In Conversation - About Deep Maps and Deep Mapping
Claire Boardman[i] interviews Erin Kavanagh, 2021
Claire Boardman: Okay, I think we're going, right, brilliant. I feel like I should welcome you again, Erin: Thank you for joining this conversation today...
Erin Kavanagh: ... Zooming from my car in the middle of Lampeter!
Claire Boardman: The times we live in! Okay, I'm going to jump straight in then if that's okay? So, question one: how did you first come across the deep mapping concept, and how would you describe it?
Erin Kavanagh: Hmmm. 'How would *I* describe it' is the key here because deep mappers often have disagreements about how they would describe it, which is part of the joy because deep mapping resists clear definition. It's commonly taken, though, to be a folding of site specific representations that go beyond any one single account.They're usually conceptual, rather than an actual cartographical map (although it can be an actual map), they bring together a multiplicity of perspectives. So, what Les Roberts, in his excellent book on deep mapping, calls "an embodied and reflexively immersion" which I love because it's a little bit like being inside a trench where you can't see the sky anymore and you're just immersed in the stratigraphy. That's a little like deep mapping.
Umm, and I first encountered it on the very campus and which I am now parked, whilst an undergraduate at Lampeter in about 1994.
Claire Boardman: Wow.
Erin Kavanagh: I'm that old. It really was an 'encounter' too, in that it was both aleatoric and ultimately designated an effect that is still becoming. It hasn't stopped thing-ing either, forging new contact zones for me, with me - and we're, what 28, 29 years later? So that's pretty potent stuff, but annoyingly I can't accurately pinpoint the exact place event in which the very first encounter came about, it was more of *laughs* more of an assemblage... How ironic.
What I do recall, is leaning into multiple conversations in Pooh's Corner, which was the Student Union cafe. Everything eventful passed through there, and these particular conversations were between the two infamous Michaels (Shanks and Pearson) and Cliff McLucas. Although, I didn't know that was who they were at the time because, ironically, the archaeology department was the only faculty with which I didn't do a module for my undergraduate degree. An interdisciplinary undergraduate degree, before such things could formally exist, scrabbled together under the banner of Philosophy, across multiple departments - just not archaeology, even though it was the most dominant subject there at the time. I knew archaeology students, of course, but their inner world was pretty inaccessible for the rest of us. Getting out to theatre events was also out of reach if you didn't have transport (that much hasn't changed), so these three thinkers were beyond my daily range.
I'd learned early on, though, that if you lurked in Pooh's (or Goth) Corner eventually interesting stuff would happen. It was like a miniature Arts/Humanities portal in there, with a touch of Science, plastic chairs and endless filter coffee. That was therefore where wranglings across disciplines would occur, mixing up the expertise to tackle shared questions.
Around the same period, I was regularly discussing how to blend scholastic and artistic inquiry with natural magic, myths, and performance inside an emerging Neo Pagan construct - having founded the first Neo Pagan Student Society, which maintained very healthy debates about representation. Thus, this sort of multi-layered element, full of contestations, kept coming up and leaching into my academic work. This mostly focused on intense discussions with my close friend, the late Ioan Einion, in a little cottage in the wilds of Tregaron. Ioan was influenced by the same material as Pearson, McLucas, and Shanks, so I had that privilege by proxy. Plus, he was a Taliesin scholar, so that was immensely helpful.
Then in 1995 Ioan took me to the theatre for my birthday, and that production was Tri Bywyd[i], Three Lives, by Brith Gof[ii] - the ultimate archaeology of theatre, in the middle of the woods - and that was the place event in which it all coalesced: 12th of October 1995, Esgair Fraith, surrounded by scaffolding and animatronic dead sheep (which I believe were borrowed from Welsh National Opera). There was a fusion of the site specific, space/place, fact/fiction politics, economics, memory, representation, loss, bilinguallity etc etc. It was contested heritage on a stage with we, as the audience, bearing witness. It just blew my mind. It was also very, very, cold!
