Wk 6: Grappling with Time and Space

Sinton’s (2016) chapter resonated immediately: Interpreting mapping data isn’t immediately easy. Even when we begin with an inquiry and then populate the data, its argument isn’t so clear without (at least in my case) clunky pop-up texts and piece-by-piece contextualization. Since place/space studies began to see space and time as co-implicated, I’m even more struck by the potential “snapshot” limitations of maps (immediately correlated with my poor coding skills). As a result, mapping projects that I collaborate on with communities tend to hit two humble chords: preservation of invisible geographies and/or participatory counter-stories. Knowing that social space is re/created by every inhabitance of space is one of the biggest invitations for everyone to embed and share identity-constructing spatial experiences, and when sites are erased, invitations for nostalgic testimonies have turned out to be an easy solicitation.

In my diss, as in this course project, I’ve been mulling over these maps’ limitations, however. There has to be more to say than simply “this existed” (which is already powerful). Around week 2 or 3, my thoughts came with the question of infusing time into mapping projects. If we could show change through time, what affordances does that give us – what arguments could we generate, particularly for unearthing invisible geographies?  And I think my first impulse is to look at how spatial multiplicities (various narratives) populate a single space over time, and thus show the negotiation of social space in urban settings. For instance, I wrote an article recently regarding the only two Vincent Chin murals in Detroit, and how, rather quickly, they were either taken down by urban redevelopment or written over by local artists. How could a digital map argue, let’s say, the issue of disappearing Asian American spaces without diverging into other (multiple) narrative trajectories inherent in spatial politics and how that populates through time. Such thick analyses of space would require a ton of data, and space negotiation wouldn’t necessarily need a spatial template (except to highlight high-frequency areas) but a timeline of shifting and exemplary urban locales.

UCLA’s sandbox was helpful in shifting my ideas of what space + time tools were capable of, and allowed me to expand my thoughts on spatial negotiation toward shifting and contrastive phenomenon through space and time. Revisiting my own project, I’ve been thinking about incorporating a timeline widget that would show the pacing of LGBTQIA+ establishment closings alongside charts of rising tolerance toward alternative sexualities in Lansing. The resulting patterns could show whether the disappearance of these sites is a product of “post-gay” attitudes (growing tolerance and less of a need to make sexuality a marker of space), or the closing of establishments that are still much needed. It’s not close to a definitive interpretation, but placed beside other city patterns, such as Chicago’s “post-gay” landscape of disappearing LGBTQIA+ spaces, it could be an interesting look at the correlation between tolerance and territoriality.

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