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Tracing Hyperobjects: Digital Deep Mapping in the Anthropocene

Dawkins, Oliver; Hay, Duncan; Smith, James; (2021) Tracing Hyperobjects: Digital Deep Mapping in the Anthropocene. Digital Deep Mapping 10.21428/c3ec81d9.83263f58. Green open access

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Abstract

Agency in the Anthropocene is premised on knowledge of a situation which challenges human comprehension through its complexity and exceeds the spatio-temporal limits of individual, human-scale experience. It hints at a scale and entanglement of factors that likewise defy conventional mapping and spatial methods. Timothy Morton offers the hyperobject as a description of such objects, and proposed new speculative and phenomenological strategies for their exploration. This raises a complex and daunting question: how can challenges of perceiving–and mapping–the forces at work at more-than-human scale be effectively addressed? In this paper, we propose a digitally-expanded notion of ‘Deep Mapping’ as a potential methodology for sensing the contours of the hyperobject: a tracing or palpation of objects of knowledge which exceed the individual. In previous cultural moments, strategies such as Fredric Jameson’s ‘cognitive mapping’ have offered pathways for agency through spatial exploration and ordering of complex situations, though often at the expense of temporality. Deep mapping, conversely, temporalises the act of mapping through narrativisation, but is typically localised and deliberately limited in scale. We argue that the use of digital strategies to augment the deep map can transcend individual and local experience, and provides access to an understanding of the object by opening cognition to its many hidden dimensions, at spatial and temporal scales both above and below those available to human perception. If narrative can be used to reveal the psychological and cultural depths hidden in geographical space, then digital methods such as GIS and data visualisation can be used to demonstrate the way these depths are themselves part of higher-order temporal and spatial patterns. By combining the two, it is possible to ameliorate the deficiencies of other approaches to mapping the multiplicity of agencies at play in environmental perception while simultaneously accepting the finitude of knowledge possible of a hyperobject.

Type: Article
Title: Tracing Hyperobjects: Digital Deep Mapping in the Anthropocene
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.21428/c3ec81d9.83263f58
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.21428/c3ec81d9.83263f58
Language: English
Additional information: This is an open access article under the CC BY 4.0 license Attribution 4.0 International (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment > Bartlett School Env, Energy and Resources
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10142729
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