What I don't recall, though, is the term 'deep mapping' ever being mentioned in any of the discussions about it. I'd read Prairy Earth[i] of course, in 1991, as an A' level student (because I was pretentious like that - I've mellowed since - honest), so the notion of a 'deep map' existed in my mind as a written 'thing' which fascinated me. Hermann Hesse, The Glass Bead Game, is another tome that's very much in that nondisciplinary ilk. Both were in a form that was distinct from the archaeology of theatre though, which is what I was seeing happening in Wales as well as eavesdropping upon. It's only only now, being brought to think this far back, that I can see how my current work (which is about separating the process of deep mapping from the result of the deep map) was perhaps informed by this environment, albeit unintentionally. Does that make sense? The deep map was one thing that I associated with really thick books, and then deep mapping with this contested space. An heritage action, rather than a textual thing?
So that, yeah, that was my first encounter, when it was all very, very much beginning.
Claire Boardman: That's amazing, and it's really interesting that you said it kind of blew your mind, that there was 'a moment': it was not, and then it was - because that's exactly what happened to me at TAG 2015 in Bradford when I saw your work. I saw The Bridge, and it was just like that; it's like: "Oh, okaaaay." You know, it's like "wow, there is another way, there are other ways to understand and express an experience". So that's really fascinating I think - and once you're got, you're got, you know?
Erin Kavanagh: *Laughs* Yeah, and some people just never get it.
Claire Boardman: Absolutely.
Erin Kavanagh: And I quite envy them. *Both laugh* Because once deep mapping's got you it doesn't let you go.
Claire Boardman: It doesn't, does it. It really doesn't, and one day day we'll figure out why it got us, we will figure that out!
Erin Kavanagh: I do have a theory on that: I think it's iabout equity. If you're interested in, or you're driven by, intellectual equity and thoroughly exploring concepts, especially if you have very little (at least, in my case) respect for orthodox boundaries - personal boundaries, very much yes, but subject boundaries? Class boundaries? Not so much, they're an artificial construct. Then, deep mapping just makes sense.
Claire Boardman: I can relate to everything you just said.
Erin Kavanagh: It's just fair, isn't it.
Claire Boardman: And logical in the sense of, like you say, those are false boundaries and and for me in many ways they inhibit seeing something clearly.
Erin Kavanagh: Yeah, I fully get that these boundaries are needed for funding lines and teaching mandates. They are important - but they don't suit all of us and I don't see why we should be excluded from intellectual activity just because we can't sit inside one particular rigid frame.
Claire Boardman: Absolutely. As an analyst, in my background as a designer, I can't because part of the design is taken away, I can't have those gaps, I have to find out what's in those different disciplines. I have to see the whole picture. Otherwise I'm acutely aware that things are missing.
Erin Kavanagh: Exactly. People keep saying to me "oh, you're a big picture thinker, you're a BIG picture thinker" which always makes me laugh because I feel like I'm drowning in detail.
Claire Boardman: Same!
Erin Kavanagh: It's that old Fox and Hedgehog binary: who knows a lot about not very much, that'll be me, who knows a lot about one particular thing, oh they'll be the professors... ha ha, that's not me. But I think that we're needed when expansive thinking is called for, and it particularly suits those of us who are neurodivergent because we think in non-conventional ways. When you've got a disabled body or neuro divergent mind (which is not the same thing as a disabled mind) then you have to be creative and flexible and think in innovative ways because you have to find workarounds for things that other people don't even notice, and it seems that our world needs alternative perspectives because the usual 'rigour' isn't working.
Claire Boardman: Absolutely, absolutely.
Claire Boardman: Just thinking about your Layers in the Landscape[i] project, why did you choose deep mapping for that. Which came first?
Erin Kavanagh: *Laughs* I genuinely don't know. Fantastic question, which I'm not sure I really have an answer to because Layers in the Landscape came out of my Master's thesis, Of Myth and Man[ii], which in turn came out of my undergraduate dissertation 20 years earlier, which was on The Golden Bough. I was concerned with the tension between the philosophy of language, antiquarian approaches to myth, epistemology, intellectual ethics, and myth itself as applied to medieval Welsh literature. I haven't really resolved those questions yet - my apologies to Rocky, Rockinghamgill, who was Head of Philosophy back then and wasn't really impressed with my interest in this area (it didn't conform to what Dave Walford used to dismissively call 'the protestant imaginings of truth' *Laughs*). Deep mapping is a (sort of) method that allows for impertinent questions, it allows for non-denominational enquiry.
