David J. Bodenhamer, John Corrigan, and Trevor M. Harris
Indiana University Press
256 Pages; Print, $30.00
I’ll be your dreamI’ll be your wish, I’ll be your fantasyI’ll be your hope, I’ll be your loveBe everything that you need(“Truly Madly Deeply,” Savage Garden)
Deep Mapping is a current cause célèbre amongst humanistic geographers and those interested in what has come to be termed the spatial humanities. Sessions at conferences, an increasing number of book-length studies, and a 2015 special issue of the journal Humanities have begun to explore the potential for Deep Maps to transform our representations of space and place. Making use of digital humanities tools such as GIS, Deep Maps engage with two strong current desires in the academy: to articulate the complex and many-layered nature of socially-constructed places, and to follow the siren call of the digital humanities (DH). More than merely a tool, Deep Mapping—in all its ill-defined nebulosity—has become itself the object of desire for a growing number of spatial humanists.
What are Deep Maps? How does Deep Mapping operate? What does it do? What does it produce? How do Deep Maps, “as a process, mode of practice, and a product” help in the humanistic project to articulate the meanings of places and spaces, and the processes by which they are produced? Deep Maps and Spatial Narratives, a 2015 collection edited by David J. Bodenhamer, John Corrigan, and Trevor M. Harris from the papers from a symposium held in Denver in 2012, takes up these questions in an attempt both to define Deep Maps, and also to demonstrate their range and variability. The editors begin by presenting the potential of Deep Mapping and the digital spatial humanities in a distinctly utopian light:, stating that “we stand at the threshold of what promises to be a new age of discovery in the humanities.” Recent developments integrating the representation of time into GIS representational techniques, they suggest, “promise a revolution in the ways we think about the past.” This, they argue, is the first of the many virtues of Deep Mapping as a concept: “In sum, how might we combine space, time, and place? It is here where the deep map becomes important, perhaps essential.” Temporality has long been a limitation of traditional cartography, and in the ability of digital maps to deploy temporal layers, as we see in such commonly used products as Google Earth, time becomes a dimension that can be represented as part of a Deep Map. But Deep Maps are more than just the addition of the temporal: “A deep map is simultaneously a platform, a process, and a product.” More than simply a representation technology, Deep Mapping here becomes figured as methodology, and explicitly as method that resistant to finality, to conclusion: “Framed as a conversation and not a statement, they are inherently unstable, continually unfolding and changing in response to new data, new perspectives, and new insights.” Deep Maps, as this volume demonstrates, remain elusive in definition, and various in application, form, and nature.
David J. Bodenhamer’s framing chapter for the collection, “Narrating Space and Place,” provides a useful critical history of the spatial turn, the social construction of space, and the problems associated with the cartographic representation of textual space and place. Despite the admitted limitations and distortions of the translation from text to visual representation, Bodenhamer makes his case for the utility of GIS and DH visualization technologies: “Within a GIS, users can discern relationships that make a complex world more immediately understandable by visually detecting patterns that remain hidden in texts and tables.” This is, of course, a complex and contentious issue within spatial humanist circles: while visualization can at times reveal such patterns, it can also present misleading distortions of textual data due to issues of nuance and context that can be lost in the translation–issues that are picked up on in later chapters of this collection. While Bodenhamer’s framing chapter is usefully comprehensive as an introduction, it...