In recent years the proliferation of Google Maps and dashboard GPS screens have dominated the way we view our community grids. This digital, interactive aesthetic has revolutionized instant cartography and has made our lives easier, if perhaps a bit too dependent, as we rely on it to navigate just 0.2 miles to our final destination. Within this ubiquitous model, however, the places that make up our lives -- our favorite eatery, the parks we frequent, our best friend's house, or the streets we'd like to avoid -- don't normally show up on the screen.
During our recent Youth Voices session at ArtLAB, the student producers were encouraged to create personalized maps of their community. They were asked to determine a series of personal "hotspots," which were then placed on their personal maps. Interestingly, many students immediately reached for their cell phones to access the google map of their neighborhood. For this exercise, though, what mattered most was not geographical accuracy. Instead, students were encouraged to draw out their communities completely from memory, thereby infusing their maps with the streets and locations that matter most to them.
Breaking away from the Google grid incited an overall sense of creative freedom amongst the students. After completing the first phase, students were asked to add a transparent sheet to their maps, on which they were able to comment on their hotspots, adding contextual depth and color to their initial drawings; eventually these hotspots will be inserted in to a collective Google map.
This exercise proved that maps can serve different functions beyond getting us from one place to another. The following images display maps that are generated from the mental landscapes of the ArtLAB student producers. At the bottom of the page you can check out a slideshow that contains all of the student maps.