Why mapping matters? What makes it different to present a research on a geographical map rather than some other mediums, like prose, tables or diagrams? With an increasing awareness of both the capability and deficiency of mapping, I keep asking myself “why mapping is necessary” as I started planning my research project of the semester. At least, I should first persuade myself that I am studying a subject that worth being mapped out, in order to guide myself to an effective research approach that properly collaborates music history with geographical studies.
Mapping should provide certain insights that cannot be perceived otherwise.
Any geocoded data can be put on a map somehow, yet a mapping project designed for research purpose aims for something beyond a flashier version of a database or a statistical chart. To show the unique perspective of a musicological topic that cannot be perceived without mapping, we need to have information about and understanding of not only location but also space, meaning the interactive relations between location. The challenge is even bigger when abductive reasoning comes into play in spatial thinking. As Sinton mentioned in her article, working with geography often involves a learning procedure from observation to theory by engaging inferences and educational guesses. Quite often we play around the map as we make it until we discover that one unique angle that explains well the relationship between time and space. And there is the chance that we don’t ever find it in a certain time constriction.
Keeping this question in mind, currently I am working with performances of music by the Second Viennese School, a continuation of my project last summer. I have been looking at different sources that introduce the radio production back to the 20s and 30s, which is a topic that we left undone in previous research. Geographical information such as the location of the radio stations and possibly the coverage of program are available, in addition to historical records of the programs, the date and time of performance, etc. The challenge is to select useful data to form a spatially meaningful perspective that worth mapping out on a geographical map. I am still in seek of an angle that engages the concept of spacial relation that makes mapping a necessary part of the research, rather than a simple visual plus that makes little difference to the general argument.
Certainly the realization of this ultimate goal is impacted by the limitations that I have to cope with, including technology, time, resource, and my capability of conducting comprehensive research. But I presume that a project endeavoring to move one step closer to this goal is still a valuable source to look at for further progressions in the future.
Diana Sinton, “Critical Spatial Thinking,” The International Encyclopedia of Geography, ed. Douglas Richardson, Noel Castree, Michael F. Goodchild, Audrey Kobayashi, Weidong Liu, and Richard A. Marston (Hoboken: Wiley & Sons, 2017), 2-9.