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Posts Tagged ‘maps

“I have an existential map. It has ‘you are here’ written all over it.”*…

 

map

A detail from illustrator James Turner‘s Map of Humanity.

 

A long time ago, I made a map of the rationalist community.  This is in the same geographic-map-of-something-non-geographic tradition as the Greater Ribbonfarm Cultural Region or xkcd’s map of the Internet. There’s even some sort of therapy program that seems to involve making a map like this of your life, though I don’t know how seriously they take it.

There’s no good name for this art and it’s really hard to Google. If you try “map of abstract concept” you just get a bunch of concept maps. It seems the old name, from back when this was a popular Renaissance amusement, is “sentimental cartography”, since it was usually applied to sentiments like love or sorrow. This isn’t great – the Internet’s not a sentiment – but it’s what we’ve got and I’ll do what I can to try to make it catch on…

See the marvelous examples (like the one above) collected by Scott Alexander at “Sentimental Cartography.”

* Steven Wright

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As we find our place, we might spare a thought for Seymour Papert; he died on this date in 2016.  Trained as a mathematician, Papert was a pioneer of computer science, and in particular, artificial intelligence. He created the Epistemology and Learning Research Group at the MIT Architecture Machine Group (which later became the MIT Media Lab); he directed MIT’s Artificial Intelligence Laboratory; he authored the hugely-influential LOGO computer language; and he was a principal of the One Laptop Per Child Program.  Called by Marvin Minsky “the greatest living mathematics educator,” Papert won a Guggenheim fellowship (1980), a Marconi International fellowship (1981), the Software Publishers Association Lifetime Achievement Award (1994), and the Smithsonian Award (1997).

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Written by LW

July 31, 2018 at 1:01 am

“Whose maps are we trying to read? And what are we trying to draw?”*…

 

A map of the South China Sea, with competing territorial claims marked

Maps are complicated in the current geopolitical climate—especially emblazoned across your torso. What is perfectly acceptable in Vietnam can get you stopped at Chinese border control, and vice versa.

Recently, US clothing retailer Gap apologized for printing a t-shirt that didn’t include China’s claimed territories, including Taiwan, South Tibet, and islands in the South China Sea. In doing so, it joined Marriott and Delta, which had previously triggered Beijing’s ire for maps-related issues. At the same time, a group of Chinese tourists to Vietnam generated outrage by showing up at a Vietnamese airport wearing t-shirts with a Chinese map including parts of Vietnam…

Even the United Nations’s world map openly states that the represented borders aren’t necessarily officially recognized (the map specifically calls out Kashmir and the Falkland Islands as disputed territories.) It also notes that although Taiwan was a UN founding member, it left the organization in 1971, and the UN recognizes China’s sovereignty over it…

And so the image above: “Here’s a t-shirt you could wear everywhere in East Asia without upsetting anyone.”

* Rebecca Solnit

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As we ponder geopolitical presumption, we might send pioneering birthday greetings to Henry Bradford Washburn, Jr.; he was born on this date in 1910.  An explorer, mountaineer, photographer, and cartographer, he established the Boston Museum of Science, served as its director from 1939–1980, and from 1985 until his death served as its Honorary Director.

In 1940, he married fellow explorer Barbara Polk; on their honeymoon in Alaska, they made the first ascent of Mt. Bertha.  Seven years later, they climbed Denali (Mt. McKinley), an ascent that made her the first female to reach the peak.

Bradford and Barbara atop Mt. McKinley, Alaska, June 6, 1947

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“Maps codify the miracle of existence”*…

 

This 1922 map of the world was the first general reference map created by National Geographic magazine’s in-house cartography shop, which was founded in 1915.

Cartography has been close to National Geographic’s heart from the beginning. And over the magazine’s 130-year history, maps have been an integral part of its mission. Now, for the first time, National Geographic has compiled a digital archive of its entire editorial cartography collection — every map ever published in the magazine since the first issue in October 1888.

The collection is brimming with more than 6,000 maps (and counting) and you’ll have a chance to see some of the highlights as the magazine’s cartographers explore the trove and share one of their favorite maps each day.

Follow @NatGeoMaps on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook to see what they discover. (The separate map archive is not available to the public, but subscribers can see them in their respective issues in the digital magazine archive)...

