Open Maps are a tool for digital ‘radical cartography’, challenging Google’s representation of the world; a cheap, portable, pirate WiFi map server developed during tech artist Josh Harle’s residency with the RIAT Research Institute for Art & Technology at Q21 MuseumsQuartier in Vienna.
Radical Cartography is “an alternative to the typical, seemingly neutral vision of geographic space as a static field of mute infrastructure and unquestioned boundaries.” The maps borrow Google’s look and feel – pinch zoom, swipe navigation, dynamically updating map tiles – but present the maker’s own maps: anything from conventional representations to crayon drawn scrawls or biro-annotated sketches.
Open Maps are hosted via a Raspberry Pi single-board computer, which can be made weather-proof, and can even be run via battery or solar if mains power is impractical. With an 5dbi antenna/WiFi interface they have a range of about 50 metres, and when installed in an area effectively are ‘visible’ and usable within this range. The cost of each device with enclosure, power adaptor, WiFi, and appropriate weatherproofing is less than €100.
Open Maps have an unique locality: instead of being available ‘everywhere’, they wedge themselves into little nooks and hide in the quiet corners of the city: they must be sought out and discovered.
The two-day workshop will be held as part of Coded Cultures: Openism. During the workshop participants will be assisted in the production of their own map, using whatever process they are comfortable with (bricolage, drawing, painting, digital, etc.). Once finished the maps will be uploaded to Open Map devices, and will be installed around Vienna. The workshop will include.
- Discussion of maps, and radical cartography: General discussion of maps, their politics, and representation in general. Examples of many different ways of mapping: «radical cartography», maps through history up to online maps.
- An introduction to the Open Map device: discussion of concept, possibilities, and demonstration of an example map.
- Making Maps! Setting up an initial map layer for a chosen area, creating the map, photographing/scanning content, and processing it for the Open Map device.
- Building the Open Map platform (optional): Discussions on site-specific enclosures, weatherproofing, power options, and install, and set-up of software from a standard Raspberry Pi installation.
Josh Harle is a Sydney-based multidisciplinary researcher and media artist with a background in computer science, philosophy, and fine arts. His practice explores the contemporary use of digital technologies to map and make sense of the world, critiquing the often ideological practice of digital capture and the reductive representations of space that mediate our engagement with the world (e.g. GPS navigation and Google maps).