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Barton & Barton: Ideology and the Map

Barton B. F., & Barton, M. S. (2004). Ideology and the map: Toward a postmodern visual design practice. In J. Johnson-Eilola & S. A. Selber (eds.), Central works in technical communication (pp. 232-252). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Textbook cover

Central Works in Technical Communications. Published by Oxford University Press

Summary: Maps have ideology. This is hardly news at this point. However, the authors’ focus in different ways that inclusion and exclusion reinforce and reify hegemonic power positions is illuminating and remains powerfully valid in today’s info graphic-loving culture. Visualizations have a responsibility to reveal and make explicit their ideological inclusions and exclusions, and to seek new visual representations that reflect lived experience’s complexity and apparent chaos.

Response: Our recent Theory of Networks class took to heart parts of this article’s position. One of those positions is the effort to establish and develop visual representations that reflect the complexity and chaotic organicism of lived experience. As we sought to visualize connections among the various theorists and theories we encountered, the complexity of our visualizations grew and grew. Complexity is part of our lived experience, and our maps should represent that complexity in meaningful ways.

That maps have embedded in them ideological decisions is refreshing, as is the call to make explicit the ideological inclusions and exclusions. I’m reminded of contested mappings of Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. And even these terms, much less their mappings, are contested. The West Bank is an indigenous, Palestinian term taken from a Jordanian perspective: to Jordanians, the area west of the Jordan River is, in fact, the West Bank of the Jordan. To Israelis, the area represents the east, not the west; it’s east of Israel proper. Harkening to historical biblical roots, the “Territories” (as they were called when I lived in Israel) are called Judea and Samaria — thus representing, when combined with Israel, the complete territory of the Jewish state. The Gaza Strip has been a less contested term.

Mapping Judea and Samaria/the West Bank/Palestine (as it is unofficially officially known today — more contested names) is hotly contested. Does the “Wall” that Israel has erected along much of the border with Palestine represent the political and territorial border of a future Palestinian state? Does the 1967 armistice line represent the historically accurate borders of the two states, assuming two states eventually emerge? As for Gaza, to what extent is it connected, if at all, to Egypt or to the West Bank Palestinian borders? How does one represent, visually, the political connection between the two Palestinian land masses, separated by Israel?

One interesting outcome of the agonizingly slow birth of the Palestinian state is the decision to call the emerging state “Palestine.” Doing so creates an interesting vacuum among some Palestinians, who have often called what I call the state of Israel “Palestine.” The result is that Israel receives an unofficial official recognition as the name of the country between Palestine and the Mediterranean Sea, regardless of whether it’s been accepted as a Jewish state or homeland.

Maps contain ideology, and one simply can’t map this area of the Middle East without taking sides in the ideological struggle between Palestinians and Israelis, between Arabs and Jews, and between foreign policies of UN Security Council member nations. Taking sides — and even revealing this level of the ideological background of mapping the region — can be professionally dangerous. There are no objective choices; if nothing else, the ideological struggle of mapping the Middle East demonstrates the lack of objectivity in postmodernism. All mapping is subjective and ideological. Accepting this fact makes mapping much easier and reveals — and revels in — the complexity of lived experience.

Barton & Barton: Ideology and the Map

Barton B. F., & Barton, M. S. (2004). Ideology and the map: Toward a postmodern visual design practice. In J. Johnson-Eilola & S. A. Selber (eds.), Central works in technical communication (pp. 232-252). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Textbook cover

Central Works in Technical Communications. Published by Oxford University Press

Summary: Maps have ideology. This is hardly news at this point. However, the authors’ focus in different ways that inclusion and exclusion reinforce and reify hegemonic power positions is illuminating and remains powerfully valid in today’s info graphic-loving culture. Visualizations have a responsibility to reveal and make explicit their ideological inclusions and exclusions, and to seek new visual representations that reflect lived experience’s complexity and apparent chaos.

Response: Our recent Theory of Networks class took to heart parts of this article’s position. One of those positions is the effort to establish and develop visual representations that reflect the complexity and chaotic organicism of lived experience. As we sought to visualize connections among the various theorists and theories we encountered, the complexity of our visualizations grew and grew. Complexity is part of our lived experience, and our maps should represent that complexity in meaningful ways.