More background– and more samples from the vault– at “Discover Fascinating Vintage Maps From National Geographic’s Archives.”

* Nicholas Crane, Mercator: The Man Who Mapped the Planet

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As we contemplate cartography, we might recall that it was on this date in 1931 that Swiss physicist, inventor, and explorer Auguste Piccard launched himself and an assistant in a 300-pound, 82-inch diameter aluminum gondola suspended from a hydrogen gas-filled balloon.  They rose to a record 51,775 feet, then landed safely.

Auguste Piccard was the model for Professor Cuthbert Calculus in The Adventures of Tintin by Belgian cartoonist Hergé, and Gene Roddenberry’s inspiration in naming Captain Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek.

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Written by LW

May 27, 2018 at 1:01 am

“All things are metaphors”*…

 

For much of the 17th century, Europeans believed that California was an island.  Indeed, readers who have suffered through your correspondent’s explanation of scenario planning know that a 17th century map in which California is depicted as an island, very like the one above, figures into the talk as an example of the way that incorrect maps– cartographical or mental maps– are hard to change and often lead us astray.

But as this appreciation of Stanford’s collection of California maps points out, there may be a deeper truth to the depiction:

The fact that a number of explorers knew that California was not an island was not enough to nip the idea in the bud. Yet it would be a shame to think of the idea as simply an error, a cartographical crease which needed ironing out. Even though maps may be presented as accurate, they cannot escape their metaphorical nature. They reflect much more than physical geography. That California was mapped as an island for so long speaks to its separateness. The writer Rebecca Solnit, a student of the Stanford maps, has argued that, “An island is anything surrounded by difference.” The state contains around 2,000 plant species found nowhere else. Its borders comprise dizzying mountains, harsh deserts and immense ocean. It has been home to the Gold Rush, the psychedelic era, the silicon boom. In several ways then, California is an island…

More (and more marvelous maps) at “Maps Showing California as an Island.”

* Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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As we remember that “the map is not the territory,” we might recall that it was on this date in 1570 that Gilles Coppens de Diest at Antwerp published Flemish cartographer Abraham Ortelius’ Theatrum Orbis Terrarum— a collection of 53 maps that is generally agreed to have been the first modern atlas.

Interestingly (for reasons explained in the article linked above), Ortelius’ maps, which pre-date the charts in the Stanford collection, portray California more accurately.

Title page from a 1606 edition

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Written by LW

May 22, 2018 at 1:01 am

“It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength”*…

 

Since 1990, more than 90 percent of U.S. metro areas saw a decline in racial stratification, signaling a trend toward a more integrated America. Yet, while areas like Houston and Atlanta have undergone rapid demographic changes, cities like Detroit and Chicago still have large areas dominated by a single racial group.Some 50 years ago, policies like the Fair Housing Act and Voting Rights Act were enacted to increase integration, promote equity, combat discrimination and dismantle the lingering legacy of Jim Crow laws. But a Post analysis shows that some cities remain deeply segregated — even as the country itself becomes more diverse.

To explore these national changes, The Post analyzed census data from 1990, 2000, 2010 and the latest estimates from the 2016 five-year American Community Survey. Using this data, we generated detailed maps of the United States using six race categories: black, white, Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, Native American and multirace/other for the available years…

The United States is on track to be a majority-minority nation by 2044. But census data show most of our neighbors are the same race.  Take stock of where there has been progress and where there has been none using the interactive (and zoomable to zip code level) map at “America is more diverse than ever — but still segregated.”

* Maya Angelou

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As we turn up the heat on the melting pot, we might recall that it was on this date in 1924 that 29 year old J. Edgar Hoover became the fifth Director of the Bureau of Investigation, which became the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 1935; he remained the FBI’s first director until his death in 1972 at the age of 77.

Hoover has been credited with building the FBI into a larger crime-fighting agency than it was at its inception and with instituting a number of modernizations to police technology, such as a centralized fingerprint file and forensic laboratories.  But especially later in his carer and since his death, Hoover became a controversial figure as evidence of his secretive abuses of power began to surface.  He was found to have exceeded the jurisdiction of the FBI, and to have used the FBI to harass political dissenters and activists (especially civil rights activists; see here and here), to amass secret files on political leaders and to collect evidence using illegal methods.

