Deep mapping

We are already in the middle of what Richard Heinberg calls peak everything. Not only cheap oil and cheap energy are history now, but almost all of our needed resources are becoming rare and expensive. This unique event, the end of almost 130 years of abundance and inflationary world growth, with all its optimism, tragedies, and arrogance, will send humanity as a whole to a necessary transitional era. Nothing will be the same from now on, and Mars is too far away to be the next utopia. We need to slow down, which is not an easy task.

I have just received a book by Brett Bloom and Nuno Sacramento that I find highly recommendable: Deep Mapping. This book is both a wakeup call and a cognitive strategy for mapping our inner needs as members of an endangered planetary ecology.

Let’s read its Introduction.

This book develops and encourages you to inhabit—through narratives or spatialized experiences—Deep Maps of places you want to understand in a robust, inclusive, and expansive ways, which is not possible with traditional mapping.

Traditional maps tell stories. The stories they tell are often limited in what they show. Maps are not a ‘true’ representation of the world. They vary in form and in content, and are always made according to convention; for example, the earth is a sphere flatter at the poles and bulging at the equator, but maps represent it as a plane. Most cartography is about a totalizing view from above, about defining borders and ownership. One aspect, like state boundaries or the political demographics of a place, will get pulled out and emphasized above all others — in the United States, there are gross oversimplifications when states are identified as either red (Republican) or blue (Democratic) based on how people vote when the reality is much more complex and multiple political positions exist. The map’s focus is presented as an understanding of place through one facet of how it is thought of or used. It excludes the inexhaustible, vast complexities and interrelations, that any place is comprised of. The conventions that govern mapping are seen as universal, and therefore hardly discussed. A map might make you think that a place doesn’t hold multiple contradictions simultaneously, or that different people from different backgrounds — for example, the perspective of colonial settler culture vs. indigenous or occupied populations — all more or less agree on what a map says of where they coexist.

During the colonization of Ireland, the British surveyed the land and renamed it. Gaelic place-names were Anglicized and the local worldview, which informed a deep relation to the landscape, was erased. Deep Maps retrieve previous place-names, adding them layer-upon-layer showing the complex waves of inhabitations of a certain place.

Maps tell you more about yourself, the narratives you construct, and the values you explicitly or implicitly hold, than they do about an actual place. To get an understanding of an actual place, one must inhabit its multiple overlapping contradictory stories simultaneously. To this end, we began to construct Deep Maps. We were inspired by the American author, William Least Heat-Moon’s book Prairy Erth, and the way that he envisions a written or narrative Deep Map of a place. We discuss his impact on this book in later pages.

Deep Maps propose a perspective from below, which puts the ‘needs and desires’ of, for example, the earth, poor people, devastated landscapes, in a relationship where they are given equal or greater consideration than the narratives of a dominant culture. We don’t pretend to be objective — as we know it to be an impossible position to take — so we map subjectively as individuals and groups. We want to include different perspectives in our Deep Maps, of the people that are not represented, of the relationships that are invisible, of the positions of the more-than-human populations that are under heavy pressure and attack as the global climate breaks down.

Maps are not only made of diagrams and drawings, or crunching large data sets into a spatial representation, but also made of texts and of group-work, as in the ways we articulate in this publication through Nuno Sacramento’s text “Deep Maps – geographies from below”,02 and Brett Bloom’s instructions and guidelines on how to organize a multi-day gathering in the form of a Deep Map.

Deep Mapping is a process of reading and reshaping the landscape that embraces political, social, economic, infrastructural and environmental concerns, challenging accepted knowledge and imposed belief systems. After reading this book you might realize that you already do something similar to Deep Mapping, even if you don’t call it this. If you have feedback on this book or would like to share your form of Deep Mapping, feel free to contact us (see page 94).

— in Deep Mapping, by Brett Bloom & Nuno Sacramento (Breakdown Break Down Press, October 2017)

Other publications by Breakdown Break Down Press