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Mapping Fictional Cultures

Undine Inferno We

Course Integrated:

  • FSEM 149 – Mapping Culture: Identity and Fictional Space


  • Eric Klaus, Associate Professor of German
  • Deborah Rasmussen, Digital Learning Consultant, IT Services
  • Stanley Weaver, Digital Learning Consultant, IT Services
  • Rob Beutner, Digital Learning Consultant, IT Services
  • Michael Hunter, Research & Instruction Librarian
  • Caroline Carr, William Smith College, '17
  • Juliet Habjan‐Boisselle, Director of Digital Learning, IT Services

Goals and Objectives:

  • To build a map in order to demonstrate how space contributes to the construction of culture.

Students created maps of the fictional spaces to answer the question: What role does geography play in the construction of culture? Geography, whether geographic formations, different regions and climates, or communities (urban, suburban, rural), is a reference point to the past (Normandy, Waterloo, Gettysburg), which means we use these places to ascribe meaning to our world.

In addition, other characteristics – the proximity or distance between objects and geographic features; the presence or absence of objects or geographic features affects how people view their world, others, and their own place in the world. The students used this opportunity to display their creativity and to explore the interplay of space and culture.

Digital Toolkit:

  • iPads for students to use when building their maps
  • PhotoShop Touch for students to create images of their fictional worlds
  • ArcGIS to plot the PhotoShop Touch images into geographic space and integrate images and text into the maps

Digital Learning Team Role:

  • Initial meetings and advising on how the task should be structured and which digital tools should be used
  • Demonstration and training in using the digital tools
  • Support and guidance through map­‐making process
  • Aid in identifying and storing stock images that students could use in their maps

Student Feedback:

Students enjoyed the process greatly and displayed their talents in the way they recreated fictional spaces. The majority of students also commented on how the map-making process helped them to understand how space factors into the creation of culture. In the dystopian novel We, the city of OneState forbids any action or thought that deviates from the state’s doctrine, and this is reflected in the geography of that world:

"The green wall keeps the citizens of OneState away from the wild outside, it also prevents the culture from growing. OneState is closed in by the green wall keeping any foreign mentalities at bay, preventing the citizens from growing their collective memories."


Preparing Students to Lead Lives of Consequence.