GLIMPSE | Issue #8, autumn 2011 | Cartography

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the art + science of seeing

issue 8 Cartography

issue 8

Gl mpse


the art + science of seeing TM

GLIMPSE issue 8 presents perspectives on the history and human experience of mapping, at varying scales. This issue considers how the symbolic definition of real and imagined boundaries expressed in maps, may both expand and constrain human understanding.



C O N T E N T S issue 8

14 8

Selected Dates in European, Islamic and Chinese Cartography

22 31

12 14

Borrowed Borders Cartographic Leverage from Empires to Zip Codes


Arto Vaun

From Sextant to SatNav Building a 3-D map of the human heart

RETROSPECT A Map of the Open Country of Woman’s Heart... Georgia B. Barnhill


Mark Monmonier



Katherine Fletcher, Peter Kohl and Denis Noble

Esther Howe with Meghan O’Reilly and Connie Wang


autumn 2011

Narrative Cartographies Creating an atlas as a novel

Losing And Finding Our Way A conversation about cognitive mapping and orientation with neuroscientist Giuseppe Iaria Rachel Sapin with introduction by Carolyn Arcabascio

Elbie Bentley


Reorganizing Space, Negotiating Identity The use of placenames in ordinary conversation Lisa Gabbert

The Literary Terrain of Mark Twain and the Mississippi Rachel Sapin

62 66

Many Rivers and Kara’s Wave Matthew Cusick



62 74 supplementary illustrations and videos the Cartography issue playlist the GLIMPSE blog

Cartography and Humanism Concordances and discordances Yi-Fu Tuan


(Re)views Meghan O’Reilly

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40 42


(front and back covers) Many Rivers, 2009 Inlaid maps, acrylic, on panel 48 x 78 inches © 2011 Matthew Cusick Image courtesy of the artist

Contributors GLIMPSE



Georgia Barnhill has been at the American Antiquarian Society since the fall of 1968 and was the curator of the graphic arts department from 1969 to 2009. During those many years, she lectured and published extensively on aspects of the Society’s print and illustrated book collections for audiences in the US and abroad. Among her recent accomplishments is a definitive descriptive bibliography of books and articles on American prints of the 18th and 19th centuries. As director of the Center for Historic American Visual Culture, she places the demystification of images for historians and others at the center of a number of activities.


Elbie Bentley is a PhD student in Geography at the University of South Carolina. She received a master’s degree in Geography from Ohio University and BAs in Geography and German Literature from San Francisco State University. Her primary research interest is in the development of innovative cartographic design techniques that work to restore cultural and historical voice to the map. She is currently a cartographer at the US Geological Survey, and also enjoys creating innovative map designs using combinations of

hand-drawn, watercolor and digital techniques in her free time.


Matthew Cusick is an artist captivated with the geography of American culture. Muscle cars, massive freeways, manicured golf courses and notorious killers have been recurrent themes in his work. Cusick was born in New York City where he earned his BFA from The Cooper Union in 1993. His work is held in numerous public and private collections including the San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art and the Progressive Art Collection and has garnered international praise through numerous blogs and traditional media such as The New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The New Yorker, and National Public Radio. He currently lives in North Texas.


Katherine Fletcher is a project manager working for the University of Oxford. She is currently helping coordinate the EC-funded Virtual Physiological Human Network of Excellence and the JISCfunded DataFlow project (building open-source tools to help researchers keep and share their data). She also coordinated the EC-funded preDiCT project (2008-2011), which developed state-of-the-art cardiac electrophysiology models. She grew up in

Gretna, Nebraska, graduated from William Jewell College (Liberty, MO) with a BA in International Relations, and the University of Sussex (Brighton, UK) with an MA in Global Political Economy. She now lives in Oxford.


Lisa Gabbert holds a PhD from Indiana UniversityBloomington in Folklore and American Studies. She is Associate Professor in the Department of English and Associate Director of the Folklore Program at Utah State University. Her research interests are in landscape and place, festivity and play, and medical folklore. Her book, Winter Carnival in a Western Town: Identity, Change, and the Good of the Community (2011), ethnographically examines various discourses about community good as they play out in the Mardi Gras parade, sports competitions and snow sculpture events found in McCall, Idaho’s annual Winter Carnival.


Giuseppe Iaria is Professor in Cognitive Neuroscience in the Department of Psychology at the University of Calgary and a member of the Hotchkiss Brain Institute, Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Dr. Iaria has conducted behavioral and neuro-imaging studies in both healthy individuals and brain-damaged patients and in different academic/ research locations such as the


Mark Monmonier is editor of Cartography in the Twentieth Century, which will be published in 2015 as Volume Six of The History of Cartography.


Denis Noble, CBE, FRS, is Emeritus Professor of Cardiovascular Physiology at the University of Oxford. He was Chairman of the International Union of Physiological Sciences (IUPS) World Congress in 1993, Secretary-General of IUPS from 1993-2001 and is now President of IUPS. His previous publications include the seminal set of essays, The Logic of Life (Boyd and Noble, Oxford University Press, 1993), and he played a major role in launching the Physiome Project, one of the international components of the systems biology approach. Science magazine included him amongst its review authors for its issue devoted to the subject in 2002.


Yi-Fu Tuan is professor emeritus of geography at the University of WisconsinMadison, and the author of twenty books, the most recent being Coming Home to China (2005), Human Goodness (2008), and Religion: From Place to Placelessness (2010). He is currently working on Humanists Geography: An Individual’s Search for Meaning.


Peter Kohl studied Medicine and Biophysics at the Moscow Pirogov Institute (1981-1987) and, after post-graduate training and research at the Berlin Charité (PhD 1990, Facharzt 1991), he joined the Cardiac Electrophysiology Chair group of Professor Denis Noble at Oxford (1992). In 1998, Peter set up at Oxford the Cardiac Mechano-Electric Feedback Lab, initially as a Royal Society Research Fellow, and subsequently as a Senior Fellow of the British Heart Foundation. While at Oxford, he held a Research Fellowship at Keble College (2002-2004) and was the Tutorial Fellow in Biomedical Sciences at Balliol (2004-2010). Since 2010, he is also an Affiliated Senior Fellow of the Oxford Department of Computer Science. In October 2010, Peter has taken up the Chair in Cardiac Biophysics and Systems Biology at the National Heart and Lung Institute, Imperial College London.


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University of British Columbia (Vancouver, Canada), the University of Rome “La Sapienza” (Rome, Italy), the Montreal Neurological Institute at McGill University (Montreal, Canada) and Le College de France (Paris, France). He is the director of NeuroLab (www.neurolab. ca), a cognitive and clinical neuroscience laboratory that is mainly focusing on investigating human spatial cognition.


GLIMPSE Team Megan Hurst Founder, Editor Carolyn Arcabascio Acquisitions Editor Rachel Sapin Editorial Assistant, Staff Writer Arto Vaun Staff Poet Allison Nonko Editorial Intern, GLIMPSE Blog Connie Wang Intern Esther Howe Intern Meghan O’Reilly Intern Adjunct + Alumni Christine Madsen Cofounder, Editor (Europe)



Ivy Moylan Contributor, Film Reviews EmComm: Viviana Soto + Melissa Boss Marketing + Communications Account Managers Anthony Owens Photographer Matthew Steven Carlos Editorial Advisor Nicholas Munyan Consulting Designer Jamie Ahlstedt Logo Design

GLIMPSE PO Box 44 Salem, MA 01970 USA ISSN 1945-3906



ver millennia, humans have expressed their innate navigational tendencies in an ever-evolving art and science of mapmaking. As the horizon drew early explorers, documentarians and cartographers to survey the shape of the earth, today’s boundaries continue to draw us further, whether to the edges of the universe (see GLIMPSE issue 5, Cosmos), or the cells of the human body. GLIMPSE issue 8, Cartography, presents perspectives on the history and human experience of mapping. The topic of cartography is far too expansive to adequately represent in the pages of just one journal issue, so we defer the burgeoning field of Geographic Information Systems to a future GLIMPSE issue. We instead start with an illuminating timeline of selected dates in European, Islamic and Chinese cartography. Arto Vaun records the nexus of self, family, and society in his poem of an intergenerational, migratory atlas. Maps can indeed illuminate human experience and narratives. Imbued with authority, they can assert power, possibly even aid in the enforcement of it. They can also mislead, as Mark Monmonier demonstrates in his article, “Borrowed Borders.”

