Mashing up the Map: Film Geography and Digital Cartography in a Cultural Atlas of Australia

poster / demo / art installation
  1. 1. Jane Stadler

    University of Queensland

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Mashing up the Map: Film Geography and Digital Cartography in a Cultural Atlas of Australia
Stadler, Jane, University of Queensland,
This poster presents research from the online movie map component of a new digital resource: A Cultural Atlas of Australia is a collaborative, interdisciplinary digital humanities research project that uses interactive cartography and spatial theory to map Australian narrative fiction across three media forms. Building on the growing interest in digital cartography and spatial theory in the humanities, this initiative investigates the cultural and historical significance of location and landscape by presenting a national survey of narrative space spanning Australian novels, films and plays. The broader project involves Dr Peta Mitchell from literary geography and Dr Stephen Carleton from theatre studies in an investigation of the mediation, remediation and geovisualisation of locations and landscapes in cinematic, literary, and theatrical narratives.

There has been a recent surge of popular and critical interest in linking online mapping with cinema. This manifests most obviously in a rash of “movie maps” and online spatial resources such as Robert Allen’s Going to the Show, which digitally maps a history of moviegoing in North Carolina ( (link) )Allen, Robert C. “Getting to Going to the Show,” New Review of Film and Television Studies 8, no. 3 (2010): 264–276. ; the National Film and Sound Archive’s film-location map on the Australian Screen Online site ( (link) ); and Sébastien Caquard’s work on cinematic cartography in the Canadian Cinematographic Territories Atlas ( (link) ), which traces the history of animated maps and virtual globes such as Google Earth through cinema, examines the technological interface connecting cinema and cartography, and maps the locations of cinemas across CanadaSee Sébastien Caquard, “Foreshadowing Contemporary Digital Cartography: A Historical Review of Cinematic Maps in Films,” The Cartographic Journal 46, no. 1 (2009): 46–55.. While many such projects focus on mapping film production and distribution locations, I seek to focus attention on developments in movie mapping from since 1980s and situate such work in relation to cinematic cartography and the complex interplay of narrative settings and shooting locations in Australian cinema.

Over the past decade, interactive online mapping—what D. R. Fraser Taylor has called “cybercartography”D. R. Fraser Taylor, Cybercartography: Theory and Practice (Amsterdam: Elsevier, 2006)—has become a particularly salient issue within cartography, geography, and humanities research.See, for instance, William Cartwright, Michael P. Peterson, and Georg Gartner, eds, Multimedia Cartography (Berlin: Springer-Verlag, 1999); Mark Monmonier, “Cartography: The Multidisciplinary Pluralism of Cartographic Art, Geospatial Technology, and Empirical Scholarship,” Progress in Human Geography 31, no. 3 (2007): 371–79; and Jeremy W. Crampton, “Maps 2.0: Map Mashups and the New Spatial Media," in Mapping: A Critical Introduction to Cartography and GIS (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2010), 25–38. Since Google released its Google Maps API in 2005, the Google Maps code has been freely accessible as long as the resulting map “mashup” remains nonproprietary and in the public domain. According to William Buckingham and Samuel Dennis, the development of open source mapping tools, such as Google Maps, has generated much interest in the use of maps for “understanding ‘non-mapped’ phenomena (e.g., qualitative data or localized community information and knowledge).”William R. Buckingham and Samuel F. Dennis, Jr., “Cartographies of Participation: How the Changing Nature of Cartography has Opened Community and Cartographer Collaboration,” Cartographic Perspectives 64 (2009): 55.

Recent technological developments in digital cartography make it possible to visualise and to map the ways in which spatial storytelling produces and translates space across different media. This poster presents geovisualisation—in the form of an interactive online map—as a means by which to map representations of iconic landscapes and sites within Australian cinema. The Cultural Atlas of Australia uses an interdisciplinary method incorporating cultural geography and textual analysis to interpret, situate, and contextualise the representation of location. The project remediates that information in the form of an online, interactive map that has the potential to suggest new ways of thinking about location and landscape and break down traditional typologies of Australian space. This digital humanities research advances on traditional cartographic explorations and representations of space, making it possible to visualise new perspectives on, intersections between, and layerings of geographic and textual information. This aims to enable the identification of regional tropes, patterns and gaps in spatial representations that may not have previously been evident in research that focused on isolated case studies of individual texts, whether literary, cinematic or theatrical.

As a research tool, the finished map will be searchable (by medium, location, theme, author, and text) and will enable users to generate and export their own maps with information they require. These functions have the capacity to reveal how cultural meanings accrue on the landscape, and how our relationship with, and understanding of, the natural and cultural environment changes over time. The possibilities for incorporating participants’ photographs, videos, and textual accounts of Australian places via mobile social computing technologies opens up still more opportunities for the representation of multiple perspectives.

Geovisualisation has the potential to pose new questions for spatial analysis and to encourage broader public engagement in cultural geography. However, as a form of remediation, it does carry its own representational problems. As Barbara Piatti et al have noted, the geography of fiction is an imprecise one.Barbara Piatti, et al., “Mapping Literature: Towards a Geography of Fiction,” in Cartography and Art, ed. William Cartwright, Georg Gartner, and Antje Lehn (Berlin: Springer, 2009): 182. Piatti is speaking about mapping literary fiction, but the point can be made for all forms of narrative fiction. The representation of space and place can never simply be mimetic, but always, to a greater or lesser degree, creates an imaginative geography that may correspond to what Piatti calls the “geospace” (or map space)Ibid. directly, obiquely, or not at all. Bringing film space into the analytical frame carries its own set of complexities and ambiguities because film requires attention to the relationship between narrative locations and shooting locations. Beyond the question of impreciseness, the process of re-presenting narrative locations is a process of imagining and re-imagining geography that, by its very nature, is also political.

This project demonstrates that films are more than representations, more than containers for narrative symbolism and ideological views and values, and this extends to any geovisualisation strategy that seeks to map those texts. Such texts are also generative—productive of meanings, social relationships and subject positions. Tom Conley argues in Cartographic Cinema that cinematic images “produce space through the act of perception”;Tom Conley, Cartographic Cinema (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007), 20. similarly, film stages and imaginatively invokes space in ways that subsequently inflect the meanings readers associate with actual places. Where film geography and cinematic cartography enable analysis of locational information in narrative fiction informed by insights from geography as well as cinema and cultural studies, it also builds from the premise that such texts intervene in the cultural field and alter the perceptual, ideological, political and practical orientation of readers and audiences in relation to the physical environment.

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Conference Info


ADHO - 2011
"Big Tent Digital Humanities"

Hosted at Stanford University

Stanford, California, United States

June 19, 2011 - June 22, 2011

151 works by 361 authors indexed

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Conference website:

Series: ADHO (6)

Organizers: ADHO

  • Keywords: None
  • Language: English
  • Topics: None