Mapping Socially responsive communication workshop- experimental geography. | oliver's blogpost @ Memefest
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Mapping Socially responsive communication workshop- experimental geography.

Not long ago i announced that part of Memefest award will be a invitation to participate in the special workshop titled Mapping Socially responsive communication in June 2011.

Many of you have shown great interest to participate in this and we are very much looking forward to work with twenty chosen authors of the best participants from this years friendly competition.

I think it's time to start preparing a bit for it. The main goal of the workshop will be to understand and visually map the differences between marketing driven communication and socially responsive communication. Not only the differences BUT ALSO the reasons why this differences are mostly invisible- they are not seen or better: they are not recognized by the majority of communication practitioners (designers, advertisers, clients etc.) The fantastic paradox however is that even there is this invisibility of differences, they do have a communicative effect.

In my own practice as educator and communications studio director i could see
this invisibility of visual communication over and over again. I think what we need to do is to develop maps that will help us understand this logic better but maybe even more than that- such maps, could in my opinion help open a path of understanding and dialogue between those who want to practice socially responsive communication and those who have to be part of such a process, but are still hooked on marketing communication even they want to act in a socially responsible manner.

Many exciting mapping projects have been done, though non- at least to my knowledge that were dealing with communication. In order to prepare for the workshop we'll have to gain certain preparation knowledge on the subject.

Here is a good book curated by Nato Thompson and Independent curators international and a strong introduction text on the subject on radical approaches to cartography by Trevor Paglen i recommend for reading. (strangely the text is posted two times, so it ends actually in the middle)

More soon.


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12 years ago


12 years ago

"4th paragraph",
perfect explanation why i joined memefest!

12 years ago an interesting blog on the topic (in italian only)

12 years ago

thanks for the post- this looks pretty interesting. another aspect of the marketing-driven part of what you are talking about is the co-opting of the language of socially responsible making. Part of it lies in methods like "personas," "scenarios" and other "audience based research," which often abstracts people in a very reductive way.

12 years ago

Hm, thanks for this interesting article…
In my view, Paglen’s “Experimental Geography” is very similar to Bourdieu's “The Rules of Art”. Paglen stressed that smth like cartographic God’s-Eye dosen’t exist, just as according to Bourdieu dosen’t exist the pure, uninterested Esthetic’s-Eye (or critique alone)…
The question is about the production of space, or like Bourdieu, the production of artistic field. (Paglen’s Space or Bourdieu's Field.) Spatial practice of culture or the social and historical structures within artists, writers, curators, critics, publishers are practicing, creating and producing cultural products, aura of creators or the whole field of art. And that (produced) field or space, in turn, is producing them (us)… No one is out of cycle, out of politics…

12 years ago

hi jovana- thanks, this is a interesting comparison. in paglens article the power relations of space play a crucial role. same as in bourdieu's field.

but there seems to be a focus on the material if you look at this:...."I’m helping to produce a space called “geography.” None of these examples is a metaphor: the “space” of culture isn’t just Raymond Williams’s “structure of feeling” but, as my friends Ruth Wilson Gilmore and Clayton Rosati underline, an “infrastructure of feeling.”"

experimental geography is (taken from wikipedia) "Experimental Geography" (is) to describe practices coupling experimental cultural production and art-making with ideas from critical human geography about the production of space, materialism, and praxis.

what is interesting to me is the combination of using immaterial approaches to describe and /or analyze the material or praxis connected with the material-- in this case space-geography.

in our approach of mapping socially responsive communication we will most likely stay in the cognitive/immaterial side of media production. the strongest part however of the body of experimental geography we can use is the knowledge of mapping.

at this point it would be useful to find more radical mapping projects. it would be great if anyone can provide links to such projects. thanks!

12 years ago

(i received this very interesting response via email, so iam posting it here)

Hi Memefest --

I tried to post the comment below in response to Oliver's recent note about cartography and communication. But it seemed to bounce or get rejected or whatever. I would like to participate in that conversation and know something about the topic. What did I do wrong or, said another way, how might I participate?

Chris Simpson

There are at least two key elements here & both are complex. The first is radicalization of cartography (& cartographic description). The second is liberating communication from the iron shell of marketing, in part by distinguishing socially responsive communication from other sorts.
Some leverage points to make such distinctions:
++ the social _power/empowerment_ dynamics of the setting in which communication takes place. This appears to involve tradeoffs of human agency / human institutions;
++ the degree of, direction of, and patterns of _participation_ in the communicative acts;
++ social dynamics of _voice / voicelessness_;
++ social-power dynamics of intersubjectivity during communicative acts, including stuff such as economic inequity, culture, class, gender, language, etc.;
++ anthropology of propaganda & ritual;
++ other stuff, other frames, etc.
++ need for new languages or paradigms (such as cartography, visualization, etc.) in order to even discuss these ideas in a consistent way.
Chris Simpson -- AU -- simpson at

12 years ago

Trevor Paglen ( is a practitioner that is a pretty interesting model of at least one kind of counter-production regarding mapping as surveillance - combining "material" and "immaterial" aspects.

