Everyday users depend on maps as stable bases by which to navigate their
lives, but map theorists have recently pointed out how fluid and dynamic
maps can be. This chapter proposes a conceptual model for studying the
dynamism of online mapping. Drawing on Sloterdijk’s concepts of bubbles,
spheres and foams, the chapter suggests a means by which contingency and
temporal variability can be conceptualised. Taking maps as ‘bubbles’ in an
actor-network of 'foam', it demonstrates how they draw together
different data within assemblages of producers and users. To illustrate how
this model works, the chapter examines ‘crisis mapping’ as online
collaborations where volunteers create maps to help understand and respond
to natural disasters and political conflicts. It shows how these projects,
like bubbles in foam, depend upon internal substance; contingent
relationships with assemblages of actors; and the quality of their
interface, for their continuing utility through time.
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