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The Map of Mappings Emil Urhammer

Pompous introduction Here begins the report of an adventurer’s quest, a quest into puzzling spaces. Equipped with the guidance from good people and books, I have made a journey into the spaces of mapping. Instead of drifting towards unknown shores, behind great oceans, pursuing the task of mapping them, I have travelled in maps of strange creatures, and tried to make maps of these maps, as they themselves turned into strange creatures. In order to tell my story, I will unroll the map that I have made during my journey. I call it The Map of Mappings, but it could have many other names, for it is indeed a map of many unaccountable things. As a justification of the excesses to come, I begin with a quote:

In a world of radically unstable spaces and structures, it is unsurprising that the idea of mapping should require rethinking (Cosgrove 1999). In the good spirit of this quote, I encourage the reader to think of this essay as a presentation of different attempts on rethinking the idea of mapping, as an endeavour into expanding this notion, from a cartographic term into an abstract way of associating entities from different spaces of being and knowing. Expanding the concept of mapping To find a solid point of departure for exploring The Map of Mappings, it seems useful to introduce a bit of mathematical terminology, and use this as a remedy for elaborating on the notion of mapping. In mathematics, a map or a mapping is, loosely speaking, a well-defined way of assigning elements in one space to elements in another. In this way, elements in one space are represented in another space through a mapping. The representation of a certain space, by a given mapping is, in mathematics, referred to as the image of this space. The cartographic representation of a piece of land in a map could be an analogy for such an image. But, as we shall soon see, the images of mappings can be fare more than that. To give a somewhat more tangible explanation of a mapping, as it can be perceived in a wider understanding of the word, some more examples

might be helpful. The activity of recording a phenomenon in a specific way, say for example, to take a picture of a tree, or to write a note about an occurrence, is to be understood as mapping, as an act of giving specific phenomena representations in other spaces. The tree is mapped into the space of pictures of trees, and the occurrence is mapped into the space of notes about occurrences. The picture of the tree becomes the image of the tree, or the map of the tree, and the note about the occurrence becomes the image of the occurrence, or the map of the occurrence. In this expanded sense of the concept, the act of explaining an idea to somebody is also an act of mapping, where the idea is mapped from one space of perception to another, creating an image of the original idea in the mind of the other. To sum up, the essence of this section is, that mapping is a very wide notion, embracing everything from the traditional geographic representations of landscapes and the well-defined maps of mathematics, to cognitive exchanges between people and the creation of symbols associated with phenomena. However there is more to it. In this essay even genesis is to be termed a mapping.

The Map of Mappings

The Genesis Mapping There are arrows on The Map of Mappings, each of which represent a mapping. The most unaccountable of these arrows is the one in the bottom. It represents The Genesis Mapping. To account for this mapping it seems adequate to start out with a quote:

The measure of mapping is not restricted to the mathematical; it may equally be spiritual, political or moral (Cosgrove 1999). Relieved but also puzzled, I note, that I am not alone in the view that the notion of mapping seems to embrace much more than just mathematics. I think I should be thankful, because in the area into which I am now to embark, mathematics might run out of answers, and thus one could hope to acquire help from the realm of the spiritual, or more precisely the metaphysical. Metaphysical is the word Serres (1995) uses to designate the notion of Noise1. According to Serres, Noise is not a matter of phenomenology. It is a matter of Being itself. So Noise is the ontological basis for The Map of Mappings, something outside the realm of phenomena. For as Serres says:

Noise is not a phenomenon. Every phenomenon is separated from it. Despite this distinction, Serres (1995) describes how phenomena are born from Noise in an ongoing process of metamorphosis, in a mysterious interaction between Noise and the world of phenomena. This metamorphosis is described as the activity of the Greek god Protheus. It is Protheus who moves between the realm of Being and the realm of phenomena, in ever changing shapes, every time bringing new phenomena into the world. The Genesis Mapping depicts this process of metamorphosis, and these puzzling creative interactions are, in this essay, termed actions of mapping. In this sense, Noise is a metaphysical space and the metamorphosis is the mapping of Being into the space of phenomena.


When Serres (1995) speaks about Noise he refers to the metaphysical notion of being, while noise refers to the phenomenon noise, a sound classified as disturbing.

