Mapping as Thinking-Mediating-Making
The objective of the book is to theorize the practice of mapmaking for designers by providing designers with the structure, grammar, and syntax for maps and mapping procedures. Mapping and mapmaking emerge as ubiquitous modes of thinking in the last twenty years? You don't have to look far in any discipline to find a map. Harder to find is a literature addressing how to use maps as tools in design. One problem is maps are familiar: the naturalness in the way we read them obscures their complexity as representations. Artist Stanley Brouwn invoked the familiarity of the map in a provocative project done over a two-day period in Amsterdam (1961). Brouwn randomly selected people on the street and asked them for directions. He offered them paper on which to draw their responses and sometimes they take him up on this, sometimes not, later he would stamp "This Way Brouwn on the sheet of paper." As they were drawing people talked. Brouwn explains:
"at times they talked more than they drew. On the sketches we can see what the people were explaining. But we cannot see what they have omitted, because they had trouble realizing what might be clear to them still requires explanation."[i]
Using maps as communication tools masks their complexity as a mode of thinking. Maps act like language: we attribute the signs or marks in the map to a natural extension of thought. But post-structuralism exposed maps (like language) as artificial signs whose meaning is tethered to time, place, culture, gesture, smell, in short, a plethora of cognitive and phenomenal attributes of our communication ecology. Mikhail Bakhtin uses a lovely term for the primacy of context over text, heteroglossia. Equal significance is given to the nature of the utterance and the way words are aware of and mutually reflect other words; words live in seas filled with the ebb and flow of all other words. As part of a communication ecology maps employ cartographical thinking in excess of mere representation. Similar to the passers-by in "This Way Brouwn" whose marks and words created a seamless continuity to the degree they could not 'see' the gap between what they said and what they drew.
Mapmaking begins with an observation or set of observations. Observations are made in a detached mode where you think about a subject, it becomes object; aware of the act of standing separate from the object of thought. When fashioned as maps observations trace the mapmakers 'thoughts about thinking' and the object of thought. Consider the primal perception of the infant received as a singular object with many parts, infants don't perceive themselves separate from the world around them. Their lived experience is an undifferentiated world. It is with maturation and social communication the demand for categories arises: red is a color, cows are animals, and our earth is a round thing and so forth. But unlike infants we are caught in our own subjectivity. Maps isolate parts of reality from the whole of reality without fully disrupting originary relationships, allowing us to slip between whole/part, object/subject, point/field, or identity/non-identity on a continuum rather than closed sets or categories necessarily defined by contrasts. Instead of thinking of the map as an objective tool I propose it more a phenomena of perception albeit one cloaking itself in positivist respectability.
For my purposes the maps included in the book move outside of representations historically considered maps to architectural representations, spatial models of data surfaces, abstract analytical models, eighteenth and nineteenth century artifacts like panoramas and dioramas, military camouflage, photographs and cinematic images, film and videos. Histories of cartography privilege terrestrial or geospatial maps were until recently predominantly western oriented. Histories of cartography (mostly) promote an underlying progressive determinism: map accuracy, correspondence and detail improves as our technologies of measurement make it possible.[ii] I don't assume the same approach but look instead at spatial organizations implied by the construct in the map, like the spatial order of the itinerary mapped in the Tabula Peutingeriana, a 13th century map of Roman troop movements copied from a map dating to the 4th or 5th century, compared to recent itinerary maps by students. This book isn't a history of cartography although it includes a number of historical maps. It is an epistemology of spatial thinking invoking the map as a representational modality for communicating geospatial thinking.
The structure of the book is itself a map. Reading it means looking carefully at text and comparing maps. The maps bear careful examination revealing rich layers of information only on close examination. A number of maps are redrawn from the original to improve legibility or highlight specific qualities. The book outlines general principles governing how maps are made. When applied to specific problems these yield an infinite number of possible maps. The maps in the book cover varied cultures, places, and times from maps made by Renaissance cartographers to maps by students in architecture, urban design and landscape architecture. A note to the reader: my intention is not to offer instruction in software or graphics. A few of these resources are given as additional reading, but in the main a plethora of books addressing the mechanical construction of maps are readily available and provide an interested reader software instruction or domain specific techniques for managing effective graphics.
[i] Stanley Brouwn, This Way Brouwn 25-2-61.26-2-61. Verlag Gebr. KÃ¶nig KÃ¶ln, New York 1961
[ii] These are generally understood as the hallmarks of nineteenth and twentieth century cartography.