Cartographer Elbie Bentley re-conceptualizes the map as novel, depicting the journey of the 19th-century Western US survey expedition of Captain Gunnison. We go on to consider the nano-cartography of the heart, by Katherine Fletcher, Peter Kohl and Denis Noble. Georgia Barnhill reveals the navigational pitfalls of another heart—“the open country of the woman’s heart” as illustrated more than 100 years ago. Giuseppe Iaria, in turn, explains to GLIMPSE’s Rachel Sapin how we physically orient ourselves in the world with our own mental maps. They discuss what is left to learn about our internal “geographic information systems.” Lisa Gabbert guides us through the tensions between local and externallyimposed names for the places we know best, as experienced by the residents of McCall, Idaho. Finally, Yi-Fu Tuan shows us areas of overlap and divergence between cartography and humanism. As always, we welcome your input and comments on this issue, and hope you enjoy your journey reading Cartography!

Megan Hurst GLIMPSE journal is an independent,

periodical of contemporary research, thinking and expression from leading

We wish to thank luminary map collector David Rumsey for his early input on contributors

and emerging scholars, scientists and

for this issue, and for his generosity in digitizing and sharing his collections with map enthu-

artists about vision, “the visual” and

siasts and researchers worldwide through his website,


Music to read GLIMPSE issue 8 by... Life is a Highway (Summer version), Tom Cochrane

Cartography Let’s Get Lost, Chet Baker

Atlas Road Map, Lee “Scratch” Perry Altitude, Matt Flinner

Latitude, Bela Fleck & The Flecktones Maps, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Cartographer, Casette Everyplace is a House, Maps & Atlases Map of the Problematique, Muse Armchairs, Andrew Bird Wanderin’ Aheym, The Red Sea Pedestrians Migration, Arve Henriksen Amateur Cartography, Obfusc World Rotates, Esoin Atlas (Skinzi’s Off the Map Mix), Finn Peters Lost in this World, Netsky Next Stop Nowhere Pt. 1 & Pt. 2, Andrew Philippov Lost Where I Belong (Flying Lotus Remix), Andreya Triana Lost in the World, Kanye West Solid Ground, Maps & Atlases Across the Map (featuring J-Live), Chali 2na Up in the Air, Next Stop: Horizon


You can never get lost (when you’ve nowhere to go), Piano Magic

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500 BC-999 AD 1000-1499 AD

ca. 350 BC Aristotle publishes On the Heavens. In it, he critiques earlier theories and contends that the Earth is spherical. 239 BC The oldest known Chinese map

is created, from the period of the Warring States (475-221 BC). It is a drawing of Guixian County of the Qin Kingdom, one of the seven major warlords at the time. The map, drawn in black, covers four pine plates, 23 cm long, 17 cm wide and 1.5 cm thick each, and depicts geographical, administrative, and economic information.

183-168 BC The second-oldest known Chinese maps, created during the Han Dynasty, are a topographic map, a military map, and a prefecture map. The maps are composed of ink on silk and are discovered in the early 1970s at Mawangdui, a tomb located in what is now Changsha, China.

1020-1050 The Book of Curiosities is created in Egypt by an anonymous scholar. In 2002, the only surviving copy is acquired by the Bodleian Library and remains the earliest example of a map carrying a scale. ca. 1080-1152 English philosopher,

Adelard of Bath lives. He translates many Arabic works on astronomy and astrology into Latin and bases his own scholarship on Arabic science.

1086 The earliest surviving Islamic map

is created and accompanies ibn Hawqal’s “Picture of the Earth” text, later found in the Topkapi Sarayn Muzcsi Kutuphancsi in Istanbul.

ca. 150 Greek philosopher, geographer and astronomer Claudius Ptolemy publishes Syntaxis or Almagest, establishing that the sun and other planets rotate around a fixed, spherical planet Earth. This geocentric model would remain preeminent until the mid-16th century. He also authors Cosmogeographia (later called Geographia), which includes a 27-map world atlas. His maps all contain lines of longitude, with the prime meridian at the Canary Islands. Today, the prime meridian runs through London. 200s Mathematician Liu Hui describes contemporary Chinese surveying practices in his Sea Island mathematical manual.

1100 Al-Idrisi is born in Ceuta, Morocco and, after his education in Cordoba and lengthy travels around the world, he is invited to study in the court of the Norman King of Sicily, Roger II (1097-1154). Drawing from Ptolemy, the Balkhi School, and information from European travelers in King Roger’s court, al-Idrisi creates Nuzhat al-Mushtaq Fi’Khtiraq alAfaq—a cross-cultural cartographic masterpiece and the product of 15 years of research and travel. 1143 Robert of Chester, an English scholar, translates the works of al-Khwaraizimi, a scholar from alMa’mun’s time (r. 813-833), in effect introducing algebra to European scholars.

ca. 548 St Lactantius, a Christian rhetorician from Alexandria, publishes Christian Topography, an exhaustive explanation of the universe according to the Bible. Interpreting scriptures literally, the book denounces those who believe the world is round. 610 The Prophet Muhammad receives the first revelations of the Quran. Two years later, he begins to preach. 630 Muhammad captures Mecca. After Muhammad’s death in 632, instruments are developed to calculate the direction of Mecca to aid devotees in their prayers. 695 The Muslim postal service is inaugurated, incidentally contributing to cartographic knowledge, as those working for the service gain substantial geographic knowledge through their travels. 1271 Italian Marco Polo travels by land to China. His memoirs become the foundation for European knowledge of the “Far East” for centuries. 1300s For the first time in both Islamic and European history, maps are made that reflect longitudinal and latitudinal calculations. ca. 1389 (Ming Dynasty) The Great Ming Amalgamated Map or Da Ming Hun Yi Tu, a world map made of colored pigment on silk, is created, placing China at the center and compressing areas of limited geographically-available knowledge. The map represents Mongolia and Java at the North and South, Japan at the East, and Africa and Europe at the West.

1200s The production of maps continues across the Islamic world, both in the tradition of Ptolemy and of al-Balkhi.

1500-2000 AD

1500s Al-Idrisi’s maps are utilized heavily in Tunisia because they are some of the only Islamic maps that detail the Mediterranean and Black Sea areas. 1522 Ferdinand Magellan circumnavigates the world, proving it to be round. 1543 Nicolaus Copernicus publishes On the Revolution of the Celestial Orbs, proposing a heliocentric universe. 1569 Gerardus Mercator invents the Mercator Projection which compensates for the East-West distortion in maps. 1583 Jesuit missionaries Matteo Ricci and Michele Ruggieri establish a mission at Zhaoqing Prefecture. They used Europeanstyle cartography to impress Chinese dignitaries with the advances of European and Christian civilization, hoping to influence leaders to convert to Christianity.

1592 Selection of al-Idrisi’s scholarship is printed in Rome 1600 Al-Idrisi’s scholarship is translated into Italian 1619 Al-Idrisi’s scholarship is translated into Latin and published 1600s Modern European cartography begins to replace pre-Modern Islamic cartographic knowledge 1667 Isaac Newton publishes Principia, which proves that the Earth is in fact an oblate spheroid that bulges at the equator.

1714 The British Parliament enacts its “Longitude Act of 1714”, offering a king’s ransom of £20,000 to whoever could solve “the longitude problem” which befuddles European astronomers, geometers, and navigators. While latitude lines are fixed parallels, lines of longitude are located at variable geographic distances, and are therefore much harder to locate. 1735 English clockmaker John Harrison invents the first marine chronometer. This revolutionary portable time piece divined longitude by measuring time at sea, which varied from time at the home port. Harrison did not claim his rightful longitude prize until 1774, when the dubious scientific elite finally acknowledged the ingenuity of the “simple mechanic.”

786-809 During the reign of caliphate Harun al-Rashid, scholars in Baghdad procure Greek manuscripts in Byzantium. Their focus shifts away from Indian and Hindi scholarship and towards the works of Greek Ptolemy. Arab scholars translate and begin to fact-check Ptolemy’s scholarship.

