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Why I wrote… Mapping Society

Posted on September 25, 2018 by Alison Fox

Today’s guest post is by Professor Laura Vaughan, author of Mapping Society(published today), editor of Suburban Urbanities, and Professor of Urban Form and Society at the prestigious Bartlett School of Architecture.

The inception of Mapping Society was over quarter of a century ago, whilst sitting in a seminar room at UCL while studying for my Master’s in Advanced Architectural Studies and seeing Charles Booth’s maps of poverty. The period of the early 1990s was a time when Bill Hillier, the founder of the field of space syntax, was developing his conception of the city as a ‘movement economy’. By identifying a phenomenon of ‘marginal separation by linear integration’, Hillier was using the historical map not only as a source of information on how cities worked in the past, but also as source of inspiration for building a broad theory of how cities work in general.

A few months after my first introduction to the Booth map I was browsing in the Hebrew and Jewish Studies section of UCL library and came across a fragile book from 1901, with an even more fragile map inside: the map of Jewish East London, 1899. Looking at the way the map, with its shadings of blue from light to dark, was used to accentuate the density of Jewish immigrant settlement in the area, immediately struck me as showing some fundamental spatial regularities beyond simply being a ghetto – as it was known then.

In fact, this book reflects two decades of enquiry into the spatial nature of society, with a specific focus on the detailed patterning of social patterns as these are laid out in historical maps. Going beyond placing the data on the map to a deeper analysis of the geographical patterning of the data allows the researcher to pose a variety of questions: regarding the spatial character of the urban setting, regarding whether social data of a single type have spatial characteristics in common, and – in general – to control for spatial effects when analysing social patterns.

For me, the Booth maps have become the quintessential starting point when exploring the relationship between the spatial organisation of cities and how societies take shape over time. This book does so by taking maps of social statistics and developing a close reading of the maps themselves as well as the context within which they were created. A side product of this inquiry has been the discovery of the extent to which social cartography is frequently used not only as a tool for communicating information on patterns of settlement, but also for other purposes: for propaganda, to collate evidence or to support scientific argumentation. The use of social maps as an analytical device is less prevalent and this book will show how a reading of the spatial patterns captured by such maps can reveal some fundamental rules about how cities work according to a specifically spatial logic of society.

Ultimately this book’s ambition is to demonstrate how an interdisciplinary reading of social maps can provide a richer understanding of how society and urban spatial systems interact with each other. Thus, phenomena such as segregation can only be fully understood once we take account of a wide variety of factors, including economic, political, social as well as spatial context – and all this in addition to the changes that cities and their inhabitants undergo over time.

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Author Experience: Nick Piercey

Posted on June 28, 2018 by Alison Fox

Today’s guest post is by Nick Piercey, author of  Four Histories about Early Dutch Football 1910–1920: Constructing Discourses , Post-Doctoral Research Associate in Sport History in the Department of Exercise and Sports Science at Manchester Metropolitan University and an Honorary Research Associate in UCL’s Department of Dutch in the UCL School of European Languages, Culture & Society.

In September 2016, my first book Four Histories about Early Dutch Football 1910–1920: Constructing Discourses was published by UCL Press and 3 years after the first books were published I am delighted that my work is a very small part  of the nearly 1,000,000 UCL Press downloads from around the world. I am equally delighted that I have been given the opportunity to briefly reflect on my experiences of publishing with UCL Press with these milestones in view. As the figure suggests, the first 3 years have met with great success and to have such a large number of downloads is testament to the great work the team at UCL Press have put in. Indeed, my abiding memories of the process of publishing a book (if I ignore the sudden insecurities and panic over where to put commas) is the support given by each member of the team from proposal to publication. As a first-time author, the process of publishing research was initially daunting, however, at each stage of the process, members of the UCL Press team were on hand to ensure that mini-panics and concerns did not erupt into a full-blown crisis. It seems fitting to me that I should finally get the chance to thank Chris, Alison and Jaimee by name for their help in a way that I could not do in my book (I blame the publishing deadline!)

Beyond the personal support the team offers before, during and after publication, I believe that UCL Press’s new model of Open Access Publication is something that all academics should welcome. Looking back on a blog I wrote in 2016, I remain as convinced now as I was then that UCL Press’s commitment to freely accessible, innovative, world-leading publications is something that will revolutionise academic publishing. Hopefully more universities and presses will see the benefit of making new knowledge available to all and providing young scholars with a path to publication. From a personal perspective, the opportunity to publish my work in both Open Access and low-cost hard copies has allowed my ideas to spread much further and faster than they would have done with a traditional academic publishing model. In a time when academic quality is often measured by metrics and statistics, being able to demonstrate that my work has been viewed around the world in sizable numbers is a significant advantage. As more universities and funding bodies require research to appear in an Open Access format, to have a book published by UCL Press that fulfils these requirements is also enormously beneficial (having a ‘free book’ is also a pretty useful thing at conferences too!)

It is, I think, not often that such ambitious projects can provide both practical results and remain focused on providing a personal service, which can ensure that new research and researchers find their voice. I hope that I can be part of this in the future and contribute towards the next 1,000,000 downloads.

Author Bio

Nick Piercey is a Post-Doctoral Research Associate in Sport History in the Department of Exercise and Sports Science at Manchester Metropolitan University and an Honorary Research Associate in UCL’s Department of Dutch in the UCL School of European Languages, Culture & Society.

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