Nov 8, 2008

The line, the cities and the wiki.

While constructing the maps of Juarez and El Paso I realized that there was a lacuna in the type of information I got about parts of Juarez I was studying. The information I got from the maps in the library was of a certain kind of datascape, broad and demographic, it didn’t allow me to read the site the way one experiences it while walking through its street. Also the data available did not reflect the social and programmatic relationships that existed between Juarez and El Paso. So I turned to the wiki map for more information about the sites and realized that the wikimap breaks away from a lot of problems that are inherent in the traditional mapping techniques.

A wikimap, like a Google map is a photograph of the earth, what sets it apart from a google map is the ability to edit this map. Anybody in the world who has access to the internet can define geographies on this map and attach ones personal stories on to the delineated boundaries. These stories are then open to comments and discussions with other people who visit This editibility greatly changes a lot of our notions about space.

Acknowledging the public and public knowledge:
Untill now, map making has been the prerogative of a cartographer. The medium of the wiki takes away these privileges from a select few geometers and hands them to the people. This gives rise to a rhizomatic space that helps break the hegemonic practice of map making.

The space of stories and stories about space:
De Certeau in his essay on spatial stories states that - ‘stories carry out the labour that transforms places into spaces and spaces into places…”. The wiki map is a constellation of stories posted by people. These stories not only help personalize space. They help layer our perception of spaces with perceptions of others giving us a chance to have multiple readings of the same place. Depending upon the kind of stories posted one begins to read it through the context of politics, advertisement, history, or simply beings to meet people who live there.

Deriving the wiki:
“ Derive” is a term for wandering s of a flanure. The intent of a derive was to read the city in newer ways. The wiki map has now become a medium of carrying out a derive. It allows one to navigate the city and meet its people sitting at home.

The notions of heterotopias:
Perceiving a city by walking through areas that it allows us to walk through has its short comings. parts of the city that are considered unclean or unsafe are often hidden away from the public view. Psychologically we begin to perceive these spaces as other spaces creating a certain bias in our minds about the place and the people living here. The wiki map unfolds these spaces and makes these heterotopias visible. Also begins to release information about these places into the public realm. This medium that helped me read Juarez and El Paso without a hegemonic bias.

wiki limits
However one of the biggest criticisms of the wiki is that it is a privilege of the few who have a computer -internet access , and understand how to edit the wiki. Hence it can never be a representative democratic set. Also it has the capability of framing rumors as nobody can check the validity of all the stories posted., hence a lot of information is to be taken with a pinch of salt. None the less it is, as of now, our only access to a democratic mapping system.

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