So when I was trying to decide what to do my second dissertation on, in environmental archaeology, I had lots of choices - including the normal directions - again I just happened to go to the theatre and it was for a two day immersive retelling of Y Pedair Cainc, curated by Peter Stevenson and held Aberystwyth Art Centre[iii]. Again, this Aberystwyth/Lampeter dynamic was in play. I was immediately reminded of Shanks and Pearson, the whole blending of voices and art forms to communicate these unstable narratives of land and landscape. Bendigeidfran's crossing to Ireland had particularly caught my attention because it mentions trees and the sea, and I'd been doing some dendrochronology with Rod Bale and learned about the submerged forests between Liverpool Bay and South Wales, and so it all aligned in my head with a 'but what if the story is actually true...?' Supported by the many varied ways in which the melee of storytellers were approaching this one text. And it was a similar feeling to the one I had at Tri Bywyd, which I'd pretty much forgotten about. I had recently re-encountered the work of the late anthropologist Robert Ascher[iv], though, who did deep mapping through solo camera work, which I'd found to be an ethically focused type of mythic inquiry. Again, something that the front of my mind had forgotten about but which was clearly working away for years in the background. Maybe, I'm just a slow thinker...
Whilst I was at this this event, I met the wonderful filmmaker Jake Whitaker, and somehow we ended up making an exploratory short film about just three lines of Bendigeidfran text, with contributions by a couple of long suffering others - and that was how about Y Bont,[v]The Bridge, came about.
I then took that around conferences all over the place, including TAG, mixing up the disciplines and countries in which it was presented to test out my interdisciplinary theory, hone my skills, etc. And everywhere it went, it worked - which was curious. I was genuinely improvising as I went along, learning how on the job and in particular taking note of how science and stories faced off against one another. Concluding that there was clearly much more to this idea than just, you know, a master's dissertation that - yet again - the examiners didn't much like! It's been bizarrely well read and cited since, but it wasn't a popular with the usual crowd because it was archaeological theory and Lampeter was working very hard to forget its astounding legacy in that area.
But, that just made me more determined, as these things do, and I was eager to explore how disciplinary boundaries could be transcended in practice to serve a multiplicity of agendas, with the minimum of effort.
Really, how can you do one thing and hit 10 points?! Yeah, so that's deep deep mapping who does that.
So I hoiked it around various PhD funders, all of whom fainted in horror at the notion. Apparently, it was too radically interdisciplinary, where would the funding go? Who could possibly supervise this? Who woud lead? How could it be achieved?! And so on and so forth. That was in total contrast to all the potential supervisors I approached, who were unanimously behind it. I kept being told that I was ahead of my time, but that was clearly nonsense because I was twenty years late!
I despaired, to be honest.
Then a number of people told me, all at once in the space of a couple of days, about The Independent Social Research Foundation[vi], and they had a call out for small projects that dealt with big subjects, and they specifically wanted things - and people - that nobody else would fund.
Well, that's me - and it was also definitely Layers in the Landscape.
I shall remain forever in their debt.
As much as anything, they weren't afraid of something that was concerned with process over product, that was about learning-about-the-learning rather than having everyone conform to a final output.
With the resulting freedom, I was therefore able to stress the point that the attention was on what happens when you bring contested voices together, and you film them so that nobody can escape what was said, did, agreed to, etc. The question then was, what happens? Do we get what is believed to happen, that science has the only compelling truth and no other positions are as valuable, or do we actually get equity - an incredibly rich multi-vocality?
Well, you get an incredibly rich multi-vocality.
Claire Boardman: And just demonstrating, without a doubt, that all these disciplines - the art, the science, the social science, etc, can sit together and are very good bedfellows when you do have the right sort of structure to allow them to do that.
I know that I've heard you once say about how it opens up and holds open a space for all these different voices without putting one above the other.
Erin Kavanagh: Yep; without prejudicing hierarchies.
Claire Boardman: That's it, exactly that. A structure like that is exactly what's needed to achieve that, regardless of format or media, etc, but that for me was the crux. So I was just wondering, following on from that: as you were using a deep mapping approach on that project, did you, or/and how did you change it at all?
Erin Kavanagh: Yeah... I deliberately didn't revisit the literature. *Confession:* I hadn't even read Theatre/Archaeology or In Comes I. I just rewatched Ascher's films such that I was standing in his space, using deep mapping as a framework for free thinking, rather than as a prescriptive formula - consciously not engaging with the local legacy. Some distance was required. It was essential to be very careful in following my gut morality about intellectual equity and the power of nesting narrative. It consequently went heavily in my favour that this was not a doctorate, as it turned out, so I didn't have a thousand hoops to jump through and justifications to make that would have completely screwed up the natural unfolding. The ISRF just paid, set a deadline, and left me to it. Old school! Marvelous.
Of course, this was all on the premise that I'd examine the results afterwards, and report back. In that way, it was akin to directing an improvised script, adopting a very hands off approach, quietly leading everyone to do something without the comfort blanket of a storyboard. My main job was therefore just to keep the egos under control, offer encouragement, and seek a final cut that gave equal airtime. It didn't matter whether the hypothesis was proven right, or wrong, it was - as you say - about holding space, rather than dictating it, trusting that the individuals chosen were capable of pulling something amazing out of the water. Which all of them did, eventually.
This meant that I spent a lot of time reiterating the rules and then being irritatingly non-commital: it wasn't my place to decide what each combination did, they were the experts. They each had the same chunk of money and it was up to them how much they gave into that, and how. I just had to reinforce the rules and then keep out of the way.
The first rule was that each player was to work directly with at least one other member of the team. That's not merely work from, like drawing the action for example, or work at like making material for a second order respondent to utilise, like being the action that is drawn. But actively work in conjunction, sharing the spade as it were.
That was important.
Secondly, that which should could be empirically verified had to be empirically verified, otherwise it would be just another mess. Respect the facts.
Thirdly, that which could not be empirically verified was allowed to wander imaginatively. These were the stories. Respect the fictions.
What you end up with is that facts act like the scaffolding on Brith Gof's set, and then the fictions become the players weaving in and out of that.
The fourth and final rule, was that differences of opinion were to be embraced - because what often happens in interdisciplinary attempts is that you get a grey soup of agreement. The soup might appeal to a funder who wants a single answer, and it's certainly easy to publish, but it doesn't further the topic in any way because it just means that one person has dominated everybody else (and because they're usually the one who is highest paid, in these sorts of situations that is rarely going to be the artist...). Each contribution is crucial, but they don't carry joint weight. That's not helpful.
To counter this possibility, I deliberately chose people with very robust senses of self. What organisational psychologist Adam Grant calls 'disagreeable people'[i] - in the best possible way! That way I knew that none of them were going to be easily bowled over by anybody else, and they all knew each other such that there were unchanneled avenues already apparent, which I'd tested out in a year-long performance pilot. None of Layers was casually thrown together, each step and nanostep was very carefully laid. This culminated in a broad mix in which I, and the location, were the only common denominators.
The key, was Jake[ii] - who is possibly the most patient person ever, capable of being unobtrusive whilst shoving a camera in your face, a camera that captured everything. Including stuff we all said we didn't say! There was, is, a lot extraneous footage.
It was only afterwards, once we had the final cut, that I turned to the deep mapping literature. I was fully prepared for it to not match.To be able to say 'look this isn't deep mapping, so what have we done?If this is a different sort of interdisciplinary practice, then what is it?' Only then did I read Bodenhamer, Biggs, et al. Then I could see exactly where Layers had matched Cliff's ten tenants: it was identical.
Now, I hadn't explained any of this to any of the team: they had just done the thing - including Jake, who did most of the heavy lifting. I merely came in and directed the final editing - and I could barely believe what I was seeing. It was exactly what Cliff said, point by point, in an article that I believe never got published for Planed magazine. Extraordinary affirmation.
Claire Boardman: That was fascinating.
Erin Kavanagh: So; your question: it wasn't that I changed it and it wasn't that I followed it. It was that if done right, it happens naturally.
Claire Boardman: Fascinating. I wonder if it's so innately human, that if you're prepared to go to that shared space, that it's an inevitability that you're going to find this wonderful complexity, if you allow it.
Erin Kavanagh: Absolutely. It's just that we're not usually allowed to allow it. Somebody always has a louder voice than somebody else - and I think that's why Layers works so well outside of the academy. When the film goes out to the WI, or wherever, people get it. They're only interested in little sections that appeal to them, but the method itself makes total sense because this is how life actually is. Most of us are juggling multiple different contesting, contrasting, things. They don't all meet neatly in sync following a tidy methodology in a perfect lab, that's just not how the world is. It's messy and interconnected, therefore people immediately recognize that. It isn't intimidatingly tidy. And, yes, you can theorize it with Karen Barad's interacting agencies and make it as sophisticated and situated in theoretical physics as you like, it doesn't (ha ha) matter, it'll still stand up.
But we get this balance kicked out of us early in the standard school system. We're told to specialize and that some specialities are better than others. Small voices aren't valued. Holistic thinking and expression are ground out of us, and I think deep mapping may have something to offer for pedagogical inquiry in this area, in a post/non-disciplinary capacity.
Claire Boardman: I agree, and I think for archaeology, especially. I think there was no space for it while GIS was dominating everything so anything to do with landscape inevitably had to be tied up somehow in some shape with it, the GIS, and that went on for years.
Erin Kavanagh: Well, yes. And there's a whole strand of deep maps that have adapted perfectly to the spatial and digital humanities. It's a little different to what I do, and there's a whole industry behind that that wants its pockets lining, but even there this theory has been applicable. It's not beyond being colonised.
Claire Boardman: Absolutely.
Erin Kavanagh: It's actually all really simple: you don't have to teach anything in isolation, because when you join things together, they make more sense and people learn them more thoroughly. This is not radical.
Claire Boardman: Because we see the world holistically.
Erin Kavanagh: Precisely. The ecological, social and political crisis that we are now so fully in the mire of is demanding this type of thinking more and more, and I have a hunch that deep mapping has something to offer. It's going to require other people to pick it up and run with it, but should certainly be part of the discussion.
Claire Boardman: That leads us quite nicely into my third question for you and you've already touched on several as we've been talking, but have you seen other projects using deep mapping? Perhaps if you can give an example of how somebody else did it differently?
Erin Kavanagh: Ha, well, it's become very popular recently, along with archaeopoetry and SciArt. I think its the first time in my life that I've been trendy! It wasn't deliberate. Maybe it's that old adage that if you hang around long enough eventually you become fashionable...
Deep mapping and deep maps are fantastically flexible though, such that providing one can make the initial leap out of one's comfort zone, it's got almost infinite possibilities. As a consequence, it actually has a broad appeal. Cue, lots of people picking it up and having a go, which is just fantastic -even when it's actually psychogeography! Psychogeography is an essential component of a deep map, and of deep mapping as praxis, but they're not the same thing - and I think it's important that people realise that. It's like when multi-disciplinarity gets conflated with inter, intra, or trans. They have different names because they are different things. Also, of course, deep mapping is not just about the human, the psyche, either.
Claire Boardman: Absolutely, I mean I would absolutely agree with that. I've got no further response to that one, I'm absorbing! A big hole in my thesis has just opened up.
Erin Kavanagh: *Laughs* Plan it, quick!
One stellar example of how to bridge these divisions is not too far from me, as the crow flies, in Pembrokeshire. Produced by SpanArts in Narberth it was initiated by Rowan O'Neill who actually did her Ph.D on Cliff, so if anyone's going to understand how to update the theory of producing a deep map, without loss of integrity, it's Rowan.