That maps have embedded in them ideological decisions is refreshing, as is the call to make explicit the ideological inclusions and exclusions. I’m reminded of contested mappings of Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. And even these terms, much less their mappings, are contested. The West Bank is an indigenous, Palestinian term taken from a Jordanian perspective: to Jordanians, the area west of the Jordan River is, in fact, the West Bank of the Jordan. To Israelis, the area represents the east, not the west; it’s east of Israel proper. Harkening to historical biblical roots, the “Territories” (as they were called when I lived in Israel) are called Judea and Samaria — thus representing, when combined with Israel, the complete territory of the Jewish state. The Gaza Strip has been a less contested term.

Mapping Judea and Samaria/the West Bank/Palestine (as it is unofficially officially known today — more contested names) is hotly contested. Does the “Wall” that Israel has erected along much of the border with Palestine represent the political and territorial border of a future Palestinian state? Does the 1967 armistice line represent the historically accurate borders of the two states, assuming two states eventually emerge? As for Gaza, to what extent is it connected, if at all, to Egypt or to the West Bank Palestinian borders? How does one represent, visually, the political connection between the two Palestinian land masses, separated by Israel?

One interesting outcome of the agonizingly slow birth of the Palestinian state is the decision to call the emerging state “Palestine.” Doing so creates an interesting vacuum among some Palestinians, who have often called what I call the state of Israel “Palestine.” The result is that Israel receives an unofficial official recognition as the name of the country between Palestine and the Mediterranean Sea, regardless of whether it’s been accepted as a Jewish state or homeland.

Maps contain ideology, and one simply can’t map this area of the Middle East without taking sides in the ideological struggle between Palestinians and Israelis, between Arabs and Jews, and between foreign policies of UN Security Council member nations. Taking sides — and even revealing this level of the ideological background of mapping the region — can be professionally dangerous. There are no objective choices; if nothing else, the ideological struggle of mapping the Middle East demonstrates the lack of objectivity in postmodernism. All mapping is subjective and ideological. Accepting this fact makes mapping much easier and reveals — and revels in — the complexity of lived experience.

Mapping the Ecology of My Classroom: Jepson G20

On Wednesday nights this semester I teach ENGL 201U, Critical Writing and Research, at the University of Richmond School of Professional and Continuing Studies. The class is offered face-to-face for 15 weeks, although there are online requirements. I teach the class in Jepson Hall G20, a collaborative computer lab originally designed for English writing classes (and recently redesigned for film studies) in consultation with our Writing Center director, Dr. Joe Essid. The classroom is rectangular, with two standard door entrances and a bank of windows facing an inner hallway. The classroom has no outside view; it’s an internal room in the basement of the building. One of the long walls holds the projection screen, which is served by a bright, relatively new, widescreen, high definition projector. The instructor station and computer, where the controls of the projection unit are housed, is in a corner opposite the projection screen, which means an instructor who uses the screen must navigate multimedia presentations and components from the “back” corner of the classroom. There is no wireless keyboard or wireless “clicker” for navigation.

Students in my class sit at a computer workstations situated around large round tables. There are 6 or 7 workstations per table, but my class has only 13 students, so space is never a problem. I expect them to log into their computer workstations and to open our course syllabus, a shared Google Document. Students engage in online activities via their workstation computers multiple times during every class session. They sometimes view additional material on the projection screen that may not be available on their own screens, although I’ve minimized instances when projection-screen-only material exists. I alternately sit or stand at the back of the room at the instructor computer, navigating various online resources, sit or stand at a portable highboy table that generally holds my text and notes, and walk around the classroom.

The first night of class, I walked the students through a rhetorical analysis of the classroom environment. This is something I’ve been doing with students since I taught high school English, and I’m always fascinated at the reaction to “reading” a room. In this case, our classroom is equipped with top-of-the-line technology (placement of the instructor console aside), painted attractively and professionally, not institutionally (dark-grained woodstain has that effect), brightly lit, and arranged for optimal online collaboration. Personal collaboration with those sitting within one or two seats of each other is also optimal, but the height of the iMac monitors makes cross-table collaboration (and, frankly, lecturing) almost impossible. Our analysis concluded that the room was designed with collaborative, computer-aided instructional experiences in mind. Its design and color match the other classrooms in the building, many of which are also computer classrooms or computer labs, and it fits into the small private liberal arts college oeuvre.

classroom ecology map

Affordance Map of the Ecology of my ENGL 201U classroom at the University of Richmond.

That’s our learning environment. Following Bateson’s (1972/1987) logic, the classroom environment is an ecological unit, a distributed intelligence, that works together toward learning. Individuals cannot and should not be separated from the collective in this environment; the environment itself affords distributed, collaborative learning (p. 470). The affordances of the environment can be mapped among students and their interactions with technology, instructor, text, and furnishings.

iMacs afford students “trace-making” abilities (Gibson, 1979/1986) that enable them to participate in instructional activities by writing answers in Google Drive. iMacs also enable them to collaborate in peer reading sessions and to provide meaningful written feedback to one another. These affordances are often combined with the affordances of clear instructions, models for writing, and learning activities found in their textbooks. Textbooks also afford homework and portfolio project assignments, significant aspects of the course.

Furnishings afford collaboration, vital to discursive formation. Whether the collaboration is formal (part of learning activity) or informal (sharing common experiences and the like), the result is strengthening of discursive ties among the members of the class. I join in such collaborations whenever appropriate and possible to continue building stronger ties. Round tables ensure students are able to talk with one another (although the iMac monitor heights removes the collaborative affordance across each table). The data projector and screen enable me as instructor to display instructions or resources that students can then use in their independent and collaborative work, affording additional trace-making without requiring students to have multiple monitors. And even the monitor size afford multiple windows to be open, enabling additional collaboration with the larger Internet through searching and copying data in one window and interacting with, revising, even sampling that collected data in another window.

Of course, the furnishing also afford plenty of distractions. Large monitor sizes and fast Internet connections also afford non-instructional resources to be viewed, downloaded, and manipulated. However, I consider this affordance to be part and parcel of a 21st century connected classroom, and I seek to engage the “non-instructional” materials in the instructional experience as texts to be read and analyzed. So when NCAA March Madness breaks out and games are streamed and watch, I will work to bring such material into the ecology of the classroom in a meaningful way. To me, this is the challenge and goal of 21st century instruction. The streaming game is part of the ecology of the class, too, and I can ignore it, attempt to ban it, or incorporate it into the instructional objectives of the class. After all, I am also part of the ecology and among the affordances into the classroom.

References

Bateson, G. (1987/1972). Steps to an ecology of mind: Collected essays in anthropology, psychiatry, evolution, and epistemology. Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson, Inc.

Gibson, J. J. (1979/1986). The ecological approach to visual perception. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

[Classroom header photo: Jepson Hall G20. CC licensed image from Flickr user (and UR staff member and my master’s degree grad school classmate) Kevin Creamer]

A Mind (Ecology) is a Terrible Thing to Waste (Affordances): Week of March 16th

“We can equate the place with geometry and space with geography. Geography or space is lived or practiced more than geometry of place … geometries are necessary ways of mapping relations among histories and constructing tactics of resistance that tie … Continue reading

A Mind (Ecology) is a Terrible Thing to Waste (Affordances): Week of March 16th

“We can equate the place with geometry and space with geography. Geography or space is lived or practiced more than geometry of place … geometries are necessary ways of mapping relations among histories and constructing tactics of resistance that tie … Continue reading

Theory Application Rubric: A Class Construction

This rubric really is a social construct: class members collaborated (with a great deal of momentum generated by Maury’s contributions) on the beginnings of our rubric. While each of us likely added or removed bits of the collaborative work to personalize the rubric, I’m proud to be part of this socially constructed, class-sourced rubric development process.

We recognized two major areas of focus for the rubric:

  • Articulation and contextualization of the theory
  • Application of theory to specific OoS (explained with clarity)

After reading the hypertext theory readings, I recommended a third area of focus, which I’ve included in my rubric:

  • Mapping of theory to local context (praxis)
seattle awareness map from 1978

Seattle Awareness Map, 1978: Mapping Seattle’s historical landmarks. Creative Commons licensed image from Flickr user Rob Ketcherside.

