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#1
Epic

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Hi,

I am an intern researching for a play called MAHIDA’S EXTRA TO HEAVEN. MAHIDA uses a love story between a young American man and Iranian woman to focus attention on the nature of geographic, political, and human borders.

One of the topics I have been asked to research for this play is topography/cartography. Specifically, I am looking for people to share their knowledge of map making.

I am interested in how borders are determined, how they make maps evolve, and how they can politicize maps.

If anyone has even a little information, that would be helpful. Please feel free to say anything, because anything could spark a wonderful discussion, or a new idea for me to study.

Thank you!

Epic

#2
rudy

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Hi,

I am an intern researching for a play called MAHIDA’S EXTRA TO HEAVEN. MAHIDA uses a love story between a young American man and Iranian woman to focus attention on the nature of geographic, political, and human borders.

One of the topics I have been asked to research for this play is topography/cartography. Specifically, I am looking for people to share their knowledge of map making.

I am interested in how borders are determined, how they make maps evolve, and how they can politicize maps.

If anyone has even a little information, that would be helpful. Please feel free to say anything, because anything could spark a wonderful discussion, or a new idea for me to study.

Thank you!

Epic

I woould think that the development of borders is more of a result of political processes than cartographic processes. Having said that, the belief that, "if it is on the map, it must be true" is out there and very much alive. Just take a look at any land areas that are in dispute (e.g. India and Pakistan with regards to Kashmir) and I'm sure you'll find conflicting views of reality in the hopes that one will prevail over the other.

#3
Hans van der Maarel

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First of all, for knowledge of cartography, you've come to the right place B)

I woould think that the development of borders is more of a result of political processes than cartographic processes. Having said that, the belief that, "if it is on the map, it must be true" is out there and very much alive. Just take a look at any land areas that are in dispute (e.g. India and Pakistan with regards to Kashmir) and I'm sure you'll find conflicting views of reality in the hopes that one will prevail over the other.


I agree. Cartographers just draw the borders, we don't decide them. On top of that, maps are often made for a client, and in the end it's the client, who pays the bills, that gets to decide what is shown on the map and in what way.

Having said that, with maps being the primary means of communicating those borders, they do often play a big role in those disputes/processes, sometimes even an active propaganda rule. In some cases, it comes down to the individual cartographer and the choice he or she makes. IMHO, it's at that point closely tied in with his or her personal opinion. Those cases are not too common though.
Hans van der Maarel - Cartotalk Editor
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#4
MapMedia

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I am interested in how borders are determined, how they make maps evolve, and how they can politicize maps.


There are some excellent books about the creation of borders following WWII - decisions were political, economic, other, and in many cases, made w/o input from the country of concern.

Yes, maps must immediately evolve to political changes, and cultural sensitivity - which not only include borders (like China's) but also placenames (Persian Gulf or just Gulf). If the map maker gets it wrong and the map is highly regarded (i..e national geographic, or a UN map), there could be some sour faces on politicians and diplomats, and a group of frantic cartographers :)

#5
David Medeiros

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Speaking to the evolution of borders on maps one of the key historical interactions between political boundaries, topography and maps are features of isolation or obstruction like major rivers or mountain chains. Rivers and mountains make obvious natural borders and are often delimiting features between nations, states, tribes etc.. Before the advent of mechanization they were probably a more prominent political feature but just sit and study the nation borders of Europe or Asia and you may notice how many of them follow natural breaks in topography (Google maps set to Terrain is good for this).

A key point of interest here are river borders. Disparate groups often occupy opposite sides of a river where water is easy to get and food easy to grow. These groups, though culturally distinct often have more in common with their neighbors across the river than their own countrymen further inland. Complicating that commonality however is the fact that rivers change course over their life span and can give or take away land on either side of the border. Imagine understanding for a hundred years that the river through your village was the edge of your nation and finding one day after a major flood the course had cut towards your home by several hundred yards. On the other side, after the water subsided, you see that your neighbor’s land has grown by that much, he has your land! What do you do? Do you respect the new boarder imposed by the river, do you assume the land across the river that was historically yours is still yours? How will your neighbor feel about it? Can you even get across the river to use “your” land? These aren’t scenarios that are very common today, but once upon a time they were and their footprints can be found on many modern maps.

GIS Reference and Instruction Specialist, Stanford Geospatial Center.

 

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#6
Nick H

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If you think about it every governmental, political and diplomatic activity, in fact every managerial activity, perhaps every human activity, entails drawing a line somewhere.

Lines drawn on maps to represent borders are pretty-much like any other lines, I think. Sometimes everyone agrees on where they should be drawn and sometimes there is disagreement about where they should be drawn. Often lines are drawn in good faith aimed at providing the greatest good for the greatest number, which is fine if you happen to be one of the greatest number. If you're not, for you the result can be tyranny. Lines drawn in bad faith can mean tyranny for almost everyone.

Lines are important; this far and no further, cross that line and the consequences will be this.

Lines define property and property largely defines people; who you are is what you've got, still, to a large extent.

Finally, there are the invisible lines. You don't know where these are and no one will tell you, but they must not be crossed under any circumstances. Life is full of these.

Regards, N.
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#7
natcase

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Hi,

I am an intern researching for a play called MAHIDA’S EXTRA TO HEAVEN. MAHIDA uses a love story between a young American man and Iranian woman to focus attention on the nature of geographic, political, and human borders.

One of the topics I have been asked to research for this play is topography/cartography. Specifically, I am looking for people to share their knowledge of map making.

I am interested in how borders are determined, how they make maps evolve, and how they can politicize maps.


Borders are determined by most animals in claiming and defending a territory. Hominids have presumably been determining borders since there have been hominids.

Settled humans needed to determine more permanent territories for their cultivated fields and to a lesser extent their pastureland. On a local basis, these are determined by markers, whether natural or built. It seems natural that as legal systems developed in which proof of ownership and records of agreed-upon bounds were developed, drawings might prove useful. Early national boundaries, where they passed through settled areas, were essentially accumulations of such locally-agreed-upon bounds.

And locally, surveys are still how we determine and record property lines, the most fundamental land boundaries in the modern world.

In colonial territories, where claims and boundaries were often determined without reference to established territories of the pre-colonial inhabitants, property was often divided on a national level based on treaties drawn up thousands of miles from the territory itself. Thus the Northwest Ordinance in the early USA inaugurated a period of determining boundaries backwards from the previous idea: instead of being built up from facts on the ground, they were built off of an abstract grid determined before humans had any idea what lay under that grid.

In other territories (the Middle East for example), things are kind of between these two points: ancient on-the-ground facts may determine local property shapes, while colonial abstract-line demarcations (lines drawn on a map in Paris, say) determine national and large sub-national administrative boundaries.

The scale in question profoundly affects how boundaries are drawn.

Nat Case
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Minneapolis, Minnesota USA
maphead.blogspot.com



#8
Epic

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Wow! Thank you everyone! I'm going to take some time to digest your answers, and then try to milk you for more info!

Thank you!!




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