Now, they've created a virtual cartography called Digi Map Penfro[i]. It's essentially a work of participatory heritage that's developed into the most amazingly rich deep map, it's just wonderful. Funded by the Arts Council of Wales as part of the Span Digidol project, it involves quite a sophisticated piece of tech design by Alan Cameron Wills. People from anywhere in the world, in any language, can upload information about specific places in Pembrokeshire, pinning them in location. It's discreetly monitored but not externally curated as such, the users lead on the content which covers pretty much everything from memories, old photographs, place names, geology, natural history, aliens, folklore - as long as it's not obscene, it's in, including where there are arguments. Who you are, doesn't necessarily matter, you just need access to uploading the information - and that can be on your own device, or via an organised event with assistance. This is absolutely how to give the stage over to contested voices.
It began in Narberth, but it's crept out now throughout the whole county. It's many stranded, big, archival, argumentative, changing, and so on and so forth.
It's a masterclass really, on how to deep map in the 21st century.
Claire Boardman: Just to finish off, because we've been talking so long it's gone dark.
Erin Kavanagh: Do you like that I'm spotlit?! It's a little unsettling... For anyone who's actually bothered to read through to here, there's one streetlamp where I am at the back of student halls, and it's illuminating just my face inside my car. The rest of campus is in darkness all around. This touch of self-indulgent performativity was not planned! It was daylight when we began.
Claire Boardman: I can testify to that. Which takes us from Layers in the Landscape, to what's next - and what's that about? Have you used deep mapping since on other projects and how has it evolved, as you've evolved has it evolved?
Erin Kavanagh: Mmmm, I hadn't realized really how much it had infiltrated absolutely everything I do, and the way, I think, even the way I bought up and homeschooled my children. It is insidious because once you've experienced this multifaceted way of thinking, as we said before, other methods and modes are quite limited. Limitations are good, of course, they can be necessary, they can be a blessed relief. It can be lovely when somebody says no, no, you stay stay inside these lines. Great, yeah, get the colouring pens. And, as we said, they can make things easy to fund and deliver (I think there's probably an Adam Ant cartoon in that somewhere...).
But, but... we need to keep evolving, or we hold ourselves back.
Now the Layers project is more than just a video, or even a series of videos. There have been two exhibitions, community engagement, radio, a song, more contributions, publications, and so on and so forth. It's been to Canada, America, France, China, Ireland, Germany, Austria... it's not just a seventeen and a half minute film, or a poem about The King of the Sea Trees, it's a whole world - containing a lot of people. Moving on and away from that without actually abandoning it completely is its own challenge. Back to not staying in one's safe space, again. The premise is to evolve the thinking from this, otherwise I would be falling foul of the very problem I was attempting to escape. So what I took away from Layers, was the need to keep questioning.
This was bugging me, and then I came across a book by the late Mary Midgley, The Myths We Live By, where she posits the image of a murky aquarium, saying that "we peer into it from a number of small windows and if we insist that our own window is the only one worth looking through, we shall never see very far."[i]
This is essentially the philosophy that I've been running with. In apparently stable times, we can - as a collective - just about cope with the rigidity or one or two narrow and murky windows. But we're not in stable times; the aquarium is flooding.
So I'm still immersed in the theory of deep mapping, what Iain Biggs and Mary Modeen call a "creative mentalité"[i] because I'm compelled to wonder how we deal with this, how we can maybe see further, and innovations always require a creative attitude. Thus, I'm exploring howthe polite trespass[ii] of deep mapping (Biggs, again) can be applied to post/non-disciplinary interrogations of environmental awareness.
Again, I've focused on Cardigan Bay to convey this. I didn't intend to, but I live here so it made sense. To go elsewhere would have been to undermine the fundamental positionality. This time, though, I'm the only deep mapping human attempting to do what Haraway calls "staying with the trouble"[i]. Experimenting with a cat's cradle of discovery with the sea, developing a new myth in communication with an old one (remembering Ascher) but with water as my kith. This brings that tentacularity from Haraway, Stengers, De Pres, these amazing female intellectuals whose thinking demands a separation of the doing from the done, being cognizant about which stories story the storytelling, which is very much what applied philosophy is about anyway isn't it. I think this is also what interdisciplinarity often intends to achieve but so rarely manages because hierarchies don't much like being levelled, even inside one's own solo practice. They fight back. They also don't like attributing provenance outside of their own game plan, or being self-reflexive. Deep mapping doesn't really disrupt the status quo - although a deep map can/might/should, just to be confusing - but it does pivot within it. I suspect that we are obliged to pursue those possibilities when looking at climate dialogue, because the old methods aren't working. Nor are the old authorities, however good they are, or however well intentioned, we nonetheless face a problem of resistance in a whole host of ways. Instead of trying to barricade ourselves into safety with sea defenses and restricted education, we have to change our houses and our schools, and move. And if there's one thing that deep mapping does, it's adapt.
