maps of the imagination

One of the main headings for this site is ‘maps‘, as they are both core to any real walk and also things of such wonder in themselves.  Not unexpectedly a number of my Christmas presents have been related to the Wales walk, and I’ll blog about these later.  However, one of them is a map of Wales, hand-drawn by Esther.

Just as I talk about in the page about maps, this is not a ‘standard’ map, not an attempt at cartographic verisimilitude, but more an open story of places and incidents, rendered from memory.  Tenby is north of Aberaeron, and Liverpool (with Wirral elided), where Esther now lives, extends across the whole length of North Wales.

On the map mountains are dwarfed by Janet and Rachel’s dogs, and Cardiff is represented not by the Castle, the Millennium Stadium or the City Hall, but instead by Bangor St where I was born and brought up, Daviot St where my mum lived for after selling the house, and the hospital where we took Esther as a tiny child running a temperature of 103 degrees (Fahrenheit not Celsius!).  Stone throwing seems to be theme with both the stone I threw as a child that saw my sister rushed to hospital for stitches to her nose and also the stone I threw at the school wall, but missed and hit the window.  What I never told the teachers was that I’d seen something about erosion on television and thought repeated stone throwing would reduce the school to a beach allowing is to make sand castes all day – never think small.

Esther’s map reminds me of medieval maps, like this 13th Century map on the cover of the  Penguin translation of Gerald Of Wales “The Journey through Wales and The Description of Wales” (another Christmas present!).  On this map, Wales extends almost to the current Scottish border, with the whole of Cumbria and Lancashire reduced to a vestigial headland.

Maps are always interpretations, focusing on what is important to the cartographer and reader, whether roads and towns, or lighthouses and anchorage depths; memories of places once known and promise of visits to come.


First talk about the walk

Preparations for the walk are progressing slowly, partly because logistics is, well, not exactly my core skill, but largely because I am trying to do everything else I would have been doing over nine months in six.

However, on my last few mainland visits I have begun to talk with various people in Wales and elsewhere, and I’m sure things will work themselves out when it comes!

Part of my last trip included a trip to Swansea where I gave my first presentation about the Wales walk, “Treading out Technology: theory meets praxis during a thousand mile walk round Wales”, at the FIT lab. (abstract below).

As well as seeing old friends including Parisa and Harold, I also met Andrew Morgan who is doing a PhD at Swansea Met on circular walks and community use of mobile applications on the Wales Coas Path, and also John Ashley who writes  a regular column on local walks in The Bay Magazine1.  John has recently published a book “Ashley’s Walks” based on the column. The walks are gloriously illustrated with own photographs and sprinkled with local history.

“when a Gowerman said “I’ll zi’thee at Faayer”, it was an invitation to a drink … but … “I’ll zi’thee at Penrice” was a challenge to a fight” (Ashley’s Walks, p.31, quoting H. Tucker, Gower Leanings)

One of the things that has been taxing me is how traditional paper maps, guidebooks and other location related materials can be linked with mobile experiences, not to replace them with an e-alternative, but to combine the richness of turning pages with the utility, interactivity, and availability of mobile applications. Maybe John’s book would be a place to start.

Talk abstract
Treading out Technology: theory meets praxis during a thousand mile walk round Wales

Next year I will be walking around Wales following the Wales Coast Path that opened this year and Offa’s Dyke long distance path up the borders.  This is partly a personal journey reconnecting with the country of my childhood, but also a technological journey investigating the IT needs of the walker and the local communities through which I pass. Some of this will be mundane technologically speaking, but hopefully transformative in practice.  However, I also expect to be pushed to the limits cartographically and theoretically.  In particular, aspects of Semantic Web and the odd Galois Connection will be essential parts of the need to synchronise data between heterogeneous sources and following disconnection.

  1. That is Swansea Bay, not San Francisco Bay![back]