See-through Maps: Maps that Lay Bare Their Point of View is a design competition sponsored by the Global Urban Humanities Initiative, UC Berkeley and the Berkeley Center for New Media. The guidelines are, according to the organizers, intentionally ambiguous, but place the competition in the realm of the conceptual, pushing the boundaries of both what a map is, and its purpose.
The finalists include GIST student Nancy Milholland’s mash-up of public art in San Francisco, which is well within the traditional definition of maps and mapping and range to the mental map of San Francisco for cyclists to a map of evictions in San Francisco. Other notable contributions are a map of the outlines of every single swimming pool in Los Angeles, juxtaposed with crime statistics. The judges thoughtful critique of Millholland’s praised its usefulness and design:
Why we chose this map. This map depicts public art in San Francisco (and other Bay Area cities) as defined by regulatory agencies, arts organizations, and the general public. By combining government databases, web-based collections, and crowdsourced photos from Instagram and Panoramio, the map provides a broad view of public art. The map is useful both as a guidebook for locating artworks of interest and as a tool of analysis. Because its data sources are transparent, the viewer can investigate the differences between how different parties define public art and can also investigate whether art required by government mandate relating to public space is in compliance in terms of hours of access, etc . One can also track by the number of crowdsourced photos the level of interest in various art objects and compare it with their status as “official” or non-official art. The database includes both mandatory art required as a condition of approval for real estate development; publicly and privately funded art; and illegal public art. This map is a showcase of mapmaking platforms and tools readily available to the public. The author notes that the base map is one developed originally for disaster mapping. The point of view of the mapmaker is revealed by the data sources she chooses to juxtapose, even though she has limited control over their content.
Go have a look at the maps to see the range of modern digital mapmaking, and illustrates the degree to which spatial technologies have permeated and our both influencing and becoming subjects in the humanities.