[ISEA96] Paper: Adrianne Wortzel – Medieval Cartography and the Ideological Mapping of Cyberspace -Part II, Section A: Are You Sure It’s Really Round?


Short Paper

Title as in Book of Abstracts:
Picture This: Artists Mapping the Ideological Territories of Cyberspace with a Correspondence towards Examples of 13th Century Medieval Cartography

Developing electronic technologies afford artists a new area of territorial mapping in the space of telecommunications. The territories of cyberspace, with their capabilities for collaboration, information transfer, communication, enterprise, journalism, education and Art , are forms of virtual reality, and, to some degree, virtual real estate. We already discern trade routes appearing, political factions emerging, creative arts blossoming, religious groups proliferating, educators conducting long-distance learning sessions, minstrels performing, and town criers disseminating information. These armatures of “scripts” and “maps” try to delineate what is, at this writing, a predominantly anarchical and chameleon-type space. In the 13th century, the medieval cartographer leaned towards an ideological mapping of the world became somewhat tempered by the rerearing of classical traditions and models. This conjunction occurred at a time when the science of cartography had been predominantly dominated for centuries by theology. This paper will examine the paradigm of navigation in new media; and the role imagination plays in the delineation and shaping of space; i.e., whether the medieval cartographer was shaping an “external (world)” or “interior (mind)” space. It will also touch upon the consequence of the choice and effect of words and image as “communicative language” in medieval cartography as well as in contemporary literature. Contemporary expressions on the mapping of language have been explored in literature and critical theory by James Joyce, Italo Calvino, Umberto Eco, Juan Luis Borges and others. The disembodied presence we have in cyberspace allows for appearances as “actors,” i.e., the taking on of assumed characters and identities. It is common practice in virtual on-line communities for participants to adopt extremely idiosyncratic, sometimes phantasmogorical, characteristics, similar to those of the medieval cartographer. The tensions between various notions of “reality” in this space open up verdant territories for artists. Our world is now recreating itself via new technologies. At a time when sensor and satellite technology have the potential to report the location of any particular creature in the world at any time, in what form will there be a simultaneous scramble for bearings in a rapidly changing technology?


What we consider the territones of cyberspace, wrth their capabilities for collaboration, information storage and transfer, communication, enterprise, reportage, education and expression, are places of virtual reality, and, to an increasing degree, virtual real estate Within cyberspace we can discern trade routes appearing, political factions emergrng, creative arts
blossoming, religious groups proliferating, educators conducting long-distance learning sessions, minstrels performing, and town criers disseminating information. These mirror images of travel, traffic, and communication form “scripts” and/or ‘maps” are employed to find order In what is considered, at this writing, a predominantly anarchical and chameleon-like
space. For artists, the space of telecommunications offers a new opportunity for territorial mapping; one which could redeem imagination and even propaganda from the negative connotations deposited upon them by our culture.

  • Adrianne Wortzel, USA

Full text p.96-98