850-934 Born in 850, al-Balkhi is eventually referred to by European scholars as the “founding father” of the Balkhi School—a group of cartographers notable for their simple, stylized maps that focus on the territory of the Islamic Empire and do not adhere to longitude and latitude scales. The maps made by Balkhi and his followers utilize measurements such as “a day’s journey,” and are accompanied by descriptive text regarding the towns, landmarks, and residents of each area. The Balkhi tradition is markedly different from the previous Ptolemaic style.

813-33 Caliphate Al-Ma’mun commissions the construction of a world map, hoping to display his geographic knowledge and confirm the scope of his power. Ptolemy’s calculations and the Persian geographical system of Kishvars heavily influence this project, and the final product represents a rare occasion in which Arab scholars ? -1406 Arab historian, Ibn Khaldun used al-Idrisi’s book for his section on geography.

1400-1477 Ptolemaic geography proliferates in Europe as it is first translated into Latin, and then becomes a popular subject for printers. 1405-1435 Chinese muslim admiral Zheng He explores the world by naval fleet. 1418 The Marvelous Visions of the Star Raft is published in China, documenting Zheng He’s naval exploration. An accompanying map shows He’s journey, and depicts the world as round.

ca. 1763 a map signed by Mo Yi Tong

(carbon-dated with 80% certainty to between 1640 and 1810) portends to be a copy of a 1418 map of Zheng He’s explorations, as “a general chart of the integrated world,” which (if not fraudulent) may prove that Zheng He did “discover” the Americas before Christopher Columbus.

1789 Jean-Dominique Cassini finishes the “Cassini map” of France, drawing upon the observations and research completed by four generations of Cassinis before him. It is the first detailed national map, and the first to use the survey method of triangulation.

1421 According to a contraversial hypothesis advanced by amateur historian Gavin Menzies, Zheng He discovers North America from the west coast in 1421. 1448 The Venetian senate commissions a world map from mapmaker Fra Mauro. Competed in 1453, it is the earliest “modern” European world map, and denotes a renewed interest in Ptolemy’s scientific pursuits.

858-929 Al-Battani makes groundbreaking astronomical observations and measurements that greatly improve upon Greek scholarship and, years later, influence Europeans like Copernicus. 900s In The Book of the Constellations of the Fixed Stars, al-Sufi records over 1,000 stars and 48 constellations. Drawing on Babylonian, Indian and Bedouin traditions, al-Sufi depicts Cassiopeia as a woman with a camel beside her.

Late 1400s /early 1500s Cartography of the Ottoman Empire develops as a direct reflection of the Empire’s imperial efforts and relies on a combination of pre-modern Islamic sources and European sources.

1492 Christopher Columbus hastily adopts Ptolemy’s scholarship, incorrectly converts Arabic miles into Italian miles, and sails westward in search of a passage between Europe and Asia. Instead, he arrives at the east coast of North America.

1800s “Orientalist” Jaubert translates al-Idrisi’s scholarship into French under the title Geographie d’Edirisi. 1815 William Smith publishes the first national geologic map. Originally a coal miner, his observations of strata across England gave rise to his Principle of Faunal Succession, which establishes that the age of fossils can be determined by their horizontal position in an outcrop. 1866-1873 Dr. Livingstone conducts surveys in Africa. His maps exposed vast regions and natural wonders, such as Victoria Falls, to the Western World. 1884 The Berlin Conference formalizes “the Scramble for Africa,” by allotting specific regions in Africa to certain European countries. The boundaries between traditional African nations are ignored by colonial powers.

1941 Waddington Ltd., a British printing company, produces silk maps for the military. Light and compactable, they gave soldiers stranded behind enemy lines a means of escape. 1959 US satellite Explorer 6 takes the first photograph of Earth from space. 1976 The space-oblique Mercator projection is developed by Americans John P. Snyder, Alden Partridge Colvocoresses and John L. Junkins. The projection is a mathematical formula that reduces distortion when satellite images are converted to flat maps.

Selected Dates in European, Islamic and Chinese Cartography

translate their geographic calculations into a comprehensive work of cartography. Al-Khwarazimi, one of al-Ma’mun’s most well-known scholars, corrects Ptolemy’s longitudinal calculation of the Mediterranean Sea.

by Esther Howe with Meghan O’Reilly and Connie Wang

754-74 Scholars from around the world study and collaborate in Baghdad under the reign of Al-Mansur. Arab scholars borrow astronomical knowledge from Indian and Hindi sources, which serve as the basis for their future cartographic practices.

Selected Dates in European, Islamic and Chinese Cartography BIBLIOGRAPHY Ahmad, S. Maqbul. 1992. Cartography of al-Sharif al-Idrisi. In The History of Cartography: Volume 2, Book 1: Traditional and South Asian Societies, eds. J.B. Harley and David Woodward, 156-174. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Ahmed, Sayed Akheel. 2008. Islam and Scientific Enterprise. New Delhi, India, I.K. International Publishing House Pvt. Ltd. Al-Khalili, Jim, 2011. The House of Wisdom: How Arabic Science Saved Ancient Knowledge and Gave Us the Renaissance. New York: The Penguin Press. Armstrong, Karen. 2002. Islam: A Short History. New York, Random House. Barber, Peter. 2005. The Map Book. New York: Walker.


Christine. 2008. Flat Earth: The History 10 Garwood, of an Infamous Idea. New York: St. Martin’s Press. Harley, J. B. and and David Woodward, eds. 2001. The History of Cartography, Volume 2, Book 2: Cartography in the Traditional East and Southeast Asian Societies. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Hopkins, J. F. P. 1990. Geographical and navigational literature. In Religion, Learning and Science in the ‘Abbasid Period, eds. M. J. L. Young, J. D. Latham and R. B. Serjean, 301-324. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Hsin Fei. 1996. Hsing-ch’a-sheng-lan: the overall survey of the star raft. Volume 4 of South China and maritime Asia. Wiessbaden: Harrassowitz. Hsu, Mei-Ling. 1978. The Han Maps and Early Chinese Cartography, Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Vol. 68, No. 1 (Mar., 1978), pp. 45-60 Karamustafa, Ahmet T. 1992. Introduction to Islamic Maps. In The History of Cartography: Volume 2, Book 1: Traditional and South Asian Societies, eds. J.B. Harley and David Woodward, 3-11. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Levathes, Louise. 1996. When China ruled the seas: the treasure fleet of the Dragon Throne, 14051433. New York: Oxford University Press.

Rapaport, Youssef and Emilie Savage-Smith. 2008. The Book of Curiosities and a Unique Map of the World in Cartography in Antiquity and the Middle Ages: Fresh Perspectives, New Methods, ed. Richard J. A. Talbert and Richard W. Unger, 121138. The Netherlands: Koninklijke Brill NV. Short, John Rennie. 2003. The World Through Maps: A History of Cartography. New York: Firefly Books Ltd. Sobel, Dava and William J. Andrewes. 1998. The Illustrated Longitude: The story of a lone genius who solved the greatest scientific problem of his time. New York: Walker. Swetz, Frank J. 1992. The Sea Island Mathematical Manual: Surveying and Mathematics in Ancient China. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press. Tibbetts, Gerald R. 1992. The Beginnings of a Cartographic Tradition. In The History of Cartography: Volume 2, Book 1: Traditional and South Asian Societies, eds. J.B. Harley and David Woodward, 90-107. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Tibbetts, Gerald R. 1992. The Balkhi School of Geographers. In The History of Cartography: Volume 2, Book 1: Traditional and South Asian Societies, eds. J.B. Harley and David Woodward, 108-136. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Tibbetts, Gerald R. 1992. Later Cartographic Developments. In The History of Cartography: Volume 2, Book 1: Traditional and South Asian Societies, eds. J.B. Harley and David Woodward, 137-157. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Toy, Mary-Anne. January 16, 2006. Old map found in a Shanghai shop may rewrite history’s voyages of discovery, The Age. Accessed September 2011 at articles/2006/01/15/1137259945225.html Winchester, Simon. 2001. The Map that Changed the World. New York: Harper Collins.

issue 8 Cartography


Now Available Now Available

Atlas Vertebra Our insides, my family, are made of crumpled bits Of atlases umber Anatolian Church dust and Boston winters all crammed In the margins around the wrinkled world inside These bodies palpitating keys to useless maps The shivers we get then are prehistoric Are damp echoes of staggering steps perhaps we are The click of the heel on the floor Look at the places we find ourselves while losing Each fiber of what we hoped would emerge From the waters of our years air-thin flakes Is all I can imagine it as



Fools are we and brave as red mud The ache of walking forward is the glow Of the moons we have swallowed whole Just to work in textile factories and gas stations Just to say this is something now This is something

by Arto Vaun

issue 8 Cartography


Kurtarici Kilisesi (Church of the Redeemer), Ani, Western Armenia/Eastern Turkey. Photograph Š2010, by Kwang Meng Tan. Image courtesy of the photographer.


