(n) - a representation of all or parts of the earth's surface; a representation
(vt) - to make a map of; to plan

In what way does a symbolic map give meaning to a spatial or material body?

In distinguishing between the ritual view and the transmission or transportation metaphor for communication, James Carey defines communication itself as "a symbolic process whereby reality is produced, maintained, repaired, and transformed." The symbolic processes of language and communication can thus be seen as symbolic mappings, or imposed representations, that create, portray, and confirm a particular view of the world.

The theories on deconstruction of Jacques Derrida similarly position language as a system in which pure meaning is never inherent, present, or given, but constructed through a series of differences, or continually deferred from one signifier to another.

In both electronic and physical environments, space, time, and the body are given meaning through symbolic forms. On the notion of mapping meaning through language, or the way in which bodies move and write themselves into space, Mireille Rosello comments on Michel de Certeau's poetics of the relationship between a walker of the city and her or his surrounding urban environment, and then relates the browser of an electronic text to a traveler who navigates the space not of a physical environment but of weightless information.

Fredric Jameson likewise claims that our postmodern culture has become "increasingly dominated by space and spatial logic" and that this has both raised questions of temporal organization and resulted in an ahistorical superficiality and flatness. Such a sense of the postmodern pastiche and fragmentation of self in the electronic era posits the individual subject as unable to locate itself within and to map its relation to the surrounding external environment.

My site analysis on The Mapping of Desire at bianca's Smut Shack shows one example of a site on the Web that bases its interactivity and play upon a metaphorical map, one that embodies at once the space of the shack, the body of bianca, and the interplay of our own desires.

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Web page written and constructed by Laralynn Weiss, Georgetown University