Mapping Ephemeralities


Workshop organized by the International Cartographic Association (ICA) Commissions on Maps and Society & Art and Cartography

 Evanescent elements such as memories, stories, sensations and perceptions are just as much a part of places as more physical and tangible objects such as streets, buildings, landmarks, and topography. These evanescent elements contribute to our personal and collective relationships to places but as ephemeralities, they are difficult to identify, collect and map. Cartographers have begun to acknowledge the importance of such non-material elements in the mapping of places, though often it is through artistic practices that ephemeral mappings have been explored. Meanwhile, the idea of “locative” media serves to connect location with site-specific art or narrative that in turn helps one be more aware of the multiple dimensions of the immediate environment. With growing interest in ephemeral mapping and locative media comes the need for research and dialogue about some of the issues raised by both the collection of ephemeralities and their appropriate mapping. The goal of this workshop is to provide an intellectual and creative space to share different ideas and methodologies about mapping ephemeralities, as well as a practical environment to learn how some of these methodologies and technologies can be used and adapted for designing (online) maps of ephemeral phenomenon.

This workshop aims to bring together artists, scholars and students from cartography, geography, the humanities and the arts who are interested in exploring further the relationships between maps and ephemeral dimensions of places. We would like to invite participants interested in discussing and debating any type of relationship between maps and ephemeralities including:

  • The theoretical underpinning of mapping ephemeralities;
  • The methodologies developed in arts, sciences and the humanities for collecting ephemeral and non-material phenomenon associated with places (e.g. memories, perceptions, smells, sounds, emotions);
  • The technological and practical aspects of mapping ephemeralities;
  • The social and political implications of mapping ephemeral phenomenon and designing ephemeral maps;

The workshop will be hosted by the University of the State of Rio de Janeiro located in Maracanã neighborhood. We also hope to involve the participants into some ephemeralities data collection activities and to use these data to design an online collectively-made evanescent map of the ephemeralities of the Maracana neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro.

Submission process and important dates

To participate to the workshop, each participant must submit a proposal describing her/his project by December 15th, 2014 (max. 500 words) to Chris Perkins (, Laurene Vaughan ( and Sébastien Caquard ( who will share them with the other members of the scientific committee: Jörn Seemann and Taien Ng-Chan. The workshop will be free of charge, but the participants will have to pay for their food and lodging (a list will be provided on the 27th International Cartographic Conference website:


  • November 10, 2014 – Call for Participants;
  • December 15, 2014 – Deadline for submitting abstracts (max. 500 words);
  • January 31, 2015 – Successful Applicants notified;
  • March 31, 2015 – Final program released;
  • 21-22 August 2015 – Workshop prior to the ICC 2015.


Note: The deadline to submit a paper to the main International Cartographic Conference is Nov. 15, 2014 (

The edited collection “Piani sul mondo” (“Plans on the World”), reviewed by Tania Rossetto

cover-piani-mondo-bVery interesting review (in English) of “Piani sul mondo” (“Plans on the World”) an edited collection in Italian that looks more specifically at maps emerging from literature rather than at maps of literature as emphasized by Tania Rossetto the author of the review. This collection contributes to the extensive academic literature published recently on literary geography and mapping ( A taxonomy of the multiple relationships between maps and literature has also been developed by Ryan (2003) and discussed by Rossetto in another paper (2014) and a new open-access academic journal entitled “Literary Geographies” has been recently launched ( Definitely a very active area of research…

Guglielmi, Marina and Giulio Iacoli (eds) 2013 Piani sul mondo. Le mappe nell’immaginazione letteraria, reviewed by Tania Rossetto.

Ryan, M.-L. (2003) Cognitive Maps and the Construction of Narrative Space, In Herman, D. (ed.), Narrative Theory and the Cognitive Sciences, Stanford, CA, Publications of the Center for the Study of Language and Information, pp. 214–242.

Rossetto T, 2014, “Theorizing maps with literature” Progress in Human Geography 38 513-30

Mapping Shakespeare’s Othello

Additional background information is shown / Collected and written by Tom Cheesman

This map is part of a research project initiated and super­vised by Tom Cheesman at Swansea University in collab­or­a­tion with Kevin Flanagan and Studio NAND. Over the course of nearly two years, Tom has collected over 50 trans­la­tions and adapt­a­tions of Othello into German driven by the idea to analyse and compare them in order to find traces and patterns that reveal cultural, histor­ical and social fluc­tu­ations.

[…] a first proto­type called Version Variation Visualisation in which we helped building a set of visu­al­isa­tion tools for an exem­plary corpus of 37 German trans­la­tions of Othello (Act 1, Scene 3) in collab­or­a­tion with Kevin Flannagan andSebastian Sadowski.

A beautiful clean design to the map reminiscent of the Stamen Maps Toner maps, it is a great blend of data visualisation, literature and cartography. Differentiating between Books & Scripts the dates on the interactive web based map highlights details of the writers and where that text might have been written, rewritten, published. The creators state this is just a beginning and will no doubt grow, reminds me of Literature Atlas.


