After Empirical
February 27-28
230 College St. Toronto

Session 1
Friday February 27, 2:00 PM

Carto Graphics

Jill Desimini - Harvard Graduate School of Design
Jesse LeCavalier - New Jersey Institute of Technology
Sarah Williams - Massachusetts Institute of Technology
+Mason White - moderator - University of Toronto

Ian McHarg’s Design With Nature broadened the scope of the design disciplines to address the regional scale and exerted great influence in the development and application of Geographic Information Systems (GIS). McHarg developed a mapping technique that represented different, and competing urban and environmental forces with a series of separate drawings, and then layered these readings to create a synthetic view. The composite overlay, it was argued, provided an objective reading of a combined built and natural environment and the necessary evidence to support unbiased decision-making processes, including design.

Most maps are a register of data, and as such, give the appearance of representing fact. However, mapping is in part a process of filtering and selection that can shape information. As Mark Monmonier notes, maps can become ideological symbols and powerful tools for effecting public opinion. Seemingly banal decisions about how to crop, orient or color a map can conceal intentions and effect how information is perceived. In this way maps perform as rhetorical devices where aesthetic license can matter as much as the data and facts used to make them.

These seemingly conflicting qualities of maps – performing as both objective and subjective representations – have led historians to study their power as political tools for affecting debate. Following this trend, scholars explore the ‘fictional status’ of maps and their potential to construct new realities. Practitioners are increasingly using mapping techniques not only to portray existing conditions but also to project - and convince a public - of possible outcomes. This panel will explore the selective methods and persuasive techniques of visualizing urban information, and question the value and shortcoming of an artful medium that carries the force of numeric fact.