Counter-Mapping Shipping: Digital Joy and Digital Labor in Oceanic Social Media
The Oceans Lab, an interdisciplinary research and advocacy initiative, explores maritime issues across oceanic spaces. With a focus on themes of race, labor, inequality, climate change, migration, and geopolitics, the Lab seeks to unravel the complexities of our oceans, making them comprehensible through innovative approaches. One such approach is the creation of this map that aims to help bridge gaps between how scholars describe oceanic spaces and the voices of those that inhabit them.
Inspired by global maritime shipping maps like marinetraffic.com, the Oceans Lab’s map is not just about tracing the trajectories of cargo ships; it is about weaving together interdisciplinary oceanic scholarship with the voices of those who inhabit the seas. It seeks to represent the various voices and ideas that converge to define the concept(s) of the ocean(s) from what may initially appear to be blank cartographic space. In the spirit of counter-mapping, we invite creators, scholars, and seafarers to use our submit button in order to actively participate in redefining how we perceive and understand oceanic spaces.
Counter-mapping, at its core, seeks to provide alternative perspectives and representations that challenge dominant power structures and dominant narratives (Peluso 1995). This ever-evolving map thus recognizes that the ocean is not just a backdrop for the global commerce represented on standard shipping maps, but a vibrant and dynamic space shaped by human experiences.
In addition to showcasing the multifaceted nature of oceanic life, the map brings to the fore the concept of digital labor and attention economies. In the digital age, content creation and the curation of online personas have become forms of labor, often underestimated and overlooked. Those at sea who engage in social media share not only their experiences participating in the shipping economy, but also contribute to the attention economy. In addition to including these digital contributions in scholarly conversations, the map hopes to open up questions about this digital labor, underscoring the importance of recognizing it within the broader context of oceanic scholarship.
Send us your name, a short essay, a short story, a photo, a video, or a link to a social media post related to the sea or maritime issues (TikToks at sea are welcome, as are research essays!). We aim to fill our map with “stories from the sea” of all kinds.