What are maps?
The dictionary definition of a map is, “a representation, usually on a flat surface, as of the features of an area of the earth or a portion of the heavens, showing them in their respective forms, sizes, and relationships according to some convention of representation: a map of Canada.” Therefore maps represent areas, attributes and dimensions is a scale – usually smaller than lifesize. Maps help make understanding clear and lets us see beyond what our eyes are cable of seeing.
Anything can be mapped, and most things are: places, businesses, galaxies, histories, bodies, philosophies, devices and databases.
Maps outline territories from governments, Oil locations, Social scientists use maps to publiscise social problems.
They are seen by the reader as neutral information, however this is not always the case and therefore maps have a power that can persuade the reader without them realising. For example the map of the world is drawn pointing north and not south. This creates a hierarchy of the Earth.
The language of cartography is so ingrained that it has become invisible.
We do not question the orientation of the map of the world. An upside down map looks odd, it also give the southern hemisphere countries dominance over the northern ones.
Why use maps?
Maps give their readers the simple and magical ability to see beyond the horizon. The enlightening and revelatory
characteristic of a good map derives from its encompassing vision, contained within a single consistent pictorial model. The map provides a view that slides instantaneously between panorama and detail. A map embodies the work, knowledge and intelligence of others. We obtain a vision of a place that we may never have seen, or divine a previously unseen pattern in things we thought we knew intimately. So, we ‘consult’ a map as we would an adviser in order to locate, identify and decide, or to be enlightened. As a result we suffer, sometimes, a grand illusion of omnipotence by believing that the map contains everything necessary for understanding or controlling a domain. We forget that the mapmaker has an implicit or explicit agenda of his own, not necessarily aligned with ours. Maps are imperfect They have missing layers and gaps within the layers (“London”, said its ‘biographer’ Peter Ackroyd, “is so large, and so diverse, that a thousand different maps or topographies have been drawn up in orderto to describe it”). Paradoxically, much infolillation can be gathered from the gaps left in maps, not least about the mapmaker’s intentions. This is one of the beauties of maps.