Travel by Approximation

tba-selects2Jenny Odell is an artist from the Bay Area (USA) that travels via satellites and Google Street View. In her work “Travel by Approximation” she proposes a

“virtual road trip across the United States via Google Street View, Yelp, TripAdvisor, UrbanSpoon, InsiderPages, CitySearch, YouTube, Virtual Tourist, Wikimedia, Wikipedia, and countless other forums, blogs, user maps and 360-degree tours. For one year–almost two virtual months—I transported myself into one place after another, both by writing a travel narrative and by using Photoshop to integrate myself into photos I found online.”

The result was turned into an installation and a book that tells the story of her virtual journey illustrated by many photos and screen captures of Google Street View in which she appearances extensively. This virtual journey seems even more interesting than the real one. As she points out:

“Pages 97-98, in which I brave the tourist-masses of the Grand Canyon. In the first page, I’m encountering a guy who claims (on TripAdvisor) that “the thing with the Grand Canyon is… once you’ve seen it, well, you’ve seen it.” (Those are his bored kids in the photos.) On the next page are user photos all geotagged at the same exact spot on Google Maps, a lookout point just off the main road.”

Colloquy “Cartographier les récits”

Some of the participants of the Colloquy on "Cartographier les récits"

Some of the participants of the Colloquy on “Cartographier les récits”

Last May, the Art & Cartography commission organized a colloquy in Montreal within the context of the 82nd acfas conference (Association francophone pour le savoir). During this two days event (May 12-13, 2014), 25 students, professors and researchers from geography, cartography, literature, sociology and anthropology got together to discuss (in French) issues around mapping different kinds of stories such as historical stories, everyday life stories, stories of refugees, stories from films and from novels. The title of the colloquy was “Cartographier les récits : enjeux méthodologiques et technologiques” (full program available here). The presentations and discussions were very stimulating and will be continued…


Special issue of CAJ on Cartography and Narrative

Table_of_ContentThe special issue of The Cartographic journal on “Cartography and Narratives” is now available online. This Special Issue provides a cartographic point of view on the relationships between cartography and narratives. As stated in the introduction (Caquard and Cartwright 2014, 102):

“This cartographic point of view is envisioned from two perspectives. The first is where maps are used to represent the spatial structures of stories. Cartographic projects associated with this approach use maps to locate elements from all types of stories (i.e. fictional or factual). In this special issue, this category is illustrated by papers that address the mapping of oral indigenous stories (Wickens Pearce), the cartographic representation of fictional places that appear in novels (Weber-Reuschel, Piatti and Hurni) and the mapping of a tragic event with deep emotional dimensions (Roberts). The second perspective refers to the narrative power of the map. In this special issue the narrative emerges from the mining of geolocated photographs (Straumann, Çöltekin and Andrienko), as well as from the critical analysis of alternative atlases (Cattoor and Perkins).”

Finally this special issue also include a linking essay by Denis Wood in which the author

“…was not only able to handle the impossible task of stitching together the various stimulating ideas developed in all of these papers, but he turned them into a great academic story about childhood, ideas, concepts, memory and nostalgia.” (Caquard and Cartwright 2014, 105)

Motorville: Animated maps at their best

MotorvilleMotorville is short animated movie (directed by Patrick Jean) in which the main character is an online map (that looks very much like a Google map, although according to the credits it is based on OpenStreetMaps) that turns into a giant in search for its oil fix… This is an extremely well designed animated film in which the intimate (and frightening) relationships between online mapping services and our car/oil addiction is brought to the fore in a clever, poetic and penetrating manner. Thanks to Florence Troin for pointing me to this great movie.

Run an Empire Game

 A smartphone game where you compete against others to capture territory in your local environment.

Run An Empire is a game where players compete to capture and maintain control of as much of their local territory as possible. To capture somewhere you have to run (or jog, or walk) around it.

The game uses your neighbourhood as an arena for play.

I love this idea of having games in maps, using the local environment to control territory is great. User actions could move beyond just walking to own a territory, could be leaving things at places digitally like geocache’s. This really is the gaming layer on top of the real world.

Map Art by Ed Fairburn


Astonishing Map Art by Ed Fairburn

Ed Fairburn is a Welsh artist, based in Cardiff, whose ability to combine the geography of our facial features with the geography of the earth leads to a startling and compelling synthesis of the two. Fairburn has become known in Europe for his evocative portraits, which produce complex human features from the apparently random patterns found in mundane topographical and astrological maps.

In many ways, we are living a golden age of map making, with interactive, richly textured electronic mapping technologies giving us unprecedented, real time detail. But it is also good to be reminded that, despite the benefits of this Google-era hyperliterality, there is a broader beauty to be found in the ways we visualize our common spaces. Maps can speak to much more than how to get from one place to another.

(James McBride about Ed Fairburns work)