Cartographic Leverage from Empires to Zip Codes

M analogy

uch of the map’s leverage—a

and delineating lines that reflect the new goals,

far better physical science

and the borrowed borders leverage the familiar-

than power—stems


ity and prestige of the lines adopted.

boundary lines that restrict where people can go or what they can do. Whoever draws the lines exerts enormous leverage insofar as delineating a boundary is far easier than erecting a fence or wall. And because maps work so well as navigation tools, they’ve earned a reputation for truthfulness and authority that makes us respect their lines, or at least feel a mite anxious when we consciously ignore them in a burst of exuberance, entitlement or outright civil disobedience. Another form of cartographic leverage occurs when boundaries devised for one purpose are adopted for something else—the mapmaker avoids the tedious tasks of stating goals

(above) Territorial claims and year-round research stations of Antarctica. Oriented with Greenwich meridian at the top. Scale 1:68,000,000. Image courtesy of Central Intelligence Agency, 2005 (right) Image courtesy of CIA World Factbook (far right) Image courtesy of NASA Earth Observatory

Borrowed borders can be as simple as the allels used to frame world and regional reference maps, or as geometrically intricate as the boundary network on a large-scale soils map. In the former case, the Earth’s spherical grid, a geometric framework for fixing location and charting courses, provided Europe’s colonial rulers with a convenient way to claim territory on other continents. example is the wholesale partition of Africa


in the late 19th century, when meridians and parallels as well as rivers became colonial boundaries. Although


these lines often cut through tribal territory or put squabbling factions under the same colonial


most of them survived the post-World War II independence


ment because postcolonial governments were reluctant to cede territory to a neighbor or recognize the distinctiveness of small, comparatively weak ethnic groups. Elements of the graticule were also borrowed for the international border between Canada and the United States (the 49th parallel from Minnesota to the Salish Sea); the straight-line portion of the boundary between Alaska and Yukon Territory (the meridian at 144° W); and the pie-slice

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The most egregious

Argentina’s Antarctic sector is bounded on the west by a whole-number meridian (74°W) just west of the westernmost reach of its border with Chile and on the east by a whole-number meridian (25°W) just east of the South Sandwich Islands. The Falklands (known to Argentinians as the Islas

Falkland Islands

graticule of whole-number meridians and par-

Malvinas) lie within this sector but north of 60°S, the northern boundary of its Antarctic claim. Argentina’s national maps portray the Islas Malvinas, the South Sandwich Islands, the South Orkney Islands, and the South Georgia Islands as a natural northerly extension of its Antarctic claim.



John Smith, Virginia, 1612. John Smith’s famous 1612 has north at the right. While in the New World, Smith began the first mapping of Maryland after two expeditions up the Chesapeake Bay in 1608. There is an inset of Powhatan in the upper left corner and the Indian is standing in Pennsylvania. ‘Chesapeack Bay’ lies at the center of the map and the ‘Saƒquefabanough flu’ (Susquehanna River) is shown emptying into it. A village of the same name is shown above ‘Smyths fales’ and the right side of the map has a large figure of an Indian given the name. This figure is based on the Indian chief who came down the river to meet with Smith. Underneath is written “The Saƒquefahanougs are a Giant like people thus atyred.” The locations of several villages are shown with little huts in what would be Pennsylvania. This map would be imitated with increasing detail for the next 75 years. This image is from the Library of Congress copy which is state 6 from 1624. Image and caption courtesy of the Library of Congress, Huntingfield Collection, MSA SC 1399-1-101.

territorial claims to Antarctica asserted be-

astronomers Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon

tween 1908 and 1942. Although the Ant-

set to work demarcating the line with monuments

arctic Treaty of 1959 put these claims on

a mile apart.

ice in the interest of international scientific cooperation, Argentina exploited its sec-

This new boundary became a second-generation

tor boundaries as an excuse for its ill-fated

borrowed border in the years before the Civil

attempt to (re)take the Falkland Islands in

War when politicians and journalists adopted it

1982, and continues to use its sector claim

as the unofficial dividing line between the North

as a symbol of national pride.

and South. Although Maryland remained a Union state, historians and the media continued to treat the Mason-Dixon line as a meaningful cultural

as the boundary between Maryland and

divide through most of the following century and,

Pennsylvania led to a border dispute be-

to some degree, still today.

tween the two colonies in the early 1730s. Land grants to Lord Baltimore and William

Airspace and Power in the 20th Century

to the 40th parallel, as represented by marginal tick-marks on a 1608 map by John

Land boundaries added another dimension when

Smith, the first European to systematically

the world’s nations conveniently extended their

explore the Chesapeake Bay. Smith’s in-

sovereignty skyward in the early 20th century.

accurate estimate of

The issue of who controlled


airspace was largely moot as





and his successors had they



to mark the boundary. Hostilities began after Maryland officials belatedly


latitude with a sextant, sought to collect taxes from


residents south of 40° N, and dared call Philadelphia “the finest city in Maryland.” The dis-

the world’s nations conveniently extended their sovereignty skyward in the early 20th century

late as 1910, when delegates from 18 countries met in Paris for the first International Conference on Aerial Navigation. France and Germany equated the skies with the high seas, to which all ships without hostile intentions enjoyed free access, while Britain claimed the right to restrict flying over its homeland and colonial territories. World War I solidified the British position by demonstrating the efficacy of aerial

pute was resolved in

surveillance and bombing. The

1750 when the Crown

first aeronautical charts were

reattached the border

annotated topographic maps

to a parallel 15 miles south of Philadelphia

cut into strips, and the first restricted areas were

at 39° 43’ N. Fourteen years later, English

national borders borrowed to enhance national


Penn had anchored their shared boundary

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Easy appropriation of a line of latitude


security. From these rudimentary origins aeronautical charting evolved to produce, reproduce and regulate national airspace. Several years ago, while working on a book on prohibitive cartography, I sought out early maps of flight restrictions. The Air Commerce Act of 1926 authorized the US Coast and Geodetic Survey to compile and distribute air navigation charts, but the earliest restrictive symbols merely warned pilots away from hazards like transmission lines and gunpowder factories. The

l m ht

Air Commerce Bulletin for April 15, 1935 included

T . N E ribe T N sc O b C u s LY m/ N O N rna O I T jou P I R pse C S im B From 90210 to 26581: SU ZIP Code as Identity w //w

a historic map showing a no-fly zone around government buildings in downtown Washington.

This followed a temporary restriction imposed two years earlier when the Bulletin for March 1,

1933 designated “the air space over the [entire] District of a prohibited area from 9

a.m. to 5 p.m. on March 4, 1933, for public safety


18 purposes.” On the occasion of Franklin


Roosevelt’s first inauguration, this forerunner of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Temporary Flight Restrictions relied on D.C.’s borrowed border.

Map delineating zip code boundaries in the United States. Image courtesy of U.S. Geological Survey, 1970.

