Are Maps Surveillance?
Maps showing flows of refugees and asylum seekers into Europe have become familiar elements of the news. These maps, with their circles and arrows, impose a kind of collective surveillance on people and define them as problematic.
Maps showing flows of refugees and asylum seekers into Europe have become familiar elements of the news. The news media, as well as governmental organisations and NGOs, commonly use these maps, with their circles and arrows, to visualise immigration. Paul Adams of the ViSmedia team argues this visualisation imposes a kind of collective surveillance on people and defines them as problematic.
Mapping derives from, but also supports, the practices and relationships that allow data on refugees and asylum seekers to be systematically gathered. Neither a particular technology nor a set of technologies define this sort of cartographic surveillance; it depends on a wide range of different technologies.
What defines this surveillance is a particular kind of relationship between supra-state entities (the EU and the Schengen Area) and certain individuals (refugees and asylum seekers), in which the surveillance practices and the resulting visualisations (migration maps) stand as a collective response to the geographical movement of bodies, whose territorial status is uncertain.
Therefore, migration maps in the news demonstrate not only the participation of journalism in a kind of surveillance regime but also the visualisation of this surveillance regime in news sources and elsewhere through a particular graphic language.
Adams, Paul C. 2019. Mapping the Influx: Cartographic Responses to Europe’s Refugee Crisis. In: Media’s Mapping Impulse, eds. Chris Lukinbeal, Laura Sharp, Elisabeth Sommerlad and Anton Escher. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag.