Mapping My Identity

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The above transit map is a map of my identity. I have thought about just focusing on one aspect of my identity for this project, but after much thinking I realized that I, like everyone else, am a very complex individual. I wanted the audience to get a broad but comprehensive understanding of me as an person. Hence the transit map. It encompasses various elements that come together to form the person that I am. Not only that, this map also depicts who I am in terms of choice – I could choose certain aspects of my identity, but other things were not for me to decide.

My decision to use a subway transit map to depict my identity stemmed from many different reasons. First, I love big urban cities and I love learning about different cities’ public transit system. It gives me great joy to become familiar with a city’s transit system, to get to familiar and unfamiliar places using the transportation. I feel the same way about myself, in a way. I love exploring and examining my identities. Also, transit maps in most cities are always developing. New stations are added onto preexisting lines, and new lines are constructed. Similarly, my identity is always developing. Maps “bear implicit promises of routes into and out of the unknown” (Harmon, 9) and I feel that this map does that, as it does not delve into details about my identities, and leaves the specifics up to the audience to figure out. Each station on the longer red or blue line represents crucial part of my identity, while the shorter lines that stem from these ‘identity stations’ on the longer lines are details about that specific identity. For some stations, I also do not understand their bigger implications, which also fits the unknown aspect of maps. Moreover, transit maps are used to describe the movement of the transportation system. Personally, my life  and my identities are always ‘in transit’. I would like to think that it is never still, and that it is constantly in motion.

The colours are significant in this map, as the colours of the lines have meaning in themselves. The red line is all the identities over which I did not have complete control. The lines that come out of the red line, in colours close to red, are also important aspects of my identity I did not get to choose. The blue line is elements of my identity that I had control over, and the lines coming out of the blue lines are also sub-categories of those identities I got to choose. Of course, there are things that I had some control over, but not complete control, which are illustrated through the map in the form of intersections. Details of these identities I depicted on the purple line, purple being the colour one gets when one mixes red and blue. The red line, which symbolizes identities I did not choose, is a straight horizontal line as I did not have the option of bending these identities to my accord. However, the blue line, symbolizing identities I chose, is more fluid and moves up and down, interweaving with the red line, representing the more flex nature of my chosen identities.

In a way, this is a remediation of transit maps, so I decided to make this map digitally as I wanted it to be a very similar remediation of an average transit map one would normally see. I thought that drawing it out by hand would hypermediate it, which I did not want. Furthermore, I made the map in Adobe Illustrator, which is a program I have very little experience with; I have only had experience with Photoshop and InDesign. Nonetheless, I love to explore new grounds and challenge myself, which is reflected in my choosing to use an unfamiliar program in successfully creating this map.

I realized a lot about identities while creating this map. For instance, mapping out the rough draft of the map, I felt confident in deciding what identities were completely under control or not under control. However, thinking more in depth about different identities and trying to physically place them on a map, I became aware that in a way, all these ‘identity stations’ can become intersections. Do I really have full control over choosing which friends I have? Did I really have full control in choosing my major and minor? Is my passion for art something I chose or was it something I am uncontrollably drawn to? There were moments in the creation process where I was confused and uncertain on where to place certain stations, and even now, all these stations could be challenged. Although this map made it much more easier for me to list my identities in a creative and an interesting way, it also felt limited in its structure. If I could revise this map, I would probably think more about my identities and where they belong on the subway lines. I would also add more aspects of my identity that I could have missed or developed, expanding the map further.

This map is supposed to be seen, rather than be read, which makes it more approachable to a wider audience. Particularly, as it is in the form of a transit map, which many people are familiar with, it may draw attention more easily than a written piece of work. I also appreciate how on first glance you are immediately drawn into exploring the map, which may be difficult to do with a big block of text. Through this map I wanted to express that identities are complex and it is not always up to us to decide who we are. The audience for this map is whoever’s interested in learning me beyond my name and major. There are ‘stations’ on this transit map that are self-explanatory, but there are others that may be good conversation starters, and I would love to have a conversation with anyone who’s interested in learning about me further.

Citations:

Harmon, Katherine and Gayle Clemans. The Map as Art: Contemporary Artists Explore Cartography.

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