Mapping with intent

In Kevin Lynch’s 1960 ‘Image of the City’ the study sample is asked to draw a map of their district and include within it not roads and place names but paths they walk and places they meet and frequent. Lynch’s Boston (1955) at: http://libraries.mit.edu/archives/exhibits/lynch/index1.html

Islands of living and experience are produced where the boundaries often are formed of highways, topographical barriers and areas of deprivation. These activity spaces are also prominant in contemporary mappers such as Stephen Walters at: http://www.stephenwalter.co.uk/home.php

Walters includes nights out, local mythology and perceptions of space to create a vibrant account of lived spaces. Such subjectivity is also present in the perceived objective and authoritarian mapping of Charles Booth’s poverty map of London (1898-99). Upstanding members of the community e.g. the police and the judiciary, were employed to walk the streets of London and make notes of their observations and grade areas into a poverty index, leading to Booth’s coloured legend. Booth’s note-takers assessed streets and knocked on doors, leaving open the possibility of being swayed by what they saw and the conversations they got into. These discussions would have played a part in the subsequent ranking thus turning the form and accuracy of the street layout into a completely subjective accout (at http://www.bl.uk/learning/images/mappinghist/booth-st.jpg)

It is these interpretations that make maps more than just a plan. They are a snapshot of social mobility and environmental determinism and in their representation they are a beautifully creative artform.

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