On Wednesday June 27th, we – Ian Caine and Jerry Gonzalez (University of Texas), Sora Kim (Seoul National University), Christian Henriot (Aix-Marseille University, Irasia) and I – participated in the DH2018 Conference in Mexico City, June 25-29. Our multipaper panel entitled “Bridging Cultures Through Mapping Practices: Space and Power in Asia and America” brought together four papers that span from modern Asia to contemporary Texas: two studies of land ownership, based on historical cadasters in modern Shanghai and imperial Korea, a spatial analysis of advertising development in modern Shanghai, and a survey of municipal annexation as a mechanism for suburban expansion in San Antonio, Texas. In this panel, we argued that spatial concepts and practices can serve as a bridge to connect distant topics, spaces and times.
While grounded in separate contexts, all papers addressed issues of space and power. More precisely, they revealed the intricate relationships between space, power and mapping practices. Two papers pointed out the significance of historical cadasters as a record of land property and a basis of land management, while the two others focused on municipal regulations toward suburban expansion in San Antonio, or advertising development in modern Shanghai. Everywhere, spatial policies and mapping practices appear crucial to assert municipal or imperial control. This panel further suggested that mapping practices can play as a bridge between distant cultures and territories, either by transplanting Japanese and European cadastral techniques in Korea and Shanghai, or through the municipal attempts to avoid fragmentation in San Antonio. Yet spatial policies also create new boundaries among local communities: Chinese/foreign residents in Shanghai, Korean/Japanese in imperial Korea, Latinos/Anglos and working-class/elites in San Antonio. While the study of land cadasters in Korea focused on the political impulses underlying spatial policies, the surveys of land ownership and advertising development in modern Shanghai, or that of suburban expansion in San Antonio, also emphasized the importance of economic factors in shaping urban spaces (real estate market, transportation networks), either reinforcing or conflicting with municipal policies.
At the methodological level, the panel demonstrated the values and challenges of using digital tools to conduct spatial analyses and to bridge past and present landscapes. Each project relied on a wide range of mapping software and practices, from the systematic digitization of original maps (Shanghai and Korean cadastral maps), to the uses of Geographical Information System (GIS) to build a geospatial database and bring together separate sets of data. GIS and spatial modeling even allow to reconstruct spatial layers that provide substitutes for missing data, as in the cases of Shanghai and Korean cadasters. Digital tools further enable the visualization of gaps and overlapping patterns, or tracing spatial changes across time. In the case of San Antonio, going a step further would lead to imagine a digital chronology of its suburban expansion, including flat mapping, a filmed spatial narrative, and an interactive timeline. Two projects eventually provide a digital interface open to sharing and cooperation (San Antonio, MADSpace). Although they do not provide ready-made arguments, digital and non-digital mapping tools open untrodden paths to interpret the past, and raise new research questions. Through their digital experience, the four projects bridge various disciplines and fields of expertise. They all rely on interdisciplinary collaboration between historians, geographers, economists and sociologists, as well as sustained cooperation between researchers, engineers, designers and software developers.
The PowerPoint of my paper aimed to map the spaces of advertising in modern Shanghai is available here.