12 years ago

Sorry about the redundant Paglen ref: I should have read the complete posts- too much multi tasking. As far as a way of approaching the discussion of radical cartography, an older collection by Peter Hall and Janet Abrams (Else/Where Mapping) uses the divisions of 1) mapping networks 2)mapping conversations 3)mapping territories 4)mapping "mapping" as a starting point. Somewhat simplistic but it holds together 60 very different contributors in an articulate fashion that allows for a lot of development (Peter is pretty good with that kind of thing- I've had a chance to work with him in groups). One of the problems with a discussion about "mapping" is its over-general quality. It also strikes me that the terms have to be clear and legitimate depending on who the workshop is engaging: if this is to be developed across a bunch of allied disciplines, and/or a more general audience.

12 years ago

Hi memefest, and sorry for the triteness of my initial knee-jerk response, but.... This is going to be a great and valuable workshop!!!

12 years ago

hi oliver and all,
some time ago i was involved in CultureRobot project where we partly worked with maps.
more here:

12 years ago

sorry for this long post, but, what is kind of behind paglan's work is a larger trend called neogeography- there are examples of particular projects under this category that can be found readily (I've been looking into this lately):

Quote: the notion of "neogeography" has emerged to address a new set of geographic concerns with the rise of such enabling technologies as web mapping services and pervasive GPS-enabled devices. Turner (2006) describes neogeography as "a set of techniques and tools that fall outside the realm of traditional GIS" (p. 2). More specifically, it is about "people using and creating their own maps, on their own terms, by combining elements of an existing toolset" (Turner 2006, p. 3). Goodchild (2009) defines neogeography as "a blurring of the distinctions between producer, communicator and consumer of geographic information" who become involved in the "mapping process" (p. 82). Within neogeography, volunteered geographic information (VGI) describes the increasing "interest in using the Web to create, assemble, and disseminate geographic information provided voluntarily by individuals" (Goodchild 2007, p. 211).


Map-based "web mashups" result from the application of social media or Web 2.0 technology to existing or developing data sets. Map mashups combine or "mash up" multiple sources of data, which are displayed in some geographic form. Though "participatory" forms of geotechnology--such as Google My Maps--makes maps and geographic information relatively accessible, obligations of accuracy and careful interpretation do fall to the neogeographers who pursue this new form of technical enterprise.

12 years ago

thanks to everyone for your input. this is very helpfull in creating a conceptual framework for our workshop. id like to post a link to one chapter of brian holmes' book "Escape the overcode" titled "Network Maps, Energy Diagrams-Structure and Agency in the Global System." its a fantastic analysis on how to map systemic social conditions: real and imaginary.

12 years ago

I've been reading through many of the posts and what strikes me is the difference here in the U.S. We do not have much faith in N.G.O.'s. They have been very market-driven and compromised for a long time, probably dating back to the Reagan era. If anyone wants to check out those debates and comments see "Art and Oppositionality: Essays from Afterimage" and perhaps Richard Bolton's essay "Enlightened Self-Interest: the Avant-Garde in the 80's."

It's history now for us, and yet there are many groups that have figured out ways to do an alternative practice. Here's a really good example:

It's both a working collective (engaging disenfranchised communities here in the U.S and elsewhere), supported in part by an economic enterprise that they have created with good practices environmentally. It is also a kind of "franchise" that can be tapped into.

11 years, 12 months ago

Thank you Scott, i did not know about the Afterimage journal. Very interesting!!

Beehive collective does impressive work. Even more than their production of images, the organizational culture is a important example on how to create environments of practice that can remain subversive through a long time. This i think is highly relevant in our discussion regarding the practice of socially responsive communication.

Two questions that are in my opinion crucial within this context of organizational structure:

Q1: is it possible to produce socially responsive communication and back it with a day to day practice of the whole organization within existing structures as marketing oriented design studios or ad agencies?

Q2: is it possible to do it only within more or less loose horizontally organized collectives that work on voluntary basis, or is it possible to establish horizontal institutions that work on the market as a company?

