Cartographies of Aging

The Cartographies of Aging have been created and are being stewarded by Jocelyn Yerxa (NS GovLab), Steeven Pedneault (PRÉSÂGES), Mo Drescher (Brave Space), and Rachel Derrah (Brave Space).  Our group has been working with the methodologies and practices of the GTDF collective for a couple of years and in January, we took a deeper dive into the work of the collective with Vanessa Andreotti for our personal development and for the advancement of our individual work on this journey of decolonization. One of the results is the creation of this project and creative social cartographies you find below. 

Creative social cartographies (CSCs) are visual tools that work with and through metaphors, analogies and words to sketch common pathways, intersections, sidewalks, crosswalks, curbs and ditches, as well as unexplored forests, waterways, quicksands and mountain ranges in collective cognitive, affective and relational landscapes. 

The cartographies invite us to take a distance from our opinions and desires in order to see them with healthy scepticism. Then we can ask where the opinions and desires come from, where they lead to, who decides, in whose name, for whose benefit, how come, how things could be imagined differently and what the limits of what we can imagine are. They also invite us to consider what could be gained (affectively and materially) from holding on to certain ideas, hopes, aspirations, perceived entitlements and forms of relationship, and what could also be blocked, invisibilized, lost or missed out in this process. 

This specific use of cartographies comes from a non-Western form of psychoanalysis and semiotics that places the spotlight on what is going on in our unconscious. Therefore, the cartographies are meant to draw our attention to our “socially sanctioned ignorances” and “constitutive foreclosures”: what we have to deny in order to continue to believe what we want to believe in, and to desire what we want to desire. However, they do not intend to take participants from A to B – to change their positions in a directed way. They do aim to shake things up a little by making hidden processes and gaps visible and to call us to accountability in our own contexts, without determining what this accountability entails. 

For this type for CSCs to be effective, they need to be created by people who have wrestled for a long time and who have a high degree of intimacy with the complexities, paradoxes, uncertainties, winds, ebbs and eddies of a specific field of work. With the CSCs of Aging, each of us brings different perspectives/experiences and collectively we have been wrestling with the complexities and paradoxes of aging and population aging for more than 10 years. The pedagogical use of CSCs should not be confused with knowledge harvesting in a specific field (where a large group of people is asked to construct a shared vision), which is a methodology that comes from a different paradigm and set of normative affective investments. In this case, these cartographies should not be seen as harvests of our collective knowledge. Cartographies of aging are tools to start conversations about how we approach aging within western culture in general, and more specifically in our context in North America.  We do this in the hopes that we can begin to identify these narratives in ourselves, so we might push ourselves and those we work with to imagine a different future. 

As you engage with the CSCs bellow, please remember that social cartographies are pedagogical tools that are not meant to describe reality comprehensively and universally, nor predict the future, but to draw attention to processes and dynamics that are often actively avoided and to expand our capacity for difficult conversations where relationships do not fall apart.

Process of creating cartographies
The cartographies on aging that we have created are focused heavily on narratives of what a person’s life course is “supposed” to be like.  What path we are heavily influenced to take and the underlying messaging that comes along with that.  Both cartographies are using a curved shape as the messaging around growth and decline are deeply connected with the narratives about “the path” we are meant to take.  The images refer to a Western (neo)liberal imagination that is dominated by normative messages about how life is meant to “progress”.

 

The Path of Life 

This cartography is more internally or personally focused.  In this recording you will hear Mo Drescher, Jocelyn Yerxa and Steeven Pedneault talk about each of the frames.  We invite moments of reflection where you can pause the video before continuing.  At the end we offer you the opportunity to use the final frame for you to draw connections and map the narratives and stories that are relevant in your context. You can download the frames here.

 

The Mountain of Entitlement

This cartography is more focused on dominant narratives of success and achievement.  In this recording, you will hear Rachel Derrah, Steeven Pedneault and Jocelyn Yerxa talk about each of the frames.  We invite moments of reflection in this video as well where you can pause as you feel necessary.  You can download the full cartography here.

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