Geography Thursdays #3: Bill Rankin’s Radical Cartography

Posted by @ 8:14 am on October 14th, 2010

Density of White People in New York, WIMBY v. NIMBY series, Bill Rankin, 2010

Bill Rankin’s maps are not only representations of physical landscapes. They also attempt to explain how people live in the places they live, and the social and political implications of what his maps show is difficult to dodge. The maps are confrontational. They uncover the everyday things that our individual geographic habits might hide from us.  To see more of Rankin’s maps, click here.

The map above is part of Rankin’s WIMBY v. NIMBY series, which he describes like so:

Another take on the fragmented racial landscape of American urbanism, inspired a bit by Debord’s classic cut-up psychogeographical maps of Paris. Segregation creates cities-within-cities, islands and seas of inclusion and exclusion.

All maps show the same portion of greater New York — an area about 40 miles square, centered on Manhattan.

Compared to other American cities, however, New York does have many areas of genuine diversity, where the well-armed not-in-my-backyarders compete with the fiesty and loosely organized welcome-into-my-backyard brigade. The battle of the NIMBYs and the WIMBYs continues apace.

Note: “Diversity” here indicates the chance that two randomly chosen residents will be of different races or ethnicities — i.e., the Gibbs/Martin/Blau index of diversity. All data from the 2000 U.S. Census.

Radical Cartography‘s mission statement is care of Jean Baudrillard’s “The Precession of Simulacra”:

If we were able to take as the finest allegory of simulation the Borges tale where the cartographers of the Empire draw up a map so detailed that it ends up exactly covering the territory (but where the decline of the Empire sees this map become frayed and finally ruined, a few shreds still discernible in the deserts — the metaphysical beauty of this ruined abstraction, bearing witness to an Imperial pride and rotting like a carcass, returning to the substance of the soil, rather as an aging double ends up being confused with the real thing) — then this fable has come full circle for us, and now has nothing but the discrete charm of second-order simulacra.Abstraction today is no longer that of the map, the double, the mirror or the concept. Simulation is no longer that of a territory, a referential being or substance. It is the generation of models of a real without origin or reality: a hyperreal. The territory no longer precedes the map, nor survives it. Henceforth, it is the map that precedes the territory — PRECESSION OF SIMULACRA — it is the map that engenders the territory and if we were to revive the fable today, it would be the territory whose shreds are slowly rotting across the map. It is the real, and not the map, whose vestiges subsist here and there, in the deserts which are no longer those of the Empire but our own: The desert of the real itself.

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