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Colección: La Educación
Número: (119) III
Año: 1994

Introduction

How might educational researchers enhance the presentation of their findings, particularly when their findings focus on the diffusion of heterogeneous orientations? In this study, we are concerned with developing in our comparative discourse a visual dialogue as a way of communicating how we see social changes developing in the world around us. Visual images, depicting on the two-dimensional surface of paper or screen the researcher’s perceived application, allocation, or appropriation of social space by social groups at a given time and in a given place, offer such an opportunity. Mapping social space is similar to both cognitive mapping and geographic cartography. Social cartography is created through “a process composed of a series of psychological transformations by which an individual acquires, codes, stores, recalls, and decodes information about the relative locations and attributes of phenomena in . . . [the] everyday geographical environment.”1 This process consists of “aggregate information ...acquisition, amalgamation, and storage” producing a product which depicts space peculiar to a point in time. Applied to education, social maps help present and decode immediate and practical answers to the perceived locations and relationships of persons, objects and perceptions in the social milieu. The interpretation and comprehension of both theoretical constructs and social events can then, we contend, be facilitated and enhanced by mapped images.2

Figure 1 summarizes the use of a wide variety of conceptual mapping perspectives that have appeared in the human sciences during the past several decades.3 While these perspectives are framed in a variety of epistemological assumptions, from the mimetic to the intertextual, they all seek to portray disciplinary phenomena—i.e., minds, texts, ideas—as variously interrelated mapped images. Cognitive perspectives, for example, have been used to map mental space. Semiotic approaches have been used to map rhetorical space. Social perspectives have charted out perceived social positions and relations, and so forth. These perspectives are, of course, overlapping and not discrete. The point is that the utility of conceptual mapping as a secondary discourse style in the human sciences has been well demonstrated, yet mostly ignored by educational researchers. It will be our task here to selectively appropriate rationales and examples from this earlier conceptual mapping experience and reinscribe them in our critical postmodern mapping project.