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#1
natcase

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This little essayette is a follow-on to a paper I gave at the AAG in Chicago this spring, the full text of which is available online (I can't remember the link off my head, I'll add it in a reply to this tomorrow.
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I'm interested in the ontology of maps, and this is a sort of initial foray into the question, "what is a map." It's a question practically everyone who approaches cartographic theory comes up against, and it has about as many answers as there are theorists. This makes me wonder how solid the concept really is. I spent some time last year looking at Larry Shiner's The Invention of Art, which argues that the concept of the "Fine Arts" as we know them today--arts whose utilitarian value is supposed to be low, which are intended for contemplation and enjoyment in quiet galleries, silent music halls, and peaceful reading nooks-- is actually quite a recent phenomenon, dating to the late seventeenth century. The rise of the bourgeoisie and their middle-class demands for entertainment and decoration led theorists (mostly members of the educated aristocracy) to find a theory that justified (for example) court music's elevation above music-hall singing, or painting over print-making. Also, the end of the church and nobility's total control of artistic purse-strings led to thinking about art that was not strictly based in "glory to God and to our King."

So thinking about
"cartography", I remembered Denis Wood's piece in Cartographic Perspectives a couple years back asking us to stop using that made-up-by-some-19th-century-academic word in favor of the less pretentious "map-making." I actually do find myself using that word more and more. But on a side line, I am really wondering about our basic ideas of what a map is, and whether it is the most useful way to be conceiving of our work and of our colleagues.

There's been a lot of recent work among western (and western-trained) map historians coming to terms with non-western geographic traditions: the idea of performative or spiritual mapping has had a lot of very interesting studies. But little of it seems immediately relevant to what I do: I publish maps. I don't publish dances or cosmographic paintings.

If we go back to the proto-Neanderthal, pre-culturally-sensitive definition of "map," the definitions from the first edition of Robinson or even earlier, we find that we are still for the most part making "graphic representations of the earth?s surface or a portion of it, generalizing and specifying specific traits for human use." (I just made that up off the top of my head, but you know what I mean.) Our bread and butter. navigational, statistical, political, descriptive maps. Now, it is terribly presumptive to say "this is a map and the rest of the world that doesn?t think this way is therefore geographically illiterate." But it needs a term, or we need to have a wider term for "description of geographic space."

And if you think about it, there's a lot of geographic expression in the western tradition that is excluded in that same definition. Painted/drawn/printed views, for example, or poetic evocations of landscape, or depictions of dialect. If we simply erase "maps," say for sake of argument that we can't call what we make that, then the landscape of our work does change.

"Place-pictures" for example (a term I like) describes some maps and some views very nicely, but of course doesn?t describe world or even regional maps. "Route-finders" works as well for time-tables, highway maps, and public transit cartograms, but excludes statistical maps, which might come under some sort of Tuftean rubric of "graphic representation of numerical data."

Now, we're not going to stop calling ourselves map-makers of cartographers anytime soon, I know, but I'd love to hear some comments or thoughts on the above, and if any of you are as uncomfortable pledging allegiance to to the United (and ever-expanding) Territory of "Mapdom" as I am?

Nat Case
INCase, LLC

Minneapolis, Minnesota USA
maphead.blogspot.com



#2
MapMedia

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Very nice -thanks for sharing.

I propose we are abstracticians (?) too; as much as we work with mathematics (geometry, algebra, calculus), the final product is still abstract, just as the work of a 'realist' landscape painter is in the abstract. To me, that is what makes this field exciting - you can apply the scientific method using GIS, but also represent information and data anywhere on the abstract scale.

#3
JB Krygier

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...

I am really wondering about our basic ideas of what a map is, and whether it is the most useful way to be conceiving of our work and of our colleagues.

...

"Place-pictures" for example (a term I like) describes some maps and some views very nicely, but of course doesn't describe world or even regional maps. "Route-finders" works as well for time-tables, highway maps, and public transit cartograms, but excludes statistical maps, which might come under some sort of Tuftean rubric of "graphic representation of numerical data."



Denis W and I will present some ideas about this very topic at NACIS, in particular
how to think about maps as something other than pictures or representations, and
why that might be important for the practice of map making (I promise no dancing,
at least by me).

John K.

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ELeFevre

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(I promise no dancing, at least by me).


That's really a shame. I'm sure everyone attending the conference was looking forward to an evening of interpretive cartographic dance.

And on a serious note, next year I plan presenting an interpretive dance illustrating the various forms of psychological damage caused by the Mercator projection in the classroom. Sound good? I'll get to work on the abstract.



#5
JB Krygier

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That's really a shame. I'm sure everyone attending the conference was looking forward to an evening of interpretive cartographic dance.


Ah, but check in the NACIS Hospitality Suite after 1am.

And on a serious note, next year I plan presenting an interpretive dance illustrating the various forms of psychological damage caused by the Mercator projection in the classroom. Sound good? I'll get to work on the abstract.


Ah, a follow up to Arthur Robinson's study of the effect of
map projections on craniometry:

Attached File  headproject.jpg   58.68KB   118 downloads


jk

#6
natcase

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Denis W and I will present some ideas about this very topic at NACIS, in particular
how to think about maps as something other than pictures or representations, and
why that might be important for the practice of map making (I promise no dancing,
at least by me).

John K.


I'll look forward. My point is that we don't spend enough time looking at maps as pictures, or find ourselves bound to a definition of "picture" that is as bound to Fine Art conventions as we seem to be bound by Scientific Cartography conventions.

Some of my thoughts are in reaction to the chapter in Seeing Through Maps that argues maps aren't representations, because they never even try to represent the look of things in question, but rather other non-visual qualities like territory or quantity. It's in interesting argument, but I think it places an odd limitation of picturing. Close to home map-wise are cosmographic pictures: Altarpieces are not arguing that Jesus wears green or has X number of hairs in his beard, or that God the father has that sort of harido. Now there is the same sort of confusion between convention and representation as with maps (Jesus was a white guy, the British Empire is pink), but maps are as much pictures as any other graphic.

I expect an interesting discussion...

Nat Case
INCase, LLC

Minneapolis, Minnesota USA
maphead.blogspot.com






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