So that's where I've been throughout the pandemic, and where I'm being taken by deep mapping at the moment: into the process and away from the digital product as a construct within the spatial humanities. No small feat, although each step is tiny.
Claire Boardman: *Laughs*
Erin Kavanagh: So, what happens when you do this within your own practice is that you test your own boundaries, your own skill sets, and you push them (and yourself!) to breaking point rather than breaking other people. And you fail and flail, then you write that down (eventually). So I suspect that I've not really evolved much, I've just gone full circle along a spiraling serpent. Hopefully, that's not as depressing as it sounds, but we shall see.
Claire Boardman: Brilliant.I look forward to seeing where it goes, and I am absolutely convinced that these types of tools that you just said, are needed and we need more of them.
Erin Kavanagh: If the pandemic has taught us nothing, it's surely shown us that we've got to be be flexible, engaging with technology that is easy and accessible. Advancing the spec, not withdrawing from it. To help resolve a problem you don't run from it, you have to go deeper. And if you're teaching now whilst there are fewer and fewer jobs, you can no longer teach the same thing forever. We have to learn new subjects overnight, new skills. Deep mapping shows us how to not be afraid of that, how having all kinds of students, all kinds of temperaments and attitudes and backgrounds and economic positions enriches our intellectual pool.
Claire Boardman: I think another challenge with it, is that it is, we are, always in a state of becoming and
as researchers we need to embrace that. It's a different way of thinking very differently.
Erin Kavanagh: And it's slow. It's a slow residency in a previously fast world. Even these little epiphany moments that we've talked about that happen in an instant, they took a while getting there, mostly when we weren't looking.
One of the things that's happened with this current research, is that I work on the beaches with my mermaid dolls and people come up to investigate, and they tell me the King of the Sea Trees[i] story. But they tell me their own versions, and I'm always fascinated to listen to how it's shifted, how its remembered, and I never say "oh well, actually it was like this, not that..." The same applies when other academics don't credit the source. Instead, it's a case of acknowledging that this is where the tale has now gone, and that's grand. As long as it's out there, evolving, that's what matters. Nobody really ever owns a story.
Claire Boardman: That's brilliant.
Erin Kavanagh: That's the thing with site specific work, it's not about how it was made it, it's about the place it happened in. So, my argument at the moment is for deep mapping praxis as an open systems practice, to go back to your computer programming. The Academy has been a closed system and the walls are breaking down, so instead of wailing about it let us step through the cracks into the open space outside. Deep mapping gives us a structure to do that with.
Claire Boardman: Yes, yeah. Exactly. It somehow feels - I don't know - it feels like it was always there but rarely seen, or utilised.
Erin Kavanagh: I think all students should be taught 'inter'disciplinary theory and practice as part of a single systems degree, so that they mix with other students, other ways of thinking and other ways of problem solving. Like we had in Pooh's Corner. Not that we should be producing an army of organic intellectuals, but that there is at least an awareness of how ALL subjects are connected to one another, not just the obvious neighbours. Maybe a deep mapping exercise as part of that would be good - or maybe it would be impossible! I don't know yet, but I'd like to find out.
Claire Boardman: Yes! Ah, I've got so much process again. Every time I speak to you, or read you, I learn more and my view expands. There's a lot here to think about, I love it.
Erin Kavanagh: I hope that we haven't added too many chapters to your thesis...
Claire Boardman: *Laughs* I'm gonna hit the STOP button now.
[iv] Heat-Moon, W.L. 1991. PriaryErth: a Deep Map. Houghton Mifflin Company.
[vi] Kavanagh, K.E. 2015. Of Myth and Man: Essaying the Space-Between in Geomythological Theory. Available at https://www.geomythkavanagh.com/of-myth-man.
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