Friday, August 29, 2014

Week 1: Mental maps and sense of place

Listen to this program on mapping from This American Life.  The show documents "five ways of mapping the world. One story is about people who make maps the traditional way — by drawing things we can see. And other stories are about people who map the world using smell, sound, touch, and taste. The world redrawn by the five senses."

Mental maps are useful tools for understanding your own sense of place. They can also be a way to understand other people's sense of place.

Using one or more of the five senses, draw a map of where you live now or a space that you'd prefer mapping. Put in its characteristics -- familiar places, the routes you travel and the places that are unfamiliar and so forth. Bring this to class.

As you can see from the New Yorker's mental map of the US, there's a lot of unfamiliar spaces up to the Pacific Ocean.  What's familiar to you at the university, in your neighborhood and in the town where you live? After you draw, step back and analyze what it says about you and your sense of the place you live in this semester.  Do you feel mobile? Safe? (In)visible? Do you feel like you belong? What gives you that sense? What does Framingham State and the area feel like? If you've been at Framingham State for awhile can you compare what it felt like at first (spatially) and what it's like now? Can you offer advice to newcomers?

Write a blog post acknowledging something you learned from the mapping podcast and the mental map exercise.  The blog is visible to anyone.  After you comment on this exercise, I will save and then delete your posts because, from past experience, students have written fairly personal things.  Other blog comments will remain in place for the semester but I will delete them all as I turn in grades.

More cool map material: (optional)
Mapping ocean noise
 Is GPS all in our heads?
Colbert with Simon Garfield
Borderlines is an op ed column in the New York Times about cartography
and the importance of kids learning to map