Visualizing an Urbanized Planet

Visualizing an Urbanized Planet—Materials

Neil Brenner, Nikos Katsikis, Danika Cooper, Ghazal Jafari), “Visualizing an urbanized planet—materials,” in Neil Brenner (ed.), Implosions/Explosions: Towards a Study of Planetary Urbanization. Berlin: Jovis, 2013, 460-475.

Any attempt to understand and influence urbanization hinges upon representations of the core spatial units that underpin this process and the spatial parameters in which its effects are thought to be circumscribed.  This chapter from the volume Implosions/Explosions reflects upon the ways in which such assumptions have been inscribed and naturalized in major visualizations of the world as a space of urbanization since the early-twentieth century.  Specifically, we consider the ways in which a variety of indicators—population; economic activity; transportation networks; communications infrastructures; and patterns of worldwide land occupation and environmental transformation—have been used in fourteen exemplary maps of cities and the space of the world from the last century.  These materials also illustrate how, even as new, potentially more sophisticated geospatial data sources become available, many of the same basic analytical and representational taxonomies have remained operative in relation to the classic indicators that have long been used to demarcate urbanization processes.  More generally, the chapter argues for an approach to cartographic visualization that is critically attuned to the visual techniques, metageographical assumptions and spatial ideologies that pervade both historical and contemporary representations of the global urban condition.