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Written by LW

May 10, 2018 at 1:01 am

“I am told there are people who do not care for maps, and I find it hard to believe”*…

 

The confluence of different GPS technologies have led to more and more stunning map and data visualizations. Added bonus: casual map lovers have something to explore during periods of procrastination.

Last week, to the joy of data nerds everywhere, the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government launched a database of interactive maps that use public sector data to visualize various city and community services, histories, and statistics. It sounds dry until you check out the selection of 200 mapping projects. Particularly interesting, deep dive-worthy ones include a map of immigrant communities across the U.S., a map of public art in Philadelphia, a visualization of the variety of trees in New York City, a map detailing the history of redlining and other forms of housing discrimination in Louisville, Kentucky [above]. and a map of access to high-speed internet in Kansas City, Missouri

… and 195 others, including this  visualization that answers the question “is the American dream still affordable?” and where:

More background at The Outline and at the Ash Center’s announcement page.  Browse at their Data-Smart City Solutions Database search page.

* Robert Louis Stevenson

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As we celebrate charts, we might send analytic birthday greetings to a man who drew epoch-making maps of a very different sort, Sigismund Schlomo Freud; he was born on this date in 1856.  The father of psychoanalysis, he revolutionized the field of psychotherapy– so much so that later practitioners have often failed to recognize Freud’s scientific predecessors.  Throughout his work (in such books as Interpretation of Dreams and the New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis) he emphasized the role of unconscious and non-rational functioning, going against most contemporary thought by suggesting that dreams and “mistakes” may have affirmative meaning.

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Written by LW

May 6, 2018 at 1:01 am

“The map is not the territory”*…

 

Much of the area around a Tanzanian safe house for girls threatened with genital mutilation isn’t recorded on Google Maps. By logging buildings and streets on OSM, volunteers can help outreach workers navigate. (OpenStreetMap)

“For most of human history, maps have been very exclusive,” said Marie Price, the first woman president of the American Geographical Society, appointed 165 years into its 167-year history. “Only a few people got to make maps, and they were carefully guarded, and they were not participatory.” That’s slowly changing, she said, thanks to democratizing projects like OpenStreetMap (OSM).

OSM is the self-proclaimed Wikipedia of maps: It’s a free and open-source sketch of the globe, created by a volunteer pool that essentially crowd-sources the map, tracing parts of the world that haven’t yet been logged. Armed with satellite images, GPS coordinates, local community insights and map “tasks,” volunteer cartographers identify roads, paths, and buildings in remote areas and their own backyards. Then, experienced editors verify each element. Chances are, you use an OSM-sourced map every day without realizing it: Foursquare, Craigslist, Pinterest, Etsy, and Uber all use it in their direction services.

When commercial companies like Google decide to map the not-yet-mapped, they use “The Starbucks Test,” as OSMers like to call it. If you’re within a certain radius of a chain coffee shop, Google will invest in maps to make it easy to find. Everywhere else, especially in the developing world, other virtual cartographers have to fill in the gaps…

Too often, men– and money– decide what will be mapped and why.  But a team of OpenStreetMap users is working to draw new cartographic lines, making maps that more accurately—and equitably—reflect our space: “Who Maps the World?

* Alfred Korzybski

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As we find our way, we might send exploratory birthday greetings to Sir Richard Francis Burton; he was born on this date in 1821.  An explorer, geographer, translator, writer, soldier, orientalist, cartographer, ethnologist, spy, linguist, poet, fencer, and diplomat. He was famed for his travels and explorations in Asia, Africa and the Americas, as well as his extraordinary knowledge of languages and cultures (according to one count, he spoke 29 European, Asian and African languages).

An exception to the pervasive British ethnocentrism of his day, he relished personal contact with human cultures in all their variety.  His best-remembered achievements include: a well-documented journey to Mecca in disguise, at a time when Europeans were forbidden access on pain of death; an unexpurgated translation of One Thousand and One Nights (commonly called The Arabian Nights in English after early translations of Antoine Galland’s French version); the publication of the Kama Sutra in English; and a journey with John Hanning Speke as the first Europeans to visit the Great Lakes of Africa in search of the source of the Nile.

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