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2.2.2 Limits of maps

[S]patio-temporal information, maps, and geovisualization techniques themselves might best be understood as powerful yet limited pieces of subjective – that is, both partial and affectively ambiguous – data that are best pursued in holistic conjunction with additional methodological and theoretical frameworks which more thoroughly situate them and engender deeper critical engagements with broader processes – socio-spatial as well as discursive – that no map or visualization alone can ever fully represent.

 

J.K Jung and C. Anderson, Extending the conversation on socially engaged geographic visualization: representing spatial inequality in Buffalo, New York (Jung and Anderson, 2017, p.904).

aarhus bugt.jpg
aarhus bugt2.jpg

Figure 34. Examples of conventional territorial mapping styles used by municipalities and practitioners. The top image is a proposal by Aarhus Havn/Port of Aarhus to propose a “Blue Line”, a landscape-seascape project at the edge of its newly land-reclaimed harbour extension project. It makes the mistake of only indicating the green landscaping on land, while anything below the sea is represented in a grey singular plane with no indication of marine vegetation due to the new rock reefs. Moreover, the maps convey the bathymetry as flat contour lines, and the delineation of the extent of the map’s borders is orthogonal and does not include its connection to the wider context (sea-side). Image credit: Aarhus Municipality and Aarhus Havn (Bak Lyck, 2022; Aarhus Havn, n.d.). 
(Extracted from Kumu S-O-T-A map – Aarhus Bugt node in Aarhus, Denmark).

 


 

    Nevertheless, the objective of using mapping as a RtD method in this research is not to dwell too much on the limitations of maps but to extend them through critical analysis. Furthermore, although this research recognises the limitations of conventional static mapping, it also recognises that these conventional mapping methods still play an important role in the continuation of analytical and communicative work in LUDP disciplines. These conventional mappings are also in the process of evolution as “blue” issues become more influential. Therefore, the next section presents attempts to challenge the conventional mappings of the sea to include examples from various disciplines using different mediums. These examples inform the mapping methods used in this research to help answer the research question SRQ2 on the role of spatial design disciplines and their representational tools.

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Maps are never neutral products without biases, subjective interpretations and agendas of the mapmaker (i.e. the power to hide and highlight). It is embedded in the values, opportunities and limitations of the culture that the maps produced (Corner, 2011; Jung and Anderson, 2017). Thus, maps are not a representation of “true” territory but particular ideas about the territory (Duarte, 2017; Heise, 2019). It is a perception of reality that tries to make sense of the invisible and the myriad layers of factors that constitute a territory. Therefore, without the self-reflective and criticality of the mapmaker (researcher), maps can unintentionally adapt and reproduce the normative narratives and power relations they sought to depart.

     For this research, I have tried to represent certain ideas about the territory of concern, namely Vejle, in the Eastern coastal context of Jutland, guided by the propositions of Urban Seascaping (section 3.3) and the Kanten/The Edge competition design brief (section 1.4.1), as seen, for instance, with the importance of showcasing the invisible marine realm to the urban realm through mapping and analysis. Conventional maps used in LUDP (see Figure 34 below) typically provide more literal and static visualisations of absolute spaces at a given point in time, often limited in their representation of temporal, interpretive, or interactive elements. For instance, when depicting water bodies as a floor plan in a 2D map, conventional maps delimit marine areas with arbitrary orthogonal outlines as boundaries that treat the ocean as though it were largely a dark, flat, featureless surface alone with very limited information or character (Gang, Cahan and Kramer, 2016). I argue that these maps are incomplete in helping us visualise and make sense of the scale of the sea, the complexities of the hydrological cycles, the numerous ecological habitats and ecosystems, or the interrelationship of the coastal areas to its surroundings (ibid.).Most importantly, such mapping conventions are limited in stimulating the human imagination towards the nonhuman bodies of water and the interconnection between them and us. That being said, conventional static maps can hardly be blamed as there are inherent difficulties in conventional mapping methods to represent something constantly in flux as the sea. Furthermore, there is limited information on the sea (i.e. detailed bathymetric data in Denmark) to work with in creating more insightful volumetric maps of the sea.  

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