Posted on August 24, 2013 by

Columba Peoples reviews Laura Kurgan's Close Up at a Distance: Mapping, Technology and Politics in Society and Space

"Laura Kurgan’s Close Up at a Distance: Mapping, Technology and Politics is an insightful and innovative book that defies straightforward classification, ‘poised’ as it is “at the intersection of art, architecture, activism and geography” (page 17). Its subject matter—satellite images, satellite mapping and remote-sensing images—is by now an established concern of critical geographical scholarship in particular (see, amongst others, Cosgrove 2001; Crampton 2008; Crampton 2010; della Dora 2012; Dodge and Perkins 2009). Readers familiar with that scholarship will doubtlessly recognise many of the issues and debates broached by Close Up at a Distance: over the military origins of satellite technologies, images and mapping and the extent to which this still imposes secrecy and restrictions on their availability; on the promise and perils of ‘participatory’ cartography and the ‘democratic’ potentialities this may or may not offer; and finally, whether and how the increasingly ubiquitous use of satellite images and mapping might “transform … our ways of seeing and experiencing space” (page 14). The distinctive feature of Kurgan’s work in addressing these issues, though, is that it rejects the proposition that scholars can or should simply evaluate and respond to these at a ‘critical distance’: “[W]e do not stand at a distance from these technologies, but are addressed by and embedded within them”, Kurgan argues. Hence, “Only through a certain intimacy with these technologies—an encounter with their opacities, their assumptions, their intended aims—can we begin to assess their full ethical and political stakes” (page 14)."

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Posted on August 24, 2013 by

"What do we see, when we see the world? In today's world transcended by digital technology and flooded with representations, models and mashups the question of 'what are we looking at?' becomes more important. The many layers of data and visualisations in many cases start clouding the subject or in some cases appears completely detached from it and develop a dynamic of their own. 

The kind of critiques are nothing new and have been heard through out the past decade. How perception is manipulated with information has been discussed for example in the book How to lie with Maps by H.J. de Blij , 1992. Here de Blij presents examples of representations and how they are used to favour certain aspects. Or also indeed The Power of Maps by Denis Wood, 1992, You are Here by Katharine Harmon, 2003 or the Atlas of Radical Cartography edited by Alexis Bhagat and Lize Mogel, 2008, to name a few of the recent cartography/mapping books of the recent years. 

In a new Zone Books publication Close up at a Distance: Mapping, Technology, and Politics Laura Kurgan presents her research work and offers a theoretical discussion on the usage and employment of representations."

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Posted on August 23, 2013 by

Treavor Paglen reviews Laura Kurgan's new book Close Up at a Distance: Mapping, Technology, and Politics in Bookforum. He writes: 

"On December 24, 1968, Apollo 8 emerged from its fourth lunar cycle on the first manned mission to another celestial body. “Oh, my God,” cried astronaut Frank Borman as the spacecraft emerged from the moon’s dark side. “Look at that picture over there! Here’s the Earth coming up! Wow, is that pretty.” Crew member William Anders grabbed a modified Hasselblad camera and shot what has become an iconic photograph. In countless reproductions, Earthrise depicts our planet in the distance, a blue-and-white spot rising above a cratered and ashen lunar landscape, set against the blackness of space.

Laura Kurgan’s Close Up at a Distance: Mapping, Technology, and Politics opens on a reproduction of Earthrise and of another iconic image of Earth, the Blue Marblephotograph, shot four years later from Apollo 17. These two pictures are some of the most widely reproduced in history. In the popular imagination, they’ve become synonymous with the environmental movement, underlining the fact that, in the grand scheme of things, we live on a small, isolated, and fragile planet. But the pair of images are also emblematic of something else: the dawn of what historian Benjamin Lazier calls the “Earthrise Era.” We are now deep within this revolutionary moment—pictures and dynamic maps generated from space-based platforms are a part of our everyday lives. Since mapping technologies first began trickling into consumer products such as GPS navigation systems and smartphones, the view from above has become so ubiquitous that we seldom reflect on it. “We do not stand at a distance from these technologies,” Kurgan writes, “but are addressed by and embedded within them.”"

