Thursday, February 27, 2003

Mapping Space and Time

Great article: The London Underground Map: Imagining Modern Time and Space by Janin Hadlaw (via Dan Hill)

... the Underground riders of 1933 were able to make sense of [Beck's] map not because they were versed in the shorthand of information design, but rather because both map and riders shared a common sensibility. It was comprehensible because the logic that underpinned it was coherent with their experience, as modern individuals, of a historically particular time and space. It is this idea of the map as a way-of-imagining not only geographic but, more importantly, social space and (ultimately) time that I wish to explore.

For Beck, the decision to 'ignore geography' in the underground map was quite straightforward. He commented in an interview with Ken Garland, director of the London Transport Museum, that it simply 'seemed common sense. If you're going underground, why do you need bother about geography? It's not so important'. 'Connections,' he observed, 'are the thing'... By 'ignoring geography' in representation, Beck's 'common sense' perception resonated with the emergent concepts of distance and duration... In setting aside geographic space in favor of graphic space, Beck's diagram also dispensed with conventional notions of time, most notably the temporal relationships between places...

It set aside the notion of time and space as enduring categories, and presented them instead as highly malleable... Because the places on the various lines were no longer distinguishable from each other, the map's representational priority essentially shifted from the particularity of the places the Underground linked to the idea of the Underground as a conduit for the flow of trains and people, and ultimately, capital itself.


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