Dromocartography

Space & distance are a sham—we know that our cartography is a series of nodal distinctions, hard intensities, rigid qualifications, and boundaries and borders. The map is just a tracing of the territory (even when it’s digital – granularity is not the issue here).

Imagine instead a new mapping tactics. Manuel de Landa, in A Thousand Years of Non-Linear History, writes that before steam, land distances possessed a multiplicative, dilationary relationship to spacetime compared to water. In one lecture, he repeats a (possibly untrue) story from around the advent of steam: it was quicker to get from London to Johannesburg by sea than London to Edinburgh by coach. Admitting fully this is likely an elaboration, the idea contains the potentiality of what James C. Scott would call a ‘frictional cartography’ but what I intend to call dromocartography (a specializing school of dromology, after Virilio). Scott repeats de Landa in saying that, essentially, distance is rarely a concrete entity, speaking in terms of marks of longitude and latitude on planetary surfaces. Instead, Scott asks for a mapping of ‘frictions of distance’—with a base unit being a day’s travel.

This raises the obvious question: travel by what means? This is why I choose to refer to this as dromocartography. Where Scott is working in an Anthropological mode and therefore, I’m assuming, taking the average distance walked by an able-bodied human adult as his frictional quanta, I’m interested in the polyvalency of reactions the world-form depending on the ambulatory strategy undertaken. Plane travel articulates a very different planet (high concentrations of activity and energy at international imports, linked by sur-topographical lines, free to ignore most geographic and meteorologic concerns) then the one experienced by the one expressed by highway travel in a car (a sustained release of energy, with a minimal amount of nodal knottings or lacunae – a solid, continuous line, entirely beholden to the topos that it wanders over). Of course, sea travel, bike, bus (and whatever else) would also offer their own strange conditions of planetary perception.

Dromocartography only tangentially arose from Scott’s work (as with the concept of extensibility as defined in PC Adams’ brilliant A Reconsideration of Personal Boundaries in Space-Time). It was instead largely informed by a particular passage in China Miéville’s Embassytown, in which the main character of the novel describes an occult space or cosmic substrate known as the immer:

“There are currents and storm fronts in the immer…stretches it takes tremendous skill and time to cross. […]

On a map, it’s not so many billions of kilometres from Dagostin or other hubs. But those Euclidean star charts are used only by cosmologists, by some exoterres whose physics we can’t work, by religious nomads adrift at excruciating sublux pace…Look instead at a map of the immer. Such a big and tidal quiddity. Pull it up, rotate it, check its projections. Examine that light phantom every way you can, and even allowing that it’s a flat or trid rendering of a topos that rebels against our accounting, the situation is visibly different.

The immer’s reaches don’t correspond at all to the dimensions on the manchmal, this space where we live. The best we can do is say that the immer underlies or overliesinfuses, is a foundation, is langue of which our actuality is a parole, and so on. Here in the everyday, in light-decades and petametres, Dagostin is vastly more distant from Tarsk and Hodgson’s that from Arieka. But in the immer, Dagostin to Tarsk is a few hundred hours on a prevailing wind; Hodgson’s is in the centre of sedate and crowded deeps; and Arieka is very far from anything.

A map of the immer is fundamentally and truthfully useless, as it attempts and consistently fails to even approach representation of its subject. Immerspace is the meteorological body-without-organs carried to its delirious apex. It is the soliton-thing of impossible matter, an amalgamation of intensities, knots, eddies, etc.—a fluid topos, a hydrology-form (or hylology, perhaps) in which finding solid ground is at best transitory. To map the immer is to map unterritory: depicting the deep field, the infrared, to manifest images of Planck-actors.

Cosmic microwave radiation
Map of cosmic microwave radiation: a dromocartography of light

An immermap is dromocartography—depicting a space only revealed by travel and activated by speed (whether that speed/velocity occurs in this actuality or some other), that fundamentally rejects rationalist notions of meaning, rigidity, or cartographic responsiveness to the actual. Simply put, dromocartography would seek to make immermaps of the human movement on our planet, to expose global geopolitics to the hypersubjective and extensible vagaries of movement within and without borders, boundaries, gaps, faults, foldings, etc. Real space deserves to be dethroned from its position as arbiter of distance.

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