Saturday, 31 October 2015

Me, mapped

"We are often asked to tell our stories according to someone else’s standards of what counts, but we are not necessarily asked about what matters to us, what we value, even if it can’t be measured."

So begins the first challenge for Digital Writing Month (#digiwrimo).  It's a 'what if' question that asks us to introduce ourselves, not using the standard and limiting CV format but in whatever creative means takes our fancy.

CVs are indeed limited; they lay out our lives under standard headings, in sans serif font (naturally); they condense the most exciting of happenings down to one line and MUST BE ON TWO SIDES OF A4 ONLY.  And as for the hobbies and interests section... if you say something remotely interesting you are probably lying and if you are honest you are possibly the dullest person in the history of the universe.

I've been looking at maps as an alternative way of expressing and exploring personal journeys and tracking my own thinking.  In her book, The Post-Human, Rosi Braidotti uses the term cartography to describe the process of examining where we are, now:

'A cartography maps what it means to live at this moment in time.  It is a theoretically based and politically informed reading of the present.'

Cartographies, according to Braidotti, examine power locations, are non-linear in time; they de-familiarise and challenge thinking. Braidotti associates them with critical theory, but I like the idea of applying the principles to lives too; a map can show complexity, contours, colour and be multi-dimensional in a way that CVs cannot.  A map will show the mountains we have climbed, the rough patches we've overcome, the scary bit where there be dragons... it will be coloured by the stuff that's influenced us, show where the pain has been but allow us to move on through it, not making that aspect any more or less important than what else appears alongside it.
This blog for me, is my cartography.  I doubt it is what Braidotti intended, but nevertheless I've realised I'm applying similar principles.  There's theory which I use to inform my thinking; I unsettle myself through the use of unfamiliar writing styles and methods; there is politics running through the heart of it all. Most of all it is value-based; so that everything I write comes from the examined and explored ethical measures that form my basis for action.

Some parts are sketchy and hard to navigate - a back of a fag packet job (often literally).  Others are more detailed, filled in with coloured inks, pored over and written out a few times.  Braidotti often talks about the need to 'get over ourselves' so I try (usually) to infuse them with the hope and affirmation that she talks about as a post-human way of being in the world.

My blog isn't a CV; it is subjective, biased, and rough around the edges, but it tells you much more than those two sides of A4 ever could.

I might still add a hobbies and interests section though.

  • Braidotti, R. (2013). The Posthuman. Polity Press.


  1. Such an interesting idea. It made me think about trying to do it, it is almost a way to frame a journey of writing. I started asking myself, where am I headed on this map? Where does it begin. What colors are the roads? What is the framing question(s)?

    Thank you. I must think more on this. I so enjoyed this piece. I will come back to it in the morning

    1. Thank you Geoffrey, do let me know if you have a go at putting something together - it sounds amazing :)

  2. So much of this delights me! I especially like - 'A cartography maps what it means to live at this moment in time. It is a theoretically based and politically informed reading of the present.' and the contention that maps examine power locations, are non-linear in time; they de-familiarise and challenge thinking.
    I am not familiar with Rosi Braidotti but I am about to be! thx.
    Your post has sent me to my bookcase for a fresh look at Peter Turchi's book, Maps of the Imagination: The Writer as Cartographer.

    1. Ooh I've never heard of that book Maureen but am going to check it out. Glad you liked the Braidotti stuff - post-humanist thinking has had a massive impact on me this year. I tried to make sense of it here in my very un-academic way :)

  3. What a great concept to explore: how our online writing spaces become the maps of who we are, right here in this month (and what about when we comment on other people's blogs? Does the map come along with us? Or do our comments reside in that space on the edges of the maps where "Here Be Dragons"?)

  4. This is such a wonderful blog post. Thank you. I've not read Braidotti, or Turchi for that matter, and I'll have to add them to my list.

    I look forward to exploring the idea of blog as cartography as I participate in #DigiWriMo this year work on exploring, and perhaps mapping out a little, my own journey.

  5. Love this post and the avenues it opens! It gives me a sense of movement and activity -- mapping as an ongoing activity of locating oneself, rather than a fixed "something" that is created. I have a visual of the landscape changing as each new part of the map is added, perhaps changing the previously travelled terrain ("Oh, those weren't dragons at all!").

  6. Rachel, you've summed up my thoughts exactly! I love the idea of movement - post-humanist philosophy talks about the idea of 'becoming' which suggest fluidity and not being stuck in the past or in a fixed identity. Maps are usually (?) static, unless you have a constantly updating sat nav of course...maybe that's what we need :)