Shannon Mattern, writing “about material networks that span continents… and the strategies we devise to comprehend their scale and composition”:
What is the “aftermath” of the touring, the mapping, the listening and smelling, the playing of games? The promises to “make visible the invisible” and thereby “raise awareness” are far too often regarded as ends in themselves. The point of such exercises isn’t merely to make user-citizens “aware” of the complexity of the infrastructures that they’re so reliant upon. So now you know where your Internet comes from: now what? We should perhaps also aspire to raise bigger, “deeper” questions regarding the unique ontological nature of these systems and our place within them: where do they reside on the spectrum between the material and immaterial, the empirical and theoretical, the place-bound and the placeless, the local and the global, the past and present and future, the immediate now and the long now?
And perhaps, ultimately, we should aim to direct that “awareness” into something with “material consequences,” to borrow Nato Thompson’s phrase – something that “produce[s] effects…on the ground,” to echo Scott. There has of course been much debate over the effectiveness of “consciousness-“ or “awareness-raising” art, design, and pedagogical projects, including “critical spatial practice.
This, I think, is an important question (though it is perhaps unfair of me to refer to that bundle of directions as a singular “question”). It also suggests one of the reasons that I think it extremely useful for mapping and revelatory practices to take place within the context of design disciplines, like architecture and landscape architecture — however weak the vocabulary and paths for translating awareness into “material consequences” may seem and indeed, at least at times, be within the design disciplines, at least they exist, and don’t need to be built from scratch.