Tactical Cartographies

Fundamental and useful systems of information are tactical cartographies. Like other aspects of knowledge production, mapping has undergone critical scrutiny in recent years and has come to be seen as a social construction something produced by real people in specific contexts reflecting contested social interests, cultural practices, and political strategies. At the same time, map-making has come to be viewed as essential to social change, reflecting a wide range of investments in representing a community’s relationship to space, information, and social processes. Thus maps can serve specific interests such as in the case of European cartographers’ representations of the conquest as part of the subjugation of peoples in newly acquired territories. Given that maps are mired in relations of power, it is crucial to acknowledge who is privileged as mapmakers in order to expose how maps impact social relations, serve a variety of interests, archive multiple knowledges, and advance competing projects.

All maps are tactical and serve strategic interests. According to the Institute of Applied Autonomy tactical cartographies have an “operational value” when confronting power to “intervene in systems of control affecting spatial meaning and practice.” As reflexive and collective projects, tactical cartographies are open to multiple readings and can be put to a variety of uses. A successful map should be easily read while making available complex information about a group and its relation to the space it occupies.

Different map-making strategies can include concept maps, community asset maps, social cartographies, and tactical cartographies and should contain symbols, key, scale, cartouche, and a narrative. Tactical cartographies can present contour lines as, Cindy Katz explains, in such a way as to represent a number of different scales as part of a relation of power.