‘Battlefield maps’ show continent under attack from hostile invaders.
See, maps have a problem. They appear neutral, objective, authoritative. But that’s exactly all that they’re not. Each map reflects the many choices the cartographer has made, consciously or not, both in terms of content and form.
And so, without us even noticing it, maps can confirm bias, entrench prejudice and perpetuate injustice.
How can we grasp nature’s image and put it on a page? How do we judge the truthiness of images of nature? These questions are particularly challenging when it comes to images of the far reaches of galactic and oceanic space, which share a quality that we might call sensory distance…Visualising places of sensory distance requires distinctive approaches, not merely to collect information but also to interpret it, since the information gathered is patchy. In the absence of comprehensive and accessible information, acquiring knowledge about sea monsters and black holes calls for imaginative image-making…
Although today’s black hole image emerges out of different material technologies, it, too, relies on techniques of imaginative prototyping of distant objects – about which only limited evidence can be gathered, by circuitous means – and collaborative practices of visualising…
Natural objects exist in the world independently of our knowledge of them and – what is key here – independently of any particular community’s knowledge of them…
The imaginative extrapolation involved in prediction and expectation is also crucial to the discovery of black holes: the laws of gravity suggested that this species of space entity existed, in theory, long before the first black hole was discovered in 1971. Just as naturalists had to imagine the animal whose head had once sported a tusk…
The quote, “The map is not the territory,” demonstrates a profound thought, and also a useful prompt for the TOK class. Before getting into connections between the quote and idea of models and metaphors, I wanted to put together a lesson on NYC subway maps (my school is in NYC). While doing so, I came across a bunch of different, and lovely, maps, each with its own representation of “reality.”
This is the map you see posted on the trains and subway platforms.
2. “Accurate Subway Map”
This map includes more accurate representations of distance and other features. Notice also it is more accurately oriented according to a traditional North-South map axis. The one above unintentionally (intentionally?) reorients the map around Manhattan.
3. NYC Station Map
This map focuses on the subway lines themselves and erases all other features.
How does this visual representation give us a different sense of meaning than a traditional map?
“This linguistic map paints an alternative map of Europe, displaying the language families that populate the continent, and the lexical distance between the languages. The closer that distance, the more words they have in common. The further the distance, the harder the mutual comprehension.
“The map shows the language families that cover the continent: large, familiar ones like Germanic, Italic-Romance and Slavic; smaller ones like Celtic, Baltic and Uralic; outliers like Semitic and Turkic; and isolates – orphan languages, without a family: Albanian and Greek.”
“Why are almost all modern maps the same way up? Caroline Williams explores the intriguing history that led to this orientation – and discovers why it shapes how we see the world in more ways than we realise.”
“What is it about maps that we find so fascinating? Ever since the Babylonians scratched two parallel lines and a circle — representing the Euphrates River and their walled capital — on a clay tablet almost 3,000 years ago, we humans have been producing flat spatial imagery to locate our place in the world. Maps anchor us, give coherence to our environment, help make visual sense of otherwise intangible realities. The most skillfully done maps, moreover, can be thrilling to look at, elevating cartography into art.”
“The Polynesians, scattered as they are over islands across the central and southern Pacific Ocean, are master navigators who tracked their way over a huge expanses of ocean without any of the complex mechanical aids we associate with sea navigation. They didn’t have the astrolabe or the sextant, the compass or the chronometer. They did however have aids of a sort, which though seemingly humble, were in fact the repositories of an extremely complex kind of knowledge. They are called Rebbelibs, Medos. and Mattangs.”