In the introduction to The Map as Art, Harmon states that artists have turned toward maps and cartographic motifs to serve as a ready metaphor:

“…seeking location and experiencing dislocation, bringing order to chaos, exploring ratios of scale, charting new terrains. Maps act as backdrops for statements about politically imposed boundaries, territoriality, and other notions of power and projection” (10).

Your Task

After reading about and looking at different types of maps, you will design your own map. Your map should have a point, a purpose, an argument. To compose your consider using images and writing, bringing the audience into your imagination, experience of your identity, or articulating something important to you (for example, you could chose to explore an ethnic, religious, gender, familial, or work-related identity, or a national/political issues of importance to you).

Your map should function as an essay of sorts that uses what Harmon calls the “map’s vocabulary.” While it should be recognizable as a map, remember what Harmon says about artistic cartography:

“Geographers submit to a tacit agreement to obey certain mapping conventions, to speak in a malleable but standardized visual language. Artists are free to disobey these rules” (10).

Composing Spatially: Considerations 

The materials you use to make your map can be digital (using programs such as Photoshop) or not. You may want to create your map as a montage, using non-digital material, three-dimensional objects, glue, paint, etc. The choice is yours, but think carefully: you will have to articulate a reason for each choice you make.

Consider the maps we’ve discussion in class as your inspiration. These artists and writers map body, mind, place and space both real and imagined in a rhetorical way, to communicate something about their personal experience with their audience. Before you begin to create the map, come up with a tentative plan of what you plan to convey to your audience about your identity and how you plan to convey it.

In creating the map, choose the materials that best represent the argument you wish to convey to your audience. Your choice of materials can make a huge visual difference in audience reception. As a rhetorician, you will need to be prepared to explain each choice you make in the design. Consider the canvas (will it be flat or 3 dimensional, square or round, big or small, rough or smooth, digital or physical, etc.), the writing/drawing materials (crayon, pencil, ink, paint, print, photoshop), the colors or use of black and white, the arrangement and order of information on the page, etc.

Draft Presentations & Final Submissions 

You will present your map to the class and will discuss all of these aspects (inspiration, design choices, etc) and why/how they contribute to your overall message about your identity.

Along with your map, you must turn in a video rationale where you walk us through your map and the choices you made. As you do, carefully and critically articulate why and how they contribute to your overall argument, referencing our readings and anything that inspired your decisions.

This component is an alternative to a traditional academic essay. I expect that you will reference sources, organize your ideas, and critically engage with your project and our class readings. For example, saying, “my project is just like this other project because we both use ribbon” is not substantial engagement with theory. Saying, “my project is like this other project because we both explore issues of X and this is how the map’s vocabulary enables that” is. (See the list of questions Jody Shipka asks her students on p. 360 of “Sound Engineering” as a guide.)

Grading Considerations 

This project has two components: 1) your map (digital or physical) and 2) your rationale (video of you walking through your map).

I will grade your project according to the following criteria:

  • Excellent. Meets, even exceeds, all expectations.
  • Solid work. Meets nearly all expectations.
  • In need of revision. Meets a majority of expectations
  • In need of significant revision. Barely meets expectations
  • Project does not meet expectations and/or infringes upon university academic integrity.

Map (50% of total)

  • Does your map have a clear goal?
  • Does your project make use of the “map’s vocabulary,” drawing from mapping conventions (while taking artistic license with them)?

Presentation (20% of total)

  • Did you present your project on the assigned date?
  • Did you either talk for 2-3 minutes or engage the class in discussion?

Rationale (30% of total)

  • Does your rationale carefully articulate a reason for each of your choices in the map
  • Does your rationale engage with course readings, class discussion, and map examples to help explain your choices?
  • Did you critically and substantially engage with the theory (course readings)? (Not just “name drop”)?
  • Is your rationale well organized and cites sources?