While we can apply theory to our OoS, I think it’s important to be able to map the theory to localized instantiations of the OoS. If theory can’t be mapped to specific aspects of practice in the field, then it hardly seems useful (in a pragmatic sense) to the field or its scholars and practitioners. Not that every theory needs a Spinuzzi-like operationalized exemplar to be valid — but we need to be able to identify specific ways that teachers in local contexts will be able to apply theoretical constructs and principles to pedagogy, and how scholars will be able to apply theory to specific recommendations for action in the field.

We also discussed how or whether to assign grades or points to each aspect of the rubric. Most of us chose to avoid assigning grades: our goal was to develop a rubric that could be applied to both assessment and praxis, and my sense is that assessment needs to be localized at the assignment level rather than generalized at the development level (see Discussion below for more on this subject). As a result, I did not include point values, nor would I want to do so without first sharing the rubric with the person to whom I applied it.

My (class-sourced) Theory Application Rubric

Articulated and Contextualized (Theoretical Understanding)

  • Theorist(s) who developed the theory
  • Influential predecessors to the theory to theorist
  • Main premise(s) of the theory and key attributes
  • Limitations of the theory
  • Relationship to other theories in the field and importance to the field
  • Existing canonical or well-respected applications of the theory

Applied to Object of Study and Explained (OoS Understanding, Application)

  • OoS contextualized and explained
  • Theory attributes mapped to OoS attributes
  • Portion(s) of the theory used and discarded, and why
  • Contribution to understanding or re-seeing the OoS
  • Practical benefits of applying the theory
  • Limitations (blind spots) of this theory as applied to this OoS
  • Additions to the body of knowledge surrounding OoS and/or the discipline

Mapped to Local Context (Praxis)

  • Local context(s) to which theory can be mapped
  • Specific person(s) responsible for activated mapping
  • Social and political boundaries defined by theory
  • Aspects of theory mapped to specific lived experience
  • Anticipated social action to be achieved by mapping
  • Assessment process of localized mapping defined

Applying the Rubric

Foucauldian Analysis of Live-Action Role-Playing Games as Networks

Maury applied specific aspects of network construction with Foucaultian theory to LARPs. Below are the results of applying my rubric to her case study.

Theoretical Understanding
Characteristic Addressed Comments
Theorist(s) who developed the theory Yes Foucault
Influential predecessors to the theory to theorist No The assignment did not call for the need to contextualize the theorist among others.
Main premise(s) of the theory and key attributes Partially Foucault offers a broad range of theories; those applicable to the OoS were appropriately selected.
Limitations of the theory Partially The limitations of the theory may have been demonstrated by absence in the case study.
Relationship to other theories in the field and importance to the field No This was not a required component of the assignment.
Existing canonical or well-respected applications of the theory N/A The scope of the assignment did not require this level of exploration of the theory.
OoS Understanding & Application
Characteristic Addressed Comments
OoS contextualized and explained Yes Thorough explanation of the OoS and its context made it accessible to a complete noob.
Theory attributes mapped to OoS attributes Yes Of special note were connection to archive, positivity, absence, and monument.
Portion(s) of the theory used and discarded, and why No It’s difficult to nail down Foucault to a single theoretical stance or even set of stances; as a result, this is an appropriate omission.
Contribution to understanding or re-articulating the OoS Yes Among the strongest aspects of the case study. Application revealed relational and contingent character of the game’s discourse.
Practical benefits of applying the theory Yes Among benefits noted are recognizing the change in meaning that occurs as the game is played.
Limitations (blind spots) of this theory as applied to this OoS No Given the broad range of theoretical position Foucault offers, it’s difficult to identify limitations.
Additions to the body of knowledge surrounding OoS and/or the discipline Yes The networked description of the OoS via Foucault focuses attention on specific connections within the game, and it broadens an understanding of Foucault’s archive and monument.
Praxis
Characteristic Addressed Comments
Local context(s) to which theory can be mapped Yes LARP as distinguished from cosplay, historical re-enactment, creative anachronism, and boffer-style LARP.
Specific person(s) responsible for activated mapping Yes Very detailed; notable are Game Masters along with many other actors on the network.
Social and political boundaries defined by theory Yes The field of game play is clearly articulated and connected to the field of discourse.
Aspects of theory mapped to specific lived experience Yes Another strength of the case study, mapping specific lived experiences of LARP to theoretical aspects.
Anticipated social action to be achieved by mapping Yes Closing statement addresses the specific social action expected: multiplicity of discourse emerging from a single LARP.
Assessment process of localized mapping defined Yes In the same closing statement, successful mapping with be demonstrated by multiple discourses from a single LARP.

