography: Theory and Practice, ed. by D. R. Fraser Taylor (Amsterdam: Elsevier) pp. 1-13.

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