Listening to the Tube Map: Rhythm and the Historiography of Urban Map Use

Hornsey, R. (2012) Listening to the Tube Map: Rhythm and the Historiography of Urban Map Use. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 30 (4). pp. 675-693. ISSN 0263-7758 Available from:

[img] Microsoft Word - Accepted Version
PDF - Accepted Version

Publisher's URL:


This paper is in two parts. In the first half, I consider the challenge posed by the recent performative turn in critical cartography to the urban historical geographer. If maps come into being only within the diverse moments of their use, then how can we compensate for the absence of such events within the historical archive? Building on Tim Ingold’s work, I suggest that one approach is to make an analogy between printed maps and musical scores, as decentred technologies whose instructions for performance are always mediated by environmental contingencies and the historical particularities of their performers. Returning a map to its original setting and ‘listening’ to the rhythms inscribed within it might enable us to uncover the specific spatial practices it once sought to produce. I then consolidate this approach via a study of Harry Beck’s 1933 map of the London Underground. By locating it within the rhythmic dynamics of interwar London, I uncover the Tube Map’s covert cybernetic impulse; in gesturing towards its own redundancy, it proffered a mode of cartographic practice that might impel the user toward an environmental docility that accorded with the dynamics of monopoly capitalism. Beck’s map thus stands revealed as a watershed technology within attempts to orchestrate twentieth-century urban life.

Item Type:Article
Uncontrolled Keywords:cartography, rhythmanalysis, musical scoring, mobility, London Underground, cybernetics
Faculty/Department:Faculty of Arts, Creative Industries and Education > School of Art and Design
ID Code:17188
Deposited By: Dr R. Hornsey
Deposited On:24 Aug 2012 08:51
Last Modified:03 Dec 2016 14:09

Request a change to this item

Total Document Downloads in Past 12 Months

Document Downloads

Total Document Downloads

More statistics for this item...