About the Class

Spring 2021  |  GANT 6218  |  CRN 8977
Tuesdays 6 – 8:40pm | We’re online! It’s a studio! We’ll take breaks!
Shannon Mattern | matterns@newschool.edu | half-hour appointments via Calendly 
Teaching Assistant Extraordinaire: Emily Bowe | bowee728@newschool.edu 

Harold Fisk’s Meander Maps of the Mississippi River (1944)

Maps reveal, delineate, verify, orient, navigate, anticipate, historicize, conceal, persuade, and, on occasion, even lie. From the earliest spatial representations in cave paintings and on clay tablets, to the predictive climate visualizations and crime maps and mobile cartographic apps of today and tomorrow, maps have offered far more than an objective representation of a stable reality. In this hybrid theory-practice studio we’ll examine maps as artifacts, as texts, as media; and mapping as a method useful in the social sciences, humanities, arts, and design. We’ll explore the past, present, and future – across myriad geographic and cultural contexts – of our techniques and technologies for mapping space and time. In the process, we’ll address various critical frameworks for analyzing the rhetorics, poetics, politics, and epistemologies of spatial and temporal maps. Throughout the semester we’ll also experiment with a variety of critical mapping tools and methods, from techniques of critical cartography to indigenous practices to sensory mapping to time-lining, using both analog and digital approaches. Students are encouraged to use the course, which will be supported by a skilled cartographer teaching assistant, to supplement their fieldwork, to develop their own thesis / dissertation projects, or to advance other personal research and creative pursuits. Course requirements include: individual map critiques; lab exercises; and individual research-based, critical-creative “atlases” composed of maps in a variety of formats.


Over the course of the semester we’ll work together to…

  • think about maps as cultural artifacts, political tools, rhetorical objects, and epistemological apparatae, 
  • survey various genealogies and methods of mapmaking,
  • study the history of map-making as a humanistic and social-scientific method and an artistic and technological practice,
  • consider the making of maps a cultural and political practice worthy of ethnographic examination,
  • experiment with various cartographic methods and apply them in our own work,
  • reflect on how those diverse cartographic approaches allow us to engage with our own scholarly and creative interests from different perspectives,
  • consider how maps might help us process and make the most of our geographically distributed, networked quarantine condition,
  • develop a deeper appreciation for the opportunities and responsibilities – practical, epistemological, ontological, and political – that come with interdisciplinary research and practice, 
  • create supportive contexts for conceptual and methodological experimentation and inclusive collaboration, and  
  • apply concepts and methods central to our class in the critical assessment and refinement of our learning environments: the social, institutional, spatial, and technological apparatae designed to foster our interaction and education
Robert Hodgin, Meander (a procedural system for generating historical maps of rivers that never existed)