Deep Mapping, Liminal spaces, and heterotopias

Notes on Deep Mapping, Liminal spaces, and heterotopias

Links from OCA peer group

Hello everyone,
Some links to sources on deep mapping if anyone is interested:
Linda Lappin’s blogpost: (chapter descriptions of Deep Mapping and Spatial Narratives)

My own research notes and comments

Roberts, L (Ed.) (2016). Deep Mapping. Humanities., MDPI.

This is the special edition about deep mapping

Roberts, L. (2016). Deep mapping and spatial anthropology. L. Roberts. Humanities, MDPI.

This is the introduction to the report

Deep maps and deep mapping offer particularly rich pickings in this respect in that they highlight the ways in which qualitative and humanistic forays into the representation and practice of space and place are multi-faceted, open-ended and—perhaps more contentiously—irreducible to formal and programmatic design. 

That is, there is a more fluid and seamless interplay between the textuality of the writing and that of other media, whether these be photographic or moving images, digital maps, audio sound files, digital (and digitized) art works, locative media, hypertext data, other publications, and so on. Deep mapping, in short, is largely a product of the digital age. 

The deep map is a utopian imaginary of space inasmuch as it strives to frame or in some way open itself up to that which is “lived”. By contrast, the thin map (if we can accept, for a moment, this oppositional conceit) is unapologetically representational: it is a representation of space that is ill- or, at least, under-equipped when it comes to servicing the needs of those whose inclinations are to “dive within”. 

There are certainly some common threads that can provisionally be woven together: a concern with narrative and spatial storytelling; a multi-scalar and multi-layered spatial structure; a capacity for thick description; a multimedial navigability; a spatially intertextual hermeneutics; an orientation towards the experiential and embodied; a strongly performative dimension; an embrace of the spatiotemporally contingent; a compliance with ethnographic and auto-ethnographic methods and frameworks; an “undisciplined” interdisciplinary modality; a time-based cartographics; an open and processual spatial sensibility; and, perhaps most telling, a reflexive—yet “aspirational” [25]—sense of the fundamental unmappability of the world the “deep map” sets out to map. 

In its most quotidian sense, then, deep mapping can be looked upon as an embodied and reflexive immersion in a life that is lived and performed spatially. A cartography of depth. A diving within.  

Les Roberts (2016). The Rhythm of Non-Places: Marooning the Embodied Self in Depthless Space
Reprinted from: Humanities 2015, 4(4), 569-599 

This is an interesting paper

Abstract:  Taking  as  its  starting  point  the  spatiotemporal  rhythms  of  landscapes  of  hyper-mobility and transit, this paper explores how the process of “marooning” the self in a  radically  placeless  (and  depthless)  space—in  this  instance  a  motorway  traffic  island  on  the M53 in the northwest of England—can inform critical understandings and practices of “deep   mapping”.   Conceived   of   as   an   autoethnographic   experiment—a   performative   expression of “islandness” as an embodied spatial praxis—the research on which this paper draws  revisits  ideas  set  out  in  JG  Ballard’s  1974  novel  Concrete  Island,  although,  unlike  Ballard’s  island  Crusoe  (and  sans  person  Friday),  the  author’s  residency  was  restricted  to  one  day  and  night.  The  fieldwork,  which  combines  methods  of  “digital capture”  (audio  soundscapes,   video,   stills   photography,   and   GPS   tracking),   takes   the   form   of   a   rhythmanalytical  mapping  of  territory  that  can  unequivocally  be  defined  as  “negative  space”.  Offering  an oblique  engagement  with  debates  on  “non-places”  and  spaces  of  mobility, the paper examines the capacity of non-places/negative spaces to play host to the conditions  whereby  affects  of  place  and  dwelling  can  be  harnessed  and  performatively  transacted. The embodied rhythmicity of non-places  is  thus  interrogated  from  the  vantage  point  of a  constitutive  negation  of  the  negation  of  place.  In  this  vein,  the  paper  offers  a  reflexive examination of the spatial anthropology of negative space. Keywords: non-places; liminality; rhythmanalysis; spatial anthropology; autoethnography; embodiment; mobility; motorways; northwest England 

Thoughts about this paper as it relates to my work.

