a visual method for mapping controversies

Albena Yaneva has developed an interesting tool for mapping – literally, visually – controversies surrounding proposals for specific building designs.  It’s available on the Mapping Controversies website, together with some examples of student projects that have used it.  The tool shows links between different actors in a controversy, and how those links develop over time.


It’s interesting to me because I’m working on a talk about Actor Network Theory and aesthetics – more specifically, the limits of ANT when it comes to thinking about creative practices like design, art and architecture.  One limit, it seems to me, is that ANT isn’t very good at differentiating between different kinds of links.  It can do stronger and weaker links, but is maybe less effective at thinking about the difference between, say, a link between two actors created by a legally binding contract, and a link between two actors driven by an affective ties.

The Mapping Controversies tool exemplifies this aspect of ANT.  It visualises lots of different actors – human and non-human – and a net-work of actions done between them, very effectively.  But it visualises all those links with the same straight line that just gets thicker with more links.  So, a really interesting tool, but one that also displays its ANT-ness in its design: a link is a link is a link.

And here’s what helped me think about this: a great chapter by Sianne Ngai called ‘Network aesthetics: Julian Spahr’s The Transformation and Bruno Latour’s Reassembling the Social‘, in Cindy Weinstein’s and Christopher Looby’s edited collection  American Literature’s Aesthetic Dimensions (New York: Columbia University Press, 2012).

One thought on “a visual method for mapping controversies

  1. Thanks for the reference! Together with Albena Yaneva, Danny Richards, and Nick Dunn, I also worked on producing this visualisation (particularly the methodology). You might be interested in a subsequent publication on the topic and the main website itself: http://www.msa.ac.uk/mac/london/

    Yaneva, Albena, and Liam Heaphy. 2012. “Urban Controversies and the Making of the Social.” Arq: Architectural Research Quarterly 16 (01): 29–36. doi:10.1017/S1359135512000267.

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