Discussion

Theoretical Understanding

The rubric we crowd sourced was intended to address broadly the way a theory is constructed in its time-space and context. Since our assignment was to apply a theory that we had all worked on together in class, neither the assignment nor our execution was expected to spend a great deal of time explaining the key components of the theory, its place among theories, or other contexts related to the theory itself. It was assumed that we’d bring to the assignment that understanding without having to articulate it in the blog post.

However, as a hermeneutic, the rubric offers a useful set of tools for assessing and presenting major theoretical aspects to a reader. Of particular importance as we move forward in our case studies will be explaining more of the influential context of the theory — its predecessors, its influences, its turns and negations, its relationship to other theoretical stances. And a conference paper-length application would certainly be expected to use a literature review to place the theoretical stance(s) in appropriate context. As a result, although this case study implicitly precluded most of the contextual background of Foucaultian theory, the rubric itself is likely hermeneutically sound.

OoS Application and Explanation

In the case of Foucault, nailing down a single theoretical stance, or even a set of theoretical positions, is quite difficult. As a result, omitting some of Foucault’s theoretical positions is necessary in anything but a monograph-length study (and even then, I’m not sure). These omissions don’t necessarily mean they don’t apply to the OoS or that there are no mappings between the theory and the OoS. I take these omissions to be practical realities, and would likely consider them so even in a graded assignment (unless major issues were left unaddressed, like statements or discursive formation). That same breadth of theoretical perspective necessitates the OoS itself to define its limits within the frame of theoretical reference. In a more narrowly focused theoretical stance, I’d expect more explicit statements about the OoS boundaries as defined by the theory. In the case of Foucault, I sensed little of LARPs that Foucault would not address. While this was never explicitly stated or even implied in the analysis, the results speak for themselves — there is no shortage of LARP when applying Foucault. As a result, even though the application does not always address every aspect of the rubric, I don’t think the rubric is faulty.

Praxis

I surprised myself in finding the Praxis section of the rubric the most informative and applicable section of the rubric. I found concrete mappings between theory and localized context. I don’t consider this section to repeat the OoS application and explanation section; to me, the object of study is not necessarily localized. In the case of LARPs, for example, the localized mapping went so far as to specify a single LARP (Three Muskateers), while the OoS itself remained a more general discussion of LARPs. However, even this general discussion worked to localize the LARP by differentiating it from other similar activities. My mapping the OoS in lived experience to theory, both LARP and theoretical understanding benefitted. As a reader with no LARP experience, the localized mapping offered a clear theoretical underpinning to the concept and practice of the LARP while clarifying in concrete examples some of the more difficult concepts of Foucaultian theory. Mapping theory to localized experience offered a win/win experience for me as reader, and I believe that same experience applies to extending knowledge and understanding of both fields.

visualization of map of the internet, 2005

Map of the Internet, 2005: Mapping a global theory to a localization. Creative Commons licensed image from Flickr user Cesar Harada.

Localization

This rubric, like all others, requires a flexible, local application bound up in real experience. The fact that the assignment did not fulfill all requirements of the rubric makes neither the assignment nor the rubric unsuccessful. The assignment called for different expectations than the rubric (which, of course, reveals in practice the importance of developing rubrics prior to, rather than in response to, assignments), so the rubric could not be fully applied to the assignment. Furthermore, the rubric addressed a broader conception of theory and OoS than the format and length of the assignment could achieve. I believe it’s important to recognize ways the rubric can’t or won’t measure exactly what it needs to measure in each and every instance. Every assignment — and every response to every assignment — is a localization, and each requires a flexible application of the rubric. This does not make the rubric an inefficient or inaccurate measurement tool; on the contrary, it reveals the value and significance of local context in measurement.

[Top of page: rubric - Creative Commons licensed image by Flickr user Diana]