I like this autoethnographic approach to attempting to define a non space which turns out to be a space that loosens the imagination in being isolated on a motorway island for 24 hours. I think that my home consulting room feels like a new and unwelcome space in lockdown. It was a spare bedroom and computer room in the past but is now a dump for our files and unhung pictures. It looks chaotic and mirrors some the dislocation of working on the internet in that room. It is not a non space but that sense of dislocation is there. 

One of the ideas I carried forward from this paper was to explore the idea of liminal spaces which are ‘in between states’ with Victor Turner being the key reference here

In his study of memory and oblivion, the anthropologist Marc Augé ([11], pp. 55–84) sets out what he  refers  to  as three  “figures  of  oblivion”  that  structure  the  temporal  dialectics  of  remembrance  and forgetting.  The  second  of  these,  suspense,  refers  to  the  cutting  off  of  the  present  from  the  past  and  future. In ritual terms this approximates to the separation phase of Arnold van Gennep’s tripartite “rite of passage”, or Victor Turner’s notion of “communitas”—an in-between state in which the oblivion of past returns and future beginnings (or of points in time and space already departed as well as those yet to be arrived at) shapes a temporary state of suspended presentness [12–14]. The motorway island, like that of the motorway more generally, is a liminal space of oblivion par excellence. 

(PDF) The Rhythm of Non-Places: Marooning the Embodied Self in Depthless Space. Available from: [accessed Sep 25 2020].

Shortt, H. (2015). “Liminality, space and the importance of ‘transitory dwelling places’ st work.” Human relations. 68(4):

This paper is about the evolution of liminal work spaces to ‘transitory dwelling places’ in hairdresssers. A “shift from ambiguous to meaningful spaces.”

Sudradjat, I. (2012). Foucault, the other spaces and human behaviour. ASEAN Conference on environmen-behaviour studies. Bandung, Indonesia, Elsevier. 36: 28-34.

I have drifted back to Foucault, who I am been reading about in his writings about health care evolution and settings. I know he has written about usual and unusual spaces – his concept of ‘heteretopia’. I will get his essay to examine, but this summary here is pretty good.

Foucault, M. (1984). “Of other spaces: Utopias and Heterotopias.” Architecture/Mouvement/Continué; (“Des Espace Autres,” March 1967 Translated from the French by Jay Miskowiec).

I did find the paper easily and there are some very interesting ideas about classifying spaces – I particularly liked this poetic passage about the potential for heterogenous spaces to be creative. 

Bachelard’s monumental work and the descriptions of phenomenologists have taught us that we do not live in a homogeneous and empty space, but on the contrary in a space thoroughly imbued with quantities and perhaps thoroughly fantasmatic as well. The space of our primary perception, the space of our  dreams and that of our passions hold within themselves qualities that seem intrinsic: there is a light, ethereal, transparent space, or again a dark, rough, encumbered space; a space from above, of summits, or on the contrary a space from below of mud; or again a space that can be flowing like sparkling water, or space that is fixed, congealed, like stone or crystal. Yet these analyses, while fundamental for reflection in our time, primarily concern internal space. I should like to speak now of external space. 

One of the references in the papers about pointed me to the work of Edward Casey as a key reference in understanding work spaces – it looks like there is a lot of philosophy in the book and I have ordered it as it looks to be important.

CASEY, E. 2009. Getting back into place: towards a renewed understanding of the Place-world, Indiana, Indiana University Press.          

One more reference today which is about the liminal state in managing Covid – I am leaving health care and covid research till later on but this reference that I spotted is about the experience of caring in covid where we are “alone, together.” That idea and experience resonated with me.

AWDISH, R. 2020. The Liminal space. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMp202147. New England Journal of Medicine, 338.