In this portion of the book Thick Mapping in the Digital Humanities, the authors introduce the concept of the HyperCity, which they will further explicate throughout the course of the book. The HyperCity is an Internet-based system that would allow for a new kind of presentation model for information about a particular place, drawing from data and informational content from past, present, and future. Crucial to the concept of the HyperCity is that of thick mapping, a kind of mapping that allows for a continual reprocessing and renewing of data about a place. Thick mapping rids the map of its presupposition of materiality, instead offering an archaeologically “deep” and multi-layered approach to the map’s representation of “place.”
At its surface, the concept of the thick map and the HyperCity seems like a sound one; indeed, contemporary technological advances in Global Positioning Software have already made nearly obsolete the once-widespread practice of carrying a physical map of the region in one’s automobile. It seems that as the Internet advances, nearly every aspect of cultural life will have to play catch-up; the idea of mapping is no different. The authors claim that their HyperCities model would sidestep the issue of a leveled-out or universal approach to mapping statistical data (especially as that data relates to human lives in a particular place over time), instead opting for a “polyvocal” approach. This seems a noble goal but one that promises to pose serious practical challenges. For instance, who exactly would be in charge of compiling and communicating the data present in a HyperCity? As we can see in contemporary culture with the erosion of information that occurs on group-compiled (and sometimes ill-monitored) sites like Wikipedia, the challenge of controlling a data set which prides itself upon its “polyvocality” is a very real one.
All in all, the concept of the HyperCity as explained by Presner, Sheperd, and Kawano in the introductory portion of their book is intriguing and noble-minded enough to make me think it would be worth pursuing. However, the practicality of such an endeavor could present more challenges than it is worth.