According to Serres (1995) each phenomenon is an answer to questions, is a chaining of Proteus. Phenomena are Protheus chained, while Noise is Protheus freed from chains. In this understanding The Genesis Mapping designates the ontological process of asking and answering questions, which again is the act of chaining Proteus. The basic meaning of the first arrow on The Map of Mappings is thus to designate a representation of Being in the space of phenomena. Noise is where all representations originate and therefore the first arrow is called The Genesis Mapping, it depicts the mapping of metaphysical being into phenomenological being. The Mapping of Phenomena Having described the nature of the first mapping on The Map of Mappings, lets move on to the next arrow on the map. This arrow, or mapping, is somewhat simpler to explain. It represents the process of creating data. According to Wikipediea (2011), creating data is about converting physical quantities into symbols. In this sense creating data can be seen as an act of mapping, an act of representing phenomena in the space of symbols, but also as representing phenomena as symbols on the Internet. Thus the second arrow on The Map of Mappings represents the action of recording phenomena with symbols, images, text, sounds or numbers, and publishing them on the Internet. This ever-accumulating activity has lead to an overwhelming abundance of data on the Internet. The amount of information is so enormous that it gives rise to a new form of metamorphosis. Creation of Noise

Noise has its phenomenological twin. In information theory it is sometimes called noise. It can be interpreted as abundance of information or data. It is the experience that abundance of information or data turns into noise. This phenomenon is described in Interview 1, where it is said about a huge geographical mapping on the Internet: It is just noise, 250.000 points of Noise. [Interview 1] My claim is, that it is possible to observe a reversed metamorphosis on the Internet, an unchaining of Protheus, a creation of phenomenological nonexistence, a drowning of representations in representations. It is the phenomenological creation of noise. A quote from a Danish radio

programme, talking about publicity on the Internet, exemplifies this tendency:

You can get so public that you disappear in a cloud of information. [Harddisken 2nd of May 2011] The quote refers to people bombarding the Internet with data about themselves, in order to conceal themselves from public scrutiny. So the point is that the second arrow on The Map of Mappings represents the creation of data, and especially data on the Internet, and that this creation of data can lead to a phenomenological non-existence, the creation of digital noise. This process has created what is sometimes referred to as an ocean of data. In this ocean all representations of phenomena are floating in a chaotic stream of oceanic proportions. Conjuring from Noise In the ocean of data lie the bodies of controversies, scattered, dematerialized, drowned. Records of experts, protagonists, antagonists, actors dispersed in abundance of voices, pictures, publications, names, words, numbers invisibly associated through an issue, awaits a question, a question to chain them, a question to call them into being; not as separated entities, but as answers, as mappings of controversies. In this sense Mapping Controversies becomes a reproduction of The Genesis Map, a chaining of Proteus in the digital. Thus the metamorphosis of Proteus is reproduced in the realm of phenomena, by conjuring a new phenomenon out of data: the mappings of controversies. The third arrow on The Map of Mappings is thus designating the mapping of controversies. It takes all sorts of controversy data and maps them into data points, comprising an image of the controversy. The Mapping of the Mapping But alas! These new phenomena are yet again to drown, constantly flooded by new symbols. So to keep them floating, there is a need for constantly reproducing them. The mapping of controversies must undergo continuous metamorphosis if they are to stay alive. As the controversies are constantly reshaping through the metamorphosis of Protheus, so must also the mappings of them reshape through metamorphosis. This is where the mapping of the mapping comes in to existence. This conjuring from digital

noise must go on to keep the strange creatures called mappings of controversies alive and relevant. The last row of three arrows on the map represents this ongoing process: the mapping of the mapping of the mapping of the mapping‌ Here ends the journey, or rather her begins the journey. It is now up to you, dear reader, to explore this space of spaces and mappings. If you get lost, I hope you will find guidance in my map of mappings. Bon voyage.

Literature Cosgrove Dennis E., Mappings, Reaction books ltd. 1999 Information, Hele verden vil citere de danske forskere, 26th of May 2011, Viewed 29th of May 2011 Kvale Steiner, Interview, Hans Reitzels Forlag, 1994 Latour Bruno, An attempt at a Compositionist Manifest, New literary History, 2010 Latour Bruno, En ny sociologi for et nyt samfund, Akademisk forlag, 2005 Latour Bruno, medialab Sciences Po, MACOSPOL teaser English version 2010, viewed 8th of May 2011, Latour Bruno, Politics of nature, how to bring the sciences into demorcracy, Harvard University press, 2004 Law John, After Method, mess in social science research, Routledge 2004 Law John, The Greer-Bush test: on politics in STS, version of 23rd December 2009, available at, (downloaded on 23rd December, 2009) Rogers Richard, The end of the virtual, Digital methods, Vossiupers UvA, 2009 Serres Michel, Genesis, University of Michigan Press, 1995 Søndergaard Morten, Forestillinger (speciale afhandling), KU, 1995 Topsøe Flemming, Introduktion til abstrakt matematik, Matematisk afdeling Københavns universitet, 2002 Whatmore Sarah J., Mapping Knowledge Controversies, SAGE, 2009 Wikipedia, Data, viewed 13th of April 13 2011

The Map of Mappings  

Essay for the project called Mapping the Mapping.

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