Peter Murray

Map of the Month: Seattle Poetic Grid

Seattle Poetic Grid, our Map of the Month selection for August 2017, is an interdisciplinary project that maps the sounds of community within a smart city.

Claudia Castro Luna, Seattle’s Civic Poet (2015-2017), and Gregory T. Woolston, a cartographer and graduate student in architecture at the University of Washington, collaborated on this interactive data visualization to “trace the city in the voices of its citizens” to hear the sounds of the “personal map[s] of the place we inhabit.”

In the sections below, learn about the inspiration for the project from Castro Luna in the first section, and in the second section how our Location Intelligence platform helped Woolston execute this vision.

Our Map of the Month series spotlights projects engaging Location Intelligence tools and techniques in new and exciting ways. Let us know about your current projects as we plan for next month’s entry!

From Claudia Castro Luna:

The idea of the Poetic Grid was the natural collision of my thinking as a poet and urban planner.

As an urban planner, I think constantly of the way geography impacts our everyday life, and, in turn, how we put pressure on the places we inhabit. We work, play, remember, love and dream all the while embedded in a geographical location.

As Civic Poet, I explore in verse what it means to belong to a place. Who are we as a city? What do we value? What do we need? Who do we love? What are our worries? But because place is tangible and intangible, real and imagined answering these questions can be challenging.

Everyone has a story to tell about the place they live in and nothing conveys an immediate sense of place more than having poems placed on a map in specific locations meaningful to the writer.

An interactive map afforded me the opportunity to map a place where multiple voices could coexist on the same plane at the same time. The interactive features of the Seattle Poetic Grid map permitted a temporal equality, an important idea as I wanted all the voices represented to exist on the same playing field. This effect also informed my curatorial decision to include poems from writers with varying degrees of experience in order to show a multiplicity of experiences, languages, and ages.

From Gregory T. Woolston:

CARTO provided an accessible platform for mapping this collection of poetry that enables viewers to interact with the project.

First, we organized and formatted the poetry collection into a dataset, a process that easily accommodated lengthy poems, style requirements, and spacing specifications.

Next, this data was imported and layered upon a map projection of Seattle, Washington. Each unlabeled point, when clicked, reveals an info-window containing a unique title, poet, location, and poem accompanied by a photographic image from that location.

Finally, through base map options and HTML customization, we were able to achieve a minimal aesthetic reminiscent of the grays and blues of Seattle.

We hope the Poetic Grid becomes a vehicle for Seattleites to explore each others feelings and concerns, as well as inspires similar projects in other cities.


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