Maps and Mapping

The skin of the map: Viewing cartography through tactile empathy

Within the existing body of geographical work on touch, the haptic and the surficial, as well as within the emerging field of haptic media studies, cartography has not yet been specifically considered. Moving beyond a technical examination of special tactile map products, this article explores the tactile, haptic and surficial qualities of everyday cartographic experiences in digital, non-digital and mixed formats. These qualities are researched through a phenomenological-aesthetic lens, a sensuous disposition and a creative sensibility, thus enacting what could be described as ‘non-representational cartography’. Drawing from multisensory visual ethnography, this paper explores the perspective of ‘tactile empathy’ through photographic/video recordings based on the matching of seen and experienced touch described by neuroscientists. Some personal ‘map stories’ generate a possible agenda for the study of haptic cartographies, which includes: representations of cartographic tactility; 3D sensations; cartographic surfaces; the spatialities of maps; gestures, or maps as a touch space. This article is complemented by a photo essay available in the Society and Space open website at the URL

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Volume 37 Issue 1

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