Delphine Papin

"Infographics simplifies the world, but at the same time, avoid being too simplistic"

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Delphine Papin studied geography at the Institut français de géopolitique of University of Paris 8. After a PhD in geopolitics, She worked for a show called “Le dessous des cartes” (The underside of the maps), broadcasted on the french-german TV ARTE, where She learned how to tell stories only through maps. Working at Le Monde infographic and cartographic department since 2008, She took its head in 2015, and manage today a team of 15 visual-journalists, including cartographers, illustrators, statisticians, geographers, researchers… 

Your definition for “infographics”
To simplify the world, but, at the same time, to avoid being too simplistic. Which sounds better in French “Simplifier sans être simplificateur”.

Which are your obligatory references?
I have learned how to look at the world with Yves Lacoste, a great French geographer who founded the French School of Geopolitics (Ecole française de géopolitique) and the journal Hérodote, after the Greek historian who “drew” one of the first geography of the known world. Yves Lacoste’s approach is to explain how the political players tell their own stories about the territories they live in, or which they contest. In this view, human subjectivity is as important as the objective facts and data used to understand the world. From there, I started to use the maps to tell the stories of differents territories, instead of organize data in space (or spatialize the data). As a French cartographer, I have also been influenced by the inescapable work of Jacques Bertin about graphic and cartographic semiology. Last but not least, I am particularly fond of Philippe Rekacewicz’s work : his pencil-drawn map – often enraged, always committed – are mind striking.

Do you have any particular goal to face in 2020 interns of visualization?
Over the past years, we worked with a prominent national museum, the MuCem (Museum of the civilizations of Europe and the Mediterranean sea) in Marseille. We create a series of maps for the temporary exhibition “Le temps de l’île” (Island’s time). This series is composed by ten cartographic triptychs. Each triptych represents two scales of an island, one of each devoted to an island which is an example of major geopolitical issues (migrations, globalization, financial networks, political resistance…). The middle part of the triptych is the key, withdrawn from the map, and reintroduced in a short text, in the way one can find into children’s books. The work about islands we produced for this exhibition has also been deepen and extended in a 196 pages special edition, “Géopolitique des îles en 40 cartes” (40 maps to understand islands’ geopolitics”).

Graphics departments at newspapers are evolving. Now they work on more complicated, polyhedric assignments, including different tools and narratives. More than a traditional piece of graphics… from this trend? Where our craft is focusing at?
Le Monde published its first map on 8th august 1945, on its front-page : hand-drawn, it showed troop movements over the Vercors plateau. 

Le Monde has always had an infographic and cartographic department, and the editorial direction has always chosen to keep this department, even at the height of the press crisis, when the newspaper was in a delicate financial situation.

The French elections are a very important moment for our department. Le Monde is an evening newspaper, and has been, quite for a long time, the only newspaper able to print the elections results overnight. These big electoral events have built a bond between our readers and our maps.

The newspaper has thereafter choose to develop its own web contents, and creation fact-checking and video. Today, our infographic department participates, with all these media, to the development of big web editorial operations (cartographic videos, long formats, …).  

Besides these projects, the print version of Le Monde offers weekly two cartographic rendez-vous:

One about the great international geopolitical issues:

And the other to analyze the French territories and divides, which often contributes to start a debate within the French political class:

What are we going to find in your speech in Malofiej?
I will tell how we can map objectively the subjectivity of the world!

What do you think?