The Bartlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis


Shannon Mattern | How to Map Nothing: Geographies of Suspension

27 January 2021, 5:00 pm–6:00 pm


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Dr Max Nathan

Two years ago – or, a century ago in phenomenological and political time – artist and writer Jenny Odell published to much acclaim a book about How to Do Nothing. She made the case for retreat or refusal as an act of resistance to capitalist productivity and laid out a plan of action for “holding open [a] place in the sun,” for attending to the world’s sensory richness. Not even a year after the book’s release, retreat was imposed on the world in the form of social distancing and lockdowns, and many people found themselves doing a whole lot of involuntary nothing. Maps and graphs showed stilled air traffic and transit systems, depressed economies, shuttered businesses and sheltering communities. Yet underlying these geographies of suspension were networks in furious motion, systems of social welfare and surveillance that have historically functioned off the map, either in informal economies or on proprietary dashboards. In this talk, we draw from feminist geography, critical race studies, and critical disability studies to consider how we might map the flip side of a COVID-19 dashboard: what pulsing yet precarious systems make suspension possible for those who can afford to retreat?
This event is co-sponsored by Places Journal. CASA is based at The Bartlett, UCL's Faculty of the Built Environment, a member of the journal's international network of Academic Partners.


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About the Speaker

Shannon Mattern

Professor of Anthropology at New School for Social Research

Shannon Mattern is a Professor of Anthropology at the New School for Social Research. Her writing and teaching focus on archives, libraries, and other media spaces; media infrastructures; spatial epistemologies; and mediated sensation and exhibition. She is the author of The New Downtown Library: Designing with Communities; Deep Mapping the Media City; and Code and Clay, Data and Dirt, all published by University of Minnesota Press; and The City Is Not a Computer, forthcoming from Princeton University Press. She contributes a regular long-form column about urban data and mediated infrastructures to Places Journal, and she collaborates on public design and interactive projects and exhibitions. You can find her at wordsinspace.net.

More about Shannon Mattern