[ISEA2009] Paper: Gianni Corino & Chris Speed – Semantic cartography


“Once the whole social world is relocated inside its metrological chains, an immense new landscape jumps into view. If knowledge of the social is limited to the termite galleries in which we have been travelling, what do we know about what is outside? Not much.”  _Bruno Latour, 2005.

Locative media has capitalized upon the use of Global Positioning Systems to provide an adequate level of accuracy to support individual navigation and connections to services within a given vicinity. However as we move from the ‘Sat Nav’ model that provided us with route planning, to more context specific information, we can see how the base map is becoming less useful.

In as equally transformative manner, social navigation technologies such as collaborative filtering and recommender systems have supported the ability for Internet users to pass on tips, hints and tags and have provided a highly social dimension to cyberspace. Whether you prefer semantic web, web 2.0 or neither, devices such as ‘tag clouds’ have provided ‘bottom up’ ways to classify and attribute meaning to web content and, as the authors would argue, perform the function of a map.

The paper cites a series of precedents from contemporary digital arts and media which support social commentary upon place, as well as case studies from the author’s own research and teaching experiences. An analysis of these case studies are used to support a discussion about the ‘temporal’ nature of tagging that the authors argue often disappears as Cartesian maps are used as the primary interface to describe a socio/spatial context. The authors look toward a practical framework for the representation of social information that sustains an integrated model of space and time.

The paper explores the characteristics of a digital art project developed by the authors that allows users to ‘read’ and ‘write’ to a geo-located tag cloud that is visible under their feet as they walk through urban and rural environments. Map Cloud replaces the geographic base map that accompanies applications such as Google Maps for smart phones, with words derived from users who post ‘tags’ for specific locations. The authors reflect upon the temporal flexibility of this type of base map and upon the ‘semantic cartography’ that is constructed as users correlate meaning with location.

  • Gianni Corino School of Computing, Communications and Electronics, University of Plymouth, UK
  • Chris Speed Schools of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, Edinburgh College of Art, UK

Full text (PDF)  p.  770-777