March 18, 2008

March 18, 2008

My visual representation of March 18th is a study in both monotony and postmodern cartography. I say this only half-jokingly.
The challenge of this assignment was to portray the passage of time and action within a defined geographic location. I found it cumbersome and impractical to document a detailed account of my own actions within a normal scaled map, the kind that purports to accurately represent space in terms of natural boundaries and urban infrastructure (i..e. lakes, rivers, streets, buildings). Instead, I tried to represent time and place and action by modeling my map on the standard twelve-hour clock. Instead of focusing on place in a given area, I emphasize temporality. That said, I do not wholly disregard ideas of space (this is, after all, supposed to be a map.) I use place names throughout my map to indicate where I am in terms of the College campus. Place names, I feel, are just as accurate markers of a given space than a drawn model. For example, “Chandler Hall” and a drawing of a building marked “Chandler Hall” offer the map-reader only a limited idea of what “Chandler Hall” actually is. In terms of finding one’s way around campus, the visual representation is far superior to the written place name. In terms of individual detail (detailing my hourly activities), marking only the place name allows me to offer further detail within a limited map space (an 8 X 11 piece of paper).
My “clock” map uses a twelve hour design scheme that represents every hour of my day on March 18. The clock is divided into two inner circles, the innermost being the AM hours, and the outermost the PM hours. Place names are located in the upper portions of each smaller “slice” of my clock, and below those place names are the specific actions I performed within that time slot. While the viewer may have difficulty figuring out where to begin, it should be failrly self-explanatory to find out what I did, where I did it, and when I did it. The circular nature of the map seems to indicate that there really is no beginning or end to my day. That result I did not anticipate, but am happy to now realize. After all, though my schedule appears rigid, it is hardly regimented (I nap when there’s free time), and there really is no defined “beginning” or “end” to my—or anybody’s day. I like to think that my clock scheme is at once an accurate depiction of my day and a critique of how we schedule our lives around hours that don’t exist or begin or end.
If one thing is evident in my temporal map, it is that time and title govern my location in space more than the space itself. I am in Williamsburg not because I know or enjoy Williamsburg (not that I don’t), but because I am a student at the College of William and Mary in Virginia. My schedule, which is in many ways beyond my control, therefore determines my place within and around this space. As is evident through my day, my Tuesday travel through Williamsburg—and to be more specific, William and Mary—is limited to my responsibilities as a student. In total, I enter five buildings, all of them school buildings. They are, in chronological order, Swem Library, Chandler Residence Hall, College Apartments, Tucker Hall, and the Campus Center. All of these buildings, I would estimate, are located within a half mile of each other.
This limited perspective on this town leads me to question my “status” as a resident of Williamsburg. What defines me as a “Williamsburg citizen?” What does citizenship require? Is it only that I sleep in Chandler 128? That seems insufficient to me, but then again, my location and movement around this space is largely determined by a predetermined schedule. Even though my movement is limited, does “citizenship” of a place require one to move around in it? That doesn’t make much sense. I am an American citizen, but the proportion of this country that I have been too is probably smaller than the proportion of Williamsburg that I have visited in relation to the College. This pondering has led me to a somewhat disheartening—but personally profound—conclusion: Williamsburg doesn’t really matter all that much to me. Sure, the space that exists around me—the “other” Williamsburg that I rarely see—is fascinating to imagine and wonder about, but in direct impact to my life as a student, I rarely think about the surrounding spaces around me, and I argue that I never will. Now, in saying this, I am not criticizing or demeaning the importance of the Williamsburg Documentary Project or the importance of understanding the complexity of one’s space. However, while this map marks place names and street names and campus boundaries, it also marks me. I am, above all and through my actions, a student at this university. This place has more control over me than I do over it. This space—especially on Tuesday—offers me little opportunity to explore it, even if I wanted to. These buildings signify hours, credits, syllabi, responsibilities, that all enforce a monotonous routine. I move easily through this space, but I do so in a predetermined fashion.
The “true” map subtly reinforces this “predetermined” relationship between person and space. Not surprisingly, I represented my movements throughout campus through a large, somewhat circular shape that surrounds the undergraduate portion of campus. If I were a campus policeman, or a cafeteria worker, or a professor, or an obsessive tennis player, my mobility around campus would be determined by my title and the appropriate spaces within the College where the purpose of my title can best be carried out. This is a rather obvious observation, but I think it is important to realize the illusory quality of space and mobility; how space governs us more than we govern it.


About

The Williamsburg Documentary Project (WDP) strives to collect and preserve the rich past of Williamsburg, Virginia. By conducting oral history interviews, building physical and digital archives, and creating online exhibits, the WDP interprets Williamsburg’s recent past. The WDP works towards developing a better understanding of Williamsburg by bringing together individuals, local groups, Colonial Williamsburg, and the College of William & Mary.

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