Q3: do we need to establish completely new institutions, with new people or can we change existing ones?

Q4: is someone that has worked in the ad agency for let's say 10-15 years capable of changing and engaging in to socially responsive communications practices/institutions or is his/her habitus (bourdieu) structured way to deep in the frame of commercial communication culture?

11 years, 12 months ago the end there are four not two questions...:)

11 years, 12 months ago

Oh my goodness- lots of hard questions on that one- this is only my take in my situation here in the U.S. and also in the heart of "design" aka whatever the venue is right now that I have to deal with academically and through professional organizations:

I think number four in my experience will not happen, unless they simply opt out.

I think 3 might work. CHANGE nonetheless-

I think 2 hss some merits and not to sound totally hopeless. I've seen some evidence of that especially with some "new media" based organizations- the ones that are more open source oriented.

1- yes as such. but when it come down to it, it really means thinking of what country you are living in and what kinds of issues are at stake. I really do think it comes down to scale and awareness- engaging your community and still understanding the workings of the larger economic system that your are in and the pressures that get exerted on that dialogue.

no worries- these are huge questions- 4 - 2 or otherwiseQ

11 years, 11 months ago

hey scott:

i very much agree with number four. i have been closely studying the ad industry for many years, and all evidence shows that people working in this business for many years have extreme difficulties to think, act and imagine outside the commercial culture. i believe that there is a bit more of a chance for cognitive workers than for cognitive capitalists to change and get engaged in to something else, but its very hard. as for cognitive capitalists within the business of image production- pretty much no chance for a deeper change, except in a very long term. meaning, extensive work, study and also mentorship for some 10 years. problem: i personally would rather spend 10 years in a organization which' members already embody "socially responsive" communication culture than having to deal with a painful transition.

Q3: changing existing ones is tightly connected to Q4. very difficult to do in my opinion. again, easier on the level of cognitive workers. there is a good and useful concept from design theorist tony fry called "platforming" which is meant to be employed for changing institution in to a more sustainable direction.

agree with you on 1 and 2.





Oliver Vodeb






I am a member of Memefest communication/art/theory Kolektiv, and founder, curator and editor of Memefest Festival of Socially Responsive Communication and Art. Iam also facilitator of Memefest online social network.

I am an Academic at RMIT University, Melbourne. I teach and research mostly in the field of communication design. I approach design/communication from a critical inter/ extradisciplinary perspective and I investigate theoretical, strategic, conceptual and "hands on" practice.

I enjoy working in many different media including visual and text.

Books I have published :

This was my studio in Slovenia (2004-2012):

CV (sort of):

You can read some of my texts here:

I have joined the Memfest community becasue i am interested in

I have been here from the very beginning of Memefest. I am interested in communication/design for social and environmental change.
I name such communication socially responsive communication.

Broadly speaking I am interested in visual communication, photography, sociological aspects of communication, design and media.

Iam interested in institutionalised forms of communication like for example communication done by design/communication studios and advertising agencies as well as non institutionalised forms of communication like tactical media or broader aspects of media activism.

In a slightly more academic language:

I am interested in how critical social theory can illuminate the complex processes of production, distribution and reception of public (visual) communication in order to generate public communication as a responsible social, political, economic and cultural practice.

I am particularly interested in relations between concepts of response-ability and communication effectiveness, and the social construction of design and other forms of pubic communication as profession, practice and praxis within academia, the market environments and non-institutionalised communities.


was studiing at Faculty for social sciences University of Ljubljana


PhD in sociology of communication and design

Working place

RMIT University, School of Design, Master of Communication Design

Music I like

Flamming Lips, Pixies, The Black Crowes, Demeter, Porno for Pyros, Ry Cooder, Junior Kimbrough, Townes van Zandt, T-model Ford, The Dirty Three, Bonnie Prince Billy, Primus, Faith no More, Bob Dylan, RHCP, Alice Donut, Faith no more, Mark Lanegan, Reigning Sound, Total Control;

Books I like

The Unbearable Lightness of Being, A Confederacy of Dunces, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, PanikHerz...;

Films I like

The man who wasn't there, No country for old man, Genova, Zidane a 21st century portrait, There will be blood, Il Postino, Festen, Straight Story, Wild at heart, White Ribbon, Dog tooth;

Communication projects I like

I like stuff we did at Poper studio. I like posters from Inkahoots. I like the zine project 23/56 from Kevin. I like many things that were submitted to Memefest, I like stuff from Cactusnetwork, I like the work of Image-shift.

Websites I like,,,,,,,,,,,,

People I like

My dear family and my wonderful friends.