During the Cold War, municipal boundaries throughout







Department retaliate against the Soviet Union

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for closing large parts of its territory to American

Size matters insofar as counties and towns are usually

travelers. Similar to Soviet restrictions based on

too large and internally diverse for retailers eager for a

administrative units, the US closures consisted of a

geographic sort that mirrors our buying habits. It’s hardly

list of individual counties and entire states, thereby

surprising, then, that marketing strategies and rate structures

forcing the Russians to make the map themselves,

are based on ZIP Code areas, which are neither so numerous

as we willingly did with their restrictions, to

as to be unwieldy nor so large as to be demographically,

inform travelers as well as underscore Soviet

economically or culturally irrelevant. Established in 1963

secretiveness. Borrowed borders made it easy for

to expedite the delivery of mail—ZIP stands for Zone

either party to shrink, expand or otherwise tweak

Improvement Program—our postal precincts offer a

its list of closed areas—why bother to draft and

convenience, stability and ready recognition lacking in

print a new map when the constituent boundaries

census tracts, wards or vaguely defined city neighborhoods.

were so readily available?

Every residential mailing address has a compact, easily

T . N E ribe T N sc O b C u s Y m/ L ON N rna O I US Census was taken in 1790, ufirstthan T Tjohemore P a year after the inauguration I e R of President George Washington. At the time, s C p the census basically divided a population that S m B i was under 4 million into free white males who were of or younger than military age (16), SU free white females, all other free persons, and w slaves. Today, the Census has evolved to map w a much larger demographic that includes over //

memorized five-digit ZIP Code; and

should you forget, it’s right there on your driver’s license.


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It’s hardly surprising that the ZIP Code map has been re-purposed for the

more efficient targeting of consumers by catalog retailers and telemarketers, assisted by demographic research firms like Claritas Corporation, which devised the PRIZM (Potential Rating Index by ZIP Markets) segmentation system in the early 1970s, which characterizes each ZIP Code according to five “lifestyle clusters” assumed

300 million diverse Americans. 2010 Census results have even recently revealed that well over half of America’s cities are now majority non-white. Other significant trends noted from the 2010 US Census are that the US population is increasingly shifting toward the South and West. According to the US Census Bureau, the center of the US population has continued to move westward ever since the first census. In 1790, the center of the population was in Chestertown, MD. Today, the center of the population is in Plato, MO.


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issue 8

he PRIZM (Potential Rating Index by ZIP Market) categorization system is based on geodemographics, or the premise that people who live close to each other will be demographically similar to each other as well. The PRIZM has categorized US neighborhoods into 62 “lifestyle clusters” based on this idea. The clusters are created from public sources such as US Census data as well as private sources, such as consumer purchase records. Each US neighborhood is assigned to one of the PRIZM clusters according to the current year’s demographic projections. Neighborhoods are defined by factors such as social rank, household composition, mobility, ethnicity, urbanization, and housing. The neighborhood clusters prove useful to marketers interested in targeting products to specific individuals.

PRIZM “lifestyle clusters” and the US Census



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Soils map of Middlesex County, MA. Image courtesy of USDA/NRCS

to reflect key segments of its population. And

to gainfully employed African Americans

it’s no surprise that Beverly Hills 90210, which

trying to buy homes in deteriorated but

lent its name to a 1990s television series about

promising neighborhoods. In the mid-

teenagers in an affluent Los Angeles suburb, is

1990s, for instance, an automobile rental

home to segments labeled Blue Blood Estates,

firm in Syracuse, New York blacklisted the

Money & Brains, Movers & Shakers, Upper Crust,

13205 and 13207 ZIP Codes by refusing


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and Young Digerati. By contrast, Littleton 26581,

to rent to residents irrespective of their

in West Virginia, described euphemistically by

credit rating or driving record. Although

the clusters Back Country Folks, Blue Highways,

the policy affected both African American



and white residents, it was quickly

Pleasures, receives few if any catalogs from

perceived as racial discrimination, and city

upscale retailers like Talbot’s and The Shaper

officials rightly retaliated by pulling city


contracts and restricting the firm’s access




to the local airport. Ubiquitous and cartographically convenient, ZIP Code boundaries were occasionally borrowed for

The convenience of typing people by

a form of geographic discrimination as invidious

postal address led to a wide misuse of ZIP

as the red-lining once used to deny mortgages

Code maps in setting auto insurance rates.

Although many states have outlawed the practice,

surveys created for a different purpose. Landfill

insurers that compile claims data by ZIP Code argue

opponents recognized this and mounted a val-

that the cost of insuring against accidents, theft

iant legal challenge, the premise of which was

and vandalism depends on our neighbors’ claims

twofold. They argued that because the aerial

histories as well as our own.

map slightly distorted scale and distances in hilly areas, the county needed to commission a new

The Perils of Cartographic Precision

map, mathematically exact and relevant to the proposed landfill. They also pointed to the presence of “inclusions” (small patches of another soil type within a larger patch) that undermined

different type of boundary: the lines separating map-

both the homogeneity of mapping units and the

ping units on soils maps. Painstakingly delineated by

county’s position that only about 43 percent of

scientists who often spend years walking a county’s

the contested parcel contained protected “Type

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I or Type II soils.” In the end,

the surface with an auger and col-

an administrative law judge

lecting samples for lab analysis,

sided with the county by con-

the soils map partitions the land

firming that the existing soils

into mapping units as small as a

map, however flawed, was

few acres. Although the map cate-

legally binding. In so ruling,

gories were devised to reflect soil

he underscored the economic

genesis, they provide a detailed


picture of the land’s suitability for

not the scientific wisdom—of

various commercial crops as well

cartographic leveraging with

as septic tanks and basements.

borrowed borders.



Because the categories reflect

agricultural potential for commercial crops, they

Borrowing borders exploits existing boundaries

can be combined to produce a map of agricultural

and public acceptance of maps as reliable and

productivity, which in turn provides a rational basis

legitimate. Boundaries readily available at multiple

for preserving farmland by giving farmers a break on

: p t t

levels can provide convenient, off-the-shelf

their property taxes.

borders for a range of goals. At the macro level,

New York state took farmland preservation a step

continents or declare no-fly zones, while at the

further by prohibiting local governments from using

micro level, soils maps and postal codes can be

eminent domain to acquire land for a landfill when

configured into plausibly efficient environmental


meridians and parallels stand ready to partition

the preponderance of the parcel in question is prime

and sociocultural regions. In between are

farmland. I learned of this policy a decade ago when

provincial and municipal boundaries, expediently

our local “resource recovery agency,” which is re-

appropriated even when the well-known territories

sponsible for disposing of the county’s trash, sought

they bind are peripheral to the mapmaker’s goals.

to open a landfill for ash from its new incinerator.

Map users should be wary of borrowed borders

Both the agricultural conservation law and the solid

as the cartographic embodiment of the notorious

waste management act in New York deferred to soil

quick-and-dirty short cut. w


T . N e the existing NTE crib s soils map,CO ub s Y / L however m N flawed, o c O - legally l. was a N rn IO binding u T IP sejo R SC imp B SU w w / /

fields and forests, probing below

issue 8

Environmental regulations often borrow a radically



he ability of maps and atlases to be read as sources of amusement

has long been confined by their reputation as mere reference texts. What would a map look like if it were designed in such a way that it could be used as a place to tell an engaging spatial story, and if such maps were incorporated serially

Narrative Cartographies Creating an atlas as a novel by Elbie Bentley into an atlas that could be read as a novel? Narrative cartography allows us to break the traditional conceptions of map and atlas as locations of dull scientific fact, and reshapes cartography as a technique capable of presenting engaging graphical narratives that can be used creatively to illuminate stories of the past. The westward expansion of the American territories during the early nineteenth century marked the beginning of an era of reconnaissance through scientific exploration and documentation. A significant component of these explorations was the surveys conducted for the construction of a transatlantic railway, an exploit undertaken by the Army Corps of Topographical Engineers in 1853. Of the six surveys, the Gunnison-

(Figure 1) Each two-page map spread is designed to be read from right to left following the expedition from east to west across each page. Maps are then sequenced within the atlas so it can be read, page to page, like a novel. Š 2011 the author. Image courtesy of the author.



