Cartographic conversations

Ellie Lighthouse in the Rhizomatic Learning theoretical discussion group on Facebook wrote a very interesting post about tracings and maps as ways of looking at learning objectives and subjectives respectively.
She quotes from a Thousand Plateaus (p.12): “The tracing has already translated the map into an image; it has already transformed the rhizome into roots and radicles. It has organized, stabilized, neutralized the multiplicities according to the axes of signifiance and subjectification belonging to it. It has generated, structuralized the rhizome, and when it thinks it is reproducing something else it is in fact only reproducing itself. That is why the tracing is so dangerous. It injects redundancies and propagates them. What the tracing reproduces of the map or rhizome are only the impasses, blockages, incipient taproots, or points of structuration.” She points out that the tracing could be seen as one of the “worst effects of goal setting/ assessment/ goal setting cycles in institutionalised learning“.   I see the tracing as a useful image, though perhaps these days less accessible than another that Simon Ensor pointed to in the comments on that thread. The Satnav, which gives you a single route, or at best a selection of three. Leaving aside the occasions where the route is not appropriate, the problem with satnavs is that that they are drvien by assumptions of efficiency. The scenic route is rarely an option, redundancy is impossible, and serendipity is an accident.
Ellie also quotes from a Thousand Plateaus (p.13) on maps: “A map has multiple entryways, as opposed to the tracing, which always comes back “to the same.” The map has to do with performance, whereas the tracing always involves an alleged “competence.“” She suggests that a map may correspond to a learning subjective. I am not so sure of this. Though it is more linked to performance and has a multitude of potentials, the map is perhaps one of the outcomes of a process that begins with subjectives. The map is what emerges as the learner explores the territory, and as each rhizome curves and turn and sprouts differently, so each individual map will be different. (And, obviously, the map is not the territory, as Borges so elegantly pointed out.)
The set of subjectives, rather than a map, is perhaps more akin to what a cartographer carries in her bag. These might include tools for viewing, tools for orientation, tools for sampling, tools for representation, probably some kind of prior impression of what the territory may involve (mountain range, tropical jungle, estuary etc) and a set of intentions (or at least a rough direction in which to direct one’s steps at the outset).
The challenge is perhaps the tendency for territories to collapse into maps and from there into tracings (or satnav routes). The tracing is a complete collapse, but the map that emerges from our exploration also exhibits this tendency, and however much we may label it provisional, it always involves a partial closing. It is natural to want to represent and summarise our learning, if only to be able to speak of it, and thus consolidate it, as well as share it.  But to do this is always to discard, and ignore some of the richness of what we have explored.
How can we sustain the potentialities that flower during a rhizomatic exploration of the territory… what conversations are possible between our emerging maps?

6 thoughts on “Cartographic conversations

  1. Maps do have a certain power, both freeing (see where we are going?) and limiting (is that the end of the road?) and terrain with no maps is both exciting and nerve-wracking …. but always worth the venture. Pack light. Travel far.

  2. Points cardinal by which to navigate.

    Mappers collide, collude, conspire…

    Do cartographers scratch more than surface roots?

    While Rhizome darkly converges, submerges, diverges,

    Might our art be any less than tracing?

    Smooth space will not save us…

    Have no idea what this means.

    Great post Nick.


  3. Pingback: Mapping #Rhizo15 – Me Thinking

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