Boom! There you are, dropped into Corvallis in a midnight HALO operation. The chute is packed away under an overgrown rhododendron bush and you are taking your first look at the town. You wander around a bit until you stumble across a friendly little bike shop tucked back in a strip mall. You walk in and ask if there are any local maps to be had. The owner points at a stack on the corner of the counter and offers you one. “Free?”, you ask. “Yup!”, he replies, “Compliments of the City!”
Now you have a map! You buy a fresh croissant from the French bakery near the bike shop and find a shady spot to study the map and consult the notes you took from Chapter 3 of Tradecraft. Let’s see… Mapping for missions involves three layers: the geographic layer, the social layer, and the spiritual layer. Your first priority, and the basis of the rest of the mapping process, is to get a handle on the geographic layer.
According to the book, there are five principle building blocks that define how people perceive and interact with a city. Paths are the routes people use to move from one place to another. Nodes are the interesting places where people come together, or intersections where people move through. Districts are areas of the city that have “perceived internal sameness”, or some common element that sets the area apart. Edges are the boundaries of the districts. Edges often limit the flow of people from one area to another, either because of physical reasons (barriers like rivers or freeways) or social reasons (barriers like class, language, ethnicity). Landmarks are those easily identified markers that are reference points for the community, helping with both navigation and community identity.
So, there you are – map in hand and a florescent rainbow of highlighters to begin noting the building blocks of the city. But, interesting. You see that there are dozens and dozens of paths, depending on what scale you are working at. Are you a pedestrian mapper, or a cyclist mapper, or a car-driving mapper, or a bus-riding mapper? You could zoom in on a half-mile radius of the shady spot you are sitting at, or you could zoom all the way out to the full city level, or even further to pick up the adjoining towns of Philomath and Adair Village. The paths could be the residential streets in the nearby neighborhood, or the main arterials, or the state highways. Same thing with nodes; they could be viewed at a range of different scales. The nodes could be the city park that seems to always have a bunch of families picnicing and playing, or the Memorial Union quad on the OSU campus, or the whole waterfront area on 1st Street. The districts could be the stately homes in the old College Hill area, or the whole town of Philomath. And so on. Clearly, the whole process could be done at every scale, depending on population density.
But, you have to choose what area you are going to map. There isn’t time to do the whole city. You smell the rich mixture of butter and sugar being vented from the French bakery, and remember the cool cargo bikes at the bike shop. Something like a one mile radius from this spot sounds just about right!