Tag Archives: Gaza

Who’s Behind our Maps?

Jen Dickie

Map of the world, prepared by Vasily Kipriyanov From http://libraries.theeuropeanlibrary.org/RussiaStpetersburg/treasures_en.xml Begining of the 18th century Category:Old maps of the worldThe headlines this week demonstrate how ubiquitous maps have become; yesterday alone there were at least 5 maps being used by The Guardian and the BBC to illustrate information to their audience.  It is clear that both the type of information and the way it is being visualised are evolving but also that map makers and map users are diversifying.

With the Gaza conflict dominating the news, The Guardian is using data provided by reporters, officials and the general public alike to create a current, interactive Google Map of airstrikes and explosions in the war zone, which is constantly being updated as information unfolds.  This emerging method of data collection, known as ‘crowdsourcing’, is largely facilitated by social media and is, notwithstanding accuracy and reliability issues, concurrently increasing in popularity and accessibility.

However, it is not only quantitative data that can be mapped effectively; an interactive Google Map published by The Guardian yesterday depicts their news coverage of the ‘Sahel food crises’ over the past year.  Whilst this form of representation and design may give professional cartographers nightmares, this method of visualisation opens up new ways of identifying spatial and temporal connections and relationships from qualitative data sources.

In an article for Transactions, Rob Kitchin, Justin Gleeson and Martin Dodge argue that cartographic theory has seen a shift from a “representational to a processual understanding of mapping” and discuss what this means for cartographic epistemology.  Using their experience of mapping ‘ghost estates’ in Ireland, a public geography project, Kitchin et al. demonstrate how maps “unfold through a plethora of contingent, relational and contextual practices” and show how maps are being made (and re-made) in diverse ways as solutions to everyday problems and tasks.

Cartographic theory is evolving and maps are becoming fashionable again.  To me, one in particular highlights the exciting developments and opportunities maps can provide – Paul Butler’s map of Facebook connections.  This does not map Facebook membership or borders and boundaries, yet the world, albeit a slightly distorted one, is clearly visible – a map of human relationships.  As the journalist, Simon Garfield, states in his book ‘On the Map’  – “It was a map of the world made by 500 million cartographers all at once”.

 Rob Kitchin, Justin Gleeson and Martin Dodge, 2012, Unfolding mapping practices: a new epistemology for cartography, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00540.x

 Sahel food crisis – how the Guardian is covering the story, The Guardian, 19th November 2012

 Gaza-Israel crisis 2012: every verified incident mapped, The Guardian, 19th November 2012

 Simon Garfield, 2012, On the Map: Why the world looks the way it does, Profile Books Ltd, London

Imagining peace

By Rosa Mas Giralt

In the last few days, news reports have been covering the aftermath of the Israeli navy attack on a pro-Palestinian flotilla of ships which was on its way to Gaza to deliver aid. What was supposed to be a peaceful attempt to break through the blockade that has affected the Gaza strip since 2007 left nine activists dead and more than thirty people injured. This disturbing episode has reignited bitter interchanges between pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian parties and, once more, has showed the power of geopolitics in action.

In the face of events such as this, I feel drawn towards Nick Megoran’s recent call for the development of a “pacific geopolitics”, which he defines as “the study of how ways of thinking geographically about international relations can promote peaceful and mutually enriching human coexistence” (2010: 385). He argues that critical geographers should not only expose the dynamics of militarist or imperialist geopolitics but should also provide accounts of successful peaceful alternatives. In his article for Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, he uses research on “The Reconciliation Walk” (which brought American and European Christians together to re-enact the routes of the First Crusade and apologise to Jews, Eastern Christians and Muslims for such episodes of history) to exemplify how “pacific geopolitics” can be developed. In this way, geographers can imagine and work for peace.

Read news reports in The Guardian website about the Israeli raid on the flotilla and its aftermath

Read Nick Megoran (2010) “Towards a geography of peace: pacific geopolitics and evangelical Christian Crusade apologies”. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers. 35 (3): 383-398.

Crossing points for some, barriers to life for others

By William Hasty

For many observers, the defining feature of contemporary globalisation has been the decreasing significance of ‘borders’. However, while some undoubtedly enjoy the privileges of a world without borders, others find themselves very much ‘hemmed-in’ by material boundaries. For, while the border represents nothing more than the point of crossing for some, it can, for others, signify a barrier to movement, and, in the most distressing cases, an impediment to life itself.

The people of Gaza are in such a position. Subject to a concerted blockade by Israel and Egypt, Gaza has been effectively cut off from vital connections with the rest of the world since 2007, and it is, unsurprisingly, beginning to seriously affect the health of the population, as a recent report authored by, among others, the World Health Organisation and the United Nations indicates. The report, featured in The Guardian newspaper (20/01/10), tells of the “ongoing deterioration in the social, economic and environmental determinants of health” being caused by the blockade, which, it is calculated, is “risking the health of 1.4 million people”. This closed-border policy is seriously “hampering the provision of medical supplies and the training of health staff, and it is preventing patients with serious medical conditions from getting timely specialised treatment”.

In a separate article featured just the week previous (11/01/10), the Israeli defence secretary, Ehud Barak, commenting on the proposal to extend the fence along the Gaza-Egypt border, claimed that “We need a fence, as I said 10 years ago, with all our neighbours”. What is being demarked and protected by these borders is “Israel’s Jewish and democratic character.” Clearly, the notion of a borderless world falls quite a way short of the lived reality for people in Israel and Palestine. For the sick and the hungry in Gaza, the border is a very real impediment to movement, and from the rhetoric of Israel’s policy makers it appears that this border is only going to become more fixed and surveilled in the future.

In Theorizing Borders in a ‘Borderless World’: Globalisation, Territory and Identity, a recent paper published in Geography Compass, Diener and Hagen (2009) argue that “Although declarations or predictions of a borderless world have become somewhat ubiquitous over the last twenty years, state borders remain one of the most basic and visible features of the international system.” The example of Gaza, highlighted above, supports their insistence on the “continuing power of borders in our supposedly borderless world.” Their paper is an insightful interjection in the literature, the importance of which is reinforced by the unfolding and tragic events in Gaza – a place where the border is more than a boundary, it is all too often a genuine barrier to life.

Read Gaurdian news story on Gaza blockade

Read Guardian news story on Israel- Egypt border fence

Read Diener and Hagen (2009) Theorizing Borders in a ‘Borderless World’: Globalisation, Territory and Identity, Geography Compass