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Posted on August 23, 2013 by Laura Kurgan

How a Map Is Like an Op-Ed

"Thanks to the open data movement, anyone can be a cartographer. Professor Laura Kurgan on geography as a storytelling tool.

Thanks to the open data movement and Google Map Maker, anyone with a computer can create a map. These maps tell a story, but it's a subjective one. And while that can be a powerful tool, it can also skew perspectives and cloud a debate.

"We should really teach people to read maps in that way," says Laura Kurgan, an associate professor of architecture at Columbia University. "Maps are arguments, just like a piece of written journalism is an argument."

That's what Kurgan is attempting to show in her new book, Close Up at a Distance, which includes several of her mapping projects. When Kurgan graduated from architecture school, she says, digital technology was just starting to enter her field. Today, data is everywhere. It opens a much larger realm of mapping and interpretation."

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Posted on June 1, 2013 by Spatial Information Design Lab

Laura Kurgan and Jen Lowe gave a talk titled "Multiple Dimensions" at Eyeo 2013 where they discussed interdisciplinary projects in progress. Hear about our collaborations, see results, and their critical approach to data and its visual translations.

See the video here: https://vimeo.com/69014824

 

 

Posted on October 10, 2012 by

"Local governments have more than one way of enforcing law and order and providing for public safety. Incarcerating individuals convicted of crimes is of course the most familiar form of criminal justice. But alternatives do exist. One of the largest alternative-to-incarceration programs in the country is New York City’s Department of Probation (DOP), which provides services and investigations for more than 30,000 adults and 15,000 juveniles per year, and supervises approximately 24,000 adults and 2,000 juveniles on any given day. Until recently, this large population of New Yorkers — who might be turnstile jumpers, first-time offenders, or otherwise considered to be good candidates for non-incarcerated supervision — faced long commutes to DOP waiting rooms in central courthouses, where they would sit and wait, often for hours, in uninviting spaces. In many cases, the system was doing more harm than good."

Read more: http://urbanomnibus.net/2012/10/from-waiting-rooms-to-resource-hubs-designing-change-at-the-department-of-probation/

Posted on August 4, 2012 by

Smart Planet's Reena Jana write about Here Now: Social Media And The Psychological City:

""Big Data" and "social media" are today's biggest buzzwords. But beyond their trendiness as topics, Big Data and social media also allow everyday people to share their voices and stories, to participate in ways to possibly improve their lives. Someone, however, needs to make sense of all of the information floating around--by organizing neatly and efficiently to help communities analyze patterns, discover problems, and act to find solutions.

This is one of the roles of the Spatial Information Design Lab (SIDL) at Columbia University's Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP), which translates data into beautiful and compelling maps to communicate statistical information."

Read more: http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/decoding-design/columbias-spatial-information-design-lab-helps-map-the-future/

Posted on August 1, 2012 by

SIDL's work and research ethos was featured with an article in Columbia Magazine: "More data, more maps, more stories. More voices participating in a conversation about how to view our cities, address their problems, and serve their residents. That’s the goal of Kurgan and her colleagues at SIDL, who, for the past eight years, have been training civic organizations, nonprofit groups, and ordinary citizens to tell their own stories through thematic cartography"

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Posted on July 2, 2012 by
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Thomson Reuters announces our new initiative:

"Columbia University and Thomson Reuters today announced the launch of the Advanced Data Visualization Project (ADVP) based at Columbia's Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP). The initiative, sponsored by Thomson Reuters, will facilitate research into data visualization and its implications for academia and industry in a world increasingly awash with data."

Visit the link below to find out more: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/07/02/idUS122949+02-Jul-2012+HUG20120702

Posted on June 25, 2012 by Spatial Information Design Lab

We live in a data-rich world. But to drive lasting social change, data must be transformed and communicated to influencers and decision-makers in compelling, new ways. In a daylong conference on June 30, 2012 the Ford Foundation brought together leaders in design, social innovation, art and journalism to think creatively about digital storytelling and cutting-edge tools to visualize, map and create narratives that inspire action.

See more here: https://www.fordfoundation.org/the-latest/ford-live-events/change-by-des...

Watch Laura Kurgan's talk here: https://www.fordfoundation.org/library/multimedia/change-by-design-colla...