Beckwith expedition survey produced a particularly intriguing report containing adventure, illustration and topographic presentation. Despite the historical importance and remarkable content of these reports, which were considered the largest source of geographical information on the West during this era, they remain largely unknown to the public today. These reports provided me with an opportunity to extend theories of cartographic narrative into practice, report’s separate elements into a cohesive presentation, culminating in Railroad (1853-1854), presented in part here (Figure 1). In recent decades we have changed the way we view cartographic representations and we have begun to approach them in more creative and informed ways. The guise of maps as objective purveyors of scientific information has been lifted, revealing maps as powerful tools of persuasion that operate using specific sets of cultural norms.1 Western cartographic tradition, which promotes strictly positivist conceptions of space, no longer hinders map making practices; maps have been liberated as locations capable of illustrating infinite new and creative representations of space.2

(Figure 1, continued) The illustrations on this and the previous pages are designed to be read from right to left following the expedition from east to west across each page. Maps are then sequenced within the atlas so it can be read, page to page, like a novel. Š 2011 the author. Image courtesy of the author.


Atlas of Explorations for the Pacific

issue 8

weaving together the Gunnison-Beckwith


Over the past few decades several authors have

cartographic symbols can been used to produce a

explored ideas of narrative cartography, each

similar narrative within the map. Narratives are not

demonstrating the potential of narrative forms

generic, but they can be structured in a particular

to represent stories within the map and atlas.

way: thus, narratives are made up both of the events that take place, and by the way in which

J. B. Harley was first to call for a narrative

these events are told or presented. By structuring

cartography in his influential article “Historical

these two elements into the symbols of the map,

Geography and the Cartographic Illusion.”

we can tell a story as well as encode cultural

Maps, he suggested, if considered as texts in the

perspective and human experience.2, 5

broader sense, can be used to portray a process, tell a story, and, when presented in tandem,

I brought these notions of cartographic narrative

they can also reveal the human relationship with

to life, realized both as atlas and map, in Atlas of

space. By looking at maps more imaginatively,

Explorations for the Pacific Railroad (1853–1854).6

T . N E ribe T N sc O b C u s LY m/ N O N rna O I u T o P j RI pse C S im B SU w w // Here we have an historical expedition atlas that

tistical abstractions of the past” and thus better

tells the story of the Gunnison-Beckwith survey for

represent historical subjects. Though he himself

the Pacific Railroad. This survey, which was one of

never brought these ideas into life in the map,

six conducted to locate potential trans-continental railroad routes, produced an intriguing report of the

they have since given rise to various notions of

narrative cartographies under other authorship.


26 Denis Wood has also explored the idea GLIMPSE

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“we can mediate humanity rather than the sta-

American West.7 While most notable for the tragic events surrounding Captain Gunnison’s death at

the hands of Natives, this survey also produced an

of reshaping the atlas into the form of a

exceptional collection of topographic illustrations

pleasurable novel. Through careful sequencing

beautifully depicting the country through which the

and juxtaposition as a group of interrelated

railroad would pass. In addition to their exceptional

pieces, each playing a role in the meaning of the

contents, the format of the reports was key to their

atlas as a whole, he suggests, maps in an atlas

success, for it combined text, image, panorama

can work in unison, just as a group of paragraphs

and map in an interconnected presentation that

can work to produce the narrative of a novel.

contextualized each piece within the greater

The atlas is thus transformed from a pile of

geographical story. In the original Pacific Railroad

dull reference maps into a sequence of maps

Reports, text, illustration, data and map were

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that can be read following the linear nature of

separate elements scattered across twelve volumes

the narrative; page by page, like a captivating

intended to be read together by flipping back and

mystery novel. He, too, developed these

forth. Though separated from each other within the

innovative ideas, but never was able to put them

organization of the reports themselves, elements

to work in the form of a cartographic project.

were linked by location in the accompanying series


of maps, and, when viewed in context, worked Margaret Pearce has demonstrated that by

together to produce an incorporated world

explicitly structuring a narrative in cartographic

through the imagination of the reader (Figure 2).8

symbology, cultural and historical voice can

Viewers were transported to the landscapes of

be restored to the map. Just as a novelist uses

the American West and captivated by their beauty

letter symbols to structure the narrative of a text,

through these original reports, and by presentation

they follow the expedition east to west across

of their original elements.

each page (Figure 1).

In my presentation I use narrative cartographic

I then further structured the narrative within the

techniques to gather together and combine the

symbols of each map, as suggested by Pearce,

products of these reports, and I reproduce these

to both tell the story of the expedition and

in the individual maps, which are then combined,

present it in the voice of the explorers. Within

as Wood originally suggested, into a series that

each map, original report texts, written by both

can be read like a novel. Just as the pages of a

Lieutenant Beckwith and Captain Gunnison,

novel are read, and then turned, as the reader

who shared command of the expedition, were

makes his or her way through the text, the atlas’s

summarized and used to tell the story of the

series of maps has been similarly designed in my

expedition. Each text is associated with a date

presentation. I thus guide the readers through

and campsite location along the expedition

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path, so the reader can easily become familiar


T . N E ribe T N sc O b C u s LY m/ N O N rna O I u T o P j RI pse C S im B SU w w //

the spatial and temporal elements of the map as

issue 8

in atlas form with the innovative recombination



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(Figure 2) A sample of the original illustration, map, data and text components of the Pacific Railroad Reports. Š 2011 the author. Image courtesy of the author.


m t h .

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with the landscapes of the explorers’ experi-


28 ences through their descriptions as he or she

accompanied by descriptive captions to further orient the reader within the landscape. Symbols

makes his or her way through the space of each

representing scientific measurements explicitly

map (Figure 3).

described in the texts (for example, abundant or sparse timber resources) or found in the tables of

In order to maintain the historic voice of

the original survey reports (for example, elevation

the explorers, and present the contents of

or bearings) are here placed directly at the location

the reports as they themselves would have

in the map where they were observed. The

presented them, each map is designed to

integration of each report component within the

resemble the original incorporated format of the

individual map works to combine the adventure



Railroad Reports. Text, image and observation

stories and visual products with their spatial and

are linked by location so the reader can view

temporal context, yielding an integrated and

each medium in the context of those others that

incorporated piece that replicates the original

accompany it, thus recreating the incorporated

report format only within the space of a single map.

world for the reader within the space of each plate (Figure 4). As mentioned above, each

The historic voice of the original reports is further

descriptive text is linked to campsite location

structured in the symbols of each map; these have

and date along the expedition path. Egloffstein’s

been re-drawn in the cartographic language of the

landscape illustrations and panoramas have

original reports using an innovative combination

been reproduced and linked to the location

of digital and hand-drawn techniques. Relief was

from which they were drawn, using the number

hand-rendered for each map background that I

system of the original reports; each image is also

have re-drawn, following the traditional hachuring

(Figure 3, left) Texts are used to tell the story of the expedition; events of the expedition are narrated as the explorers move across each map. © 2011 the author. Image courtesy of the author. (Figure 4, below) Narrative is further structured within each plate to reflect the format of the original reports. Individual elements of text, illustration and data are thus linked by location along the expedition path to recreate the explorers’ incorporated format within each map. © 2011 the author. Image courtesy of the author.

issue 8 Cartography


(Figure 5, left, above) A sample of the modern hand-hachured map background used to replicate the original nineteenth century relief representation. © 2011 the author. Image courtesy of the author. (Figure 6, left, below) A comparison between original and new digitally rendered cartographic symbols used to further structure the explorers’ original historic voice within each map. © 2011 the author. Image courtesy of the author.

The ideas brought forth by the small subset of cartographers that I have cited in the course of this article, and that I have realized in the atlas that I produced using their suggested methodology, offer us a point of departure for the creation of a totally different type of cartographic product; maps and atlases can be a window into individual


m t h .

experience and offer a unique graphic method of

T N E ribe T N sc w O b C u Y m/s L co ONReferences . l N rna O I u T o P j I R pse C S im B SU w w / /

elucidating historical subjects. We can look forward to a day when narrative cartographies, both in

maps and atlas, become one of many standard representational formats in cartography.

style of the nineteenth century cartographer, only


current data as a guide (Figure 5). Similarly, 30 using new digital symbols were created using the original

reports as a stylistic referent, and these were designed to closely mimic the original historic style (Figure 6). A combination of traditional and digital techniques


Harley, J. B. 1989. Deconstructing the Map. Cartographica 26(2): 1-20.


Pearce, M. W. 2008a. Framing the days: Place and narrative in cartography. Cartography and Geographic Information Science 35(1): 17–32.


Harley, J. B. 1989. Historical geography and the cartographic illusion. Journal of Historical Geography 15(1): 80–91.


Wood, D. 1987. Pleasure in the idea: The atlas as narrative form. Cartographica 24: 24–45.


Pearce, M. W. and Pualani Louis, R. 2008b. Mapping indigenous depth of place. American Indian Culture and Research Journal 32(3): 107–126.


Bentley, E. 2011. Atlas of Explorations for the Pacific Railroad (1853-1854). Athens, Ohio: Self-Published.


US War Department. 1854. Reports of Explorations and Surveys, to Ascertain the Most Practicable and Economical Route for a Railroad from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean (Pacific Railroad Reports). Washington DC: Government Printing Office. (US House Executive Document 91, 33rd Congress, 1st Session, 1854).


Krygier, J. 1997. Envisioning the American West: Maps, the representational barrage of 19th century expedition reports, and the production of scientific knowledge. Cartography and GIS 24(1): 27–50.

creates a unique modern representation, while retaining the original historic voice of the explorers within each map.

Though the idea of narrative in cartography is still in its


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youth, the potential of narrative technique to produce

engaging graphical stories within the space of the map and atlas is clear beyond doubt. As demonstrated in the example narrative atlas, breaking from traditional cartographic conventions and creating a structured narrative within the form and symbols of map creates an atlas that works to engage the reader’s interest, so

he or she can become familiar with the landscape of the explorers’ experiences while exploring the spatial and temporal elements of the map. The elements of place, space, time and event are thus brought together in a form that helps us better understand the past.

From Sextant to SatNav

Building a 3-D map of the human heart by Katherine Fletcher, Peter Kohl and Denis Noble Just as well-known, Internet-based geographic mapping applications bring together what used to be separate preserves of satellite images, globes, road maps, city guides and photographs of individual locations, we need a unified map of the human heart that allows researchers and clinicians to zoom in and out, linking different data types across spatial scales. Imagine the following: A patient prone to atrial fibrillation is diagnosed with arthritis. Before the doctor amends his prescription medicines, she calls up the patient’s history, loads up a three-dimensional map of his heart based on Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans, and uses it to run a simulation of the anticipated long-term effects of various anti-inflammatory drugs. The doctor then chooses the best drug to treat this particular patient’s arthritis with the lowest likelihood of negative side-effects for his heart. Fact or fiction? While the above scenario isn’t happening in hospitals quite yet, the basic tools necessary to do patient-specific, multi-dimensional modeling already exist. We can simulate the actions of drugs on the sugars, proteins and lipids in different cells; link cell models together into physiologically-structured tissue representations; customize the shape of a virtual heart to match an individual’s MRI scan data; and explore drug effects on heart rhythm. The challenge, now, is to integrate all those bits into a seamless whole (Figure 1).

(Figure 1) Computed electrocardiogram (ECG), (left) before (blue) and after (red) drug action on cells of the heart. The drug-induced effects change the electrical field passing through the torso (right), from which the ECG would be recorded on the surface of the body. The ECG is the most regularly used tool for cardiac diagnostics. This simulation is a step towards solving the “inverse problem,” allowing us to work back from ECG disturbance to the underlying heart problem, at the level of individual cells. This image is the result of a collaborative effort linking drug models developed by the I3BH team at Valencia Polytechnic University, heart models from the Computational Biology team at the University of Oxford, and a torso model from colleagues at INRIA, Paris. Image courtesy of Nejib Zemzemi.

Scale of the Problem

and the evolution of multi-cellular life on Earth (about 1 billion years ago).

Just as we now generally use global positioning systems (GPS), instead of sextant and clock, to navigate

So—hang on—109 orders of size, multiplied

our environment, medical research and practice need

by 1015 orders of time—surely this is Mis-

to rethink the way we integrate and access structure

sion Impossible? In fact, is it even Mission

and function data from various sources, to intelligent-

Desirable, given that we are approaching

ly navigate the human body. Using GPS cartography

territories marked, “Here Be Dragons”?

interfaces, anyone with a computer or handheld SatNav device can seamlessly zoom from whole globe

The answer is obvious: the challenge of


(~10 m) to decimeter (10 m) resolution. That zoom

cartography of the human body in space

range is 10 orders of magnitude. The challenge for

and time exists, regardless of what we

cardiac navigation is of a similar scale, when you go

make of it. For biomedical research, under-

from the whole body to the protein channels that un-

standing the heart’s structure and function,

derlie the ion fluxes that make the heart beat.

from ion channel to whole organ, and how



that develops in health and disease, is MisZooming in would take you through layers of muscle

sion Imperative!

and connective tissue and swirling patterns of cell



orientations, right through to electron microscopic

So we may as well get on with it. For prac-

levels of sub-cellular structures, and so cover a range

tical reasons, let’s split the challenge into

from the body surface (about 1 m, that is: 10 m) to

four problems. First: understanding what

a few nanometers (10 m). This highlights that the

we are simulating in terms of structure.

task for cartography of the heart (scaling 10 orders

Second: adding function. Third: adapt-

of magnitude) is even more enormous than stitching

ing what we know about the heart “in

together surface maps for geographic viewing inter-

general” to an individual. Fourth: doing

faces. What’s worse: we are not content with looking

all that quickly enough to support clinical

at the shell, but must map structure inside, in three





dimensions (3D). And: it’s moving—so we need 4D (3D + time).

Challenge 1: Structure-Related Image Capture and Integration

To catch that movement, and how it changes during the development of a disease (which may take a few

Modern non-invasive imaging techniques

years)—and to portray the underlying cellular and

that allow us to take snapshots of the struc-

sub-cellular processes that control electrical excitation

ture of the heart include MRI and Comput-

and mechanical contraction of all muscle cells in the

erized Tomography (CT). These techniques

heart on every beat—we need to be able to navigate

provide salami-slice-like pictures of interior

about 10 orders of temporal resolution. The flash of



action as ion channels within cells open and close, to the steady lub-dub of a heartbeat, is of the same scale

Computers can be used to strip away the

of change (1015) as the difference between the time it

background from the stacks of 2D im-

took you to read this paragraph (about 10 seconds)

ages, and leave us with the pure structure

of each virtual slice of the heart. Through a process called “registration,” we can line up the hundreds of slices to recreate “the salami,” building a single stack that the computer can reinterpret as a connected 3D volume. Instead of seeing either surfaces only, or the inside of tissue when it has been cut apart, we can start to make sense of how the anatomy works in its native state (for an example, see this BBC tour of a cardiac MRI data set: health/7774016.stm). Using a different type of MRI protocol, called diffuissue 8

sion tensor MRI (DT-MRI), we can measure how easily water molecules diffuse through tissue, to get an idea of the way in which the cells are oriented in the


various layers of heart muscle. In the experimental setting (or post-mortem), we can furthermore add high-resolution histological information, obtained from serial sections of the tissue. This uses wellestablished techniques, though with a twist. After


fixing and embedding the heart in wax, a machine called a microtome is used to serially slice the entire organ as thinly as the membrane between the layers of an onion. After suitable staining, we can take hundreds of highly magnified snapshots of each slice, which are then aligned like the squares on a chessboard to make what looks like a huge patchwork quilt. This allows us to identify the various tissue components at micrometer resolution, and see how they are connected in different parts of the heart in health and disease (Figure 2). For example, if part of the heart has been damaged, the scar tissue is not only electrically and mechanically different, but underlying structural causes can be identified from serial 2D histology. This is important for understanding, for example, how a particular drug, or the positioning of a pacemaker, should be optimized for a patient who has had a heart attack.

(Figure 2) Mosaic histology image of a cross-section of a heart at the level of the aorta (aortic valve in the center of the image). Individual high-resolution microscopic snap-shots (little squares) have been stitched together to form one large image. At full resolution, this complete image has far too many pixels to display even on the largest highresolution monitor. Image courtesy of Dr. Rebecca Burton, University of Oxford.

If we use the same heart for all the above types of imaging, we can match up the histology pictures to the stack of MRI images (Figure 3). This allows researchers to switch between data types (like switching from “satellite” to “road map” view). Better still, once we’ve got the two data sets lying on top of each other, we can use the MRI data as a “master” silhouette to stretch the histology pictures back into their correct shape, if the slicing process has distorted the tissue. A key challenge in this process is that the data (which very quickly goes into multiple terabytes for the histology of a single heart) must be “co-registered”—i.e., the various serial 2D data must be collated into one common 3D space, with accurate positional reference between image sources (Figure 4).

Challenge 2: Function-Related Image Capture and Integration As mentioned before, functional imaging requires us to map data to positions inside the heart, (Figure 3) MRI data (left) and matched histological image detail (right) of the aortic valve in a rabbit heart. The image on the left shows a long-section of a heart, revealing ample structural detail, down to about 20 micrometers. But histology, while much more time-consuming and invasive by nature, offers identification of tissue elements (muscle cells are red, collagen is blue) with resolution of less than a micrometer. Note: the panel on the right is equivalent to a small part of a single patchwork square in Figure 2. Images courtesy of Drs. Jürgen Schneider, Patrick Hales, Rebecca Burton and Christian Bollensdorff, University of Oxford and Imperial College London.

and this can be achieved by taking MRI “snapshots” of the heart in various stages of the heartbeat. This is challenging, as the movement of the beating heart is further overlaid by displacement of the lungs, even if the patient manages to remain “still” for periods of time. Most MRI sequences are long, compared to the intrinsic movement of the heart, so image acquisition has to be triggered relative to specific points of the cardio-respiratory cycle. Using a combination of techniques such as cine-MRI (for general anatomic information of the moving heart), tagged MRI (where tissue fragments are non-invasively marked to study local deformation), or DT-MRI during different parts of the beating cycle, it is possible now to obtain insight into how the individual muscle layers of the heart move during contraction, which empties heart chambers to pump blood around the body.

issue 8 Cartography


In addition to tissue deformation, we can monitor the electrical activity, from body surface maps (Figure 1), or intra-cardiac probes that explore the electrical field changes inside the heart’s chambers. Experimentally, and very rarely on human post-mortem tissue (such as in the context of heart transplantation), we can directly observe the underlying electrical and chemical changes that govern the heartbeat. This involves using a technique called optical mapping, where fluorescent dyes are washed into the tissue and taken up by the cells. These dyes flip “on” and “off” to report the presence of specific ions, or of changes in electrical and mechanical parameters, and we can track these changes with suitably sensitive cameras (Figure 5). Many mechanisms that shape the electrical signal that drives contraction can therefore be analyzed as they act within the tissue.

(Figure 4) Flow chart of the integration of various imaging data sources (left) into co-registered computational representations (middle) from which mesh-like simplifications for computational models are generated (right). With permission from: Plank G, Burton RAB, Hales P, Bishop M, Mansoori T, Bernabeu M, Garny A, Prassl AJ, Bollensdorff C, Mason F, Rodriguez B, Grau V, Schneider J, Gavaghan D & Kohl P. “Generation of histoanatomically representative models of the individual heart: tools and application.” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A 2009/367(1896):2257-2292. Available online: http://rsta. content/367/1896/2257.long

Challenge 3: Personalization

every millisecond or so, to capture the fast dynamics of electrical changes in

Once we have a general anatomical

the heart, and this has to be done for

structure, including muscle fiber orienta-

as long as it takes to address a relevant

tion, and a description of how the dif-

period of “real time.”

ferent constituent parts are interrelated, we can personalize this “generalized”

Which brings us to the last (but by no

virtual heart to reflect the structure, dis-

means least) problem: time.

ease history, and even (some) genetic variations of a particular patient, using the

Challenge 4: Real-Time

individual’s medical history, blood tests, ECG, and MRI or CT scans. This is the

As you might imagine, the equations

step that takes us from evidence-based

that describe the physical and chemi-

medicine (which looks at the probabilities

cal activities of cells are complicated

of medical responses and tries to treat the

to begin with. For a simulation to be

disease) to personalized medicine (which

useful, it must show multiple stages

is focused on the individual and therefore

in a heartbeat, and—depending on

tries to cure the patient).

the context—may require tens (e.g. for an acute drug effect) to millions of

All of this structural information can be

heartbeats (e.g. for disease progres-

condensed into a “mesh” (Figure 4),

sion). To do this, you need to calculate

where each point represents a group of

a sequence of interactions with at least

cells. Meshes must incorporate different

30 heartbeats, and for some processes

cell types, including the “telegraph wires”

more than one thousand complete

that conduct electrical impulses quickly

cycles, at each of the millions of virtual

through the heart, and different types of

cells. This takes a lot of computer pro-

muscle cells responsible for contraction

cessor time. Thankfully, if you can do it

(Figure 6).

on multiple processors in parallel, you can “multiply time.”

A real human heart has billions of cells, (Figure 5) Normal sequence (top image to bottom image) of electrical activation of the heart, spreading from the apex (bottom of each individual image) towards the base (top of each individual image) as a wave shown in bright color visualized by voltage optical mapping. Images courtesy of Dr. T. Alexander Quinn, Imperial College London.

and—interestingly—it contains many more

If you wanted to simulate one cycle of

non-muscle cells than actual muscle. To

electrical activation and depolariza-

have a useful level of detail, a virtual human

tion using a whole-heart model that

heart would need to simulate several mil-

included cell and tissue properties five

lion cells—which means the equations that

years ago—assuming you had such a

describe what each cell is doing, and how

model—it would have taken several

cells communicate with their neighbors,

months to run. Since then, we have

would have to be solved in several million

streamlined the computer software

places, at once, for the many different ion

that runs these models and, also ben-

channels that underlie each cell’s activity.

efitting from improved processing

This would have to be done repeatedly,

power of modern computers, we now

can perform such simulations in about 30 seconds. This still takes 30 times longer than one heartbeat, and that is even before we have appropriately included movement of the heart tissue. We expect that in the next five years teams around the world will be able to simulate a whole beating heart, including blood flow, while you wait. For this to be useful in treating patients—such as predicting the longissue 8

term effects of various anti-inflammatory drugs for our atrial fibrillation patient at the start of this story—we need to be


able to calculate the relevant behavior faster than real-time. After all, it is no use “predicting” that a drug will cause arrhythmia for the patient a year from now if it takes a year or more for the computer to work this out.

portant ion fluxes that excite cells in the heart. The more we learn about cells, the more complex and detailed the models

Mapping the Inner Cities of the Heart

become. Biochemistry and molecular biology are giving us a new layer of insight. level

In current simulations, we treat these

models gloss over what is happening

cellular processes as if they occurred

underneath. In effect, we need to add

in a structureless space, but cells are

not just street-view, but “open home”

densely packed with highly-organized

to our maps, and this should be part

compartments. Calcium, for example, is

of a 3D GPS of the cells; that is, we

a key that turns many locks. It plays very

must now start to include the nano-to-

different roles depending on its location

micro range.

and the timing of its release in a cell. Its




movement between cell compartments All the global changes in a heart are

governs the transition from electrical

driven by lightning-fast processes

to mechanical activity in the heart. But

within cells, which are still only partly

in other parts of the same cell, calcium

understood. Cardiac computer mod-

plays important roles in signalling, gene

els actually began at this level, with

transcription, protein folding and enzyme

Denis Noble’s work in the early 1960s,

activities—requiring much lower calcium

which calculated some of the most im-

concentrations than are needed for the

(Figure 6) Cutaway view of an individualized heart model, showing the specialized “telegraph wires” that conduct the electrical signal quickly through the heart. If heart tissue is damaged by disease or injury, simulations like this can identify the ideal placement of pacemaker electrical leads that help to activate all parts of the heart at the right time during each beat. Image courtesy of Drs. Rafel Bordas, David Gavaghan, Vicente Grau and Blanca Rodriguez, University of Oxford.




(Figure 7) EM tomography-based visualization of a mitochondrion (the cell’s power station: blue), its relation to the internal store for calcium (red), parts of the cell surface membrane that dive into the middle of cardiac muscle cells (yellow), and microtubules (green) that provide important mechanical clues for the activity of the three other components shown here. The 3D pixels (voxels) underlying this image are only a few nanometers in size. Image courtesy of Ms. Fleur Mason and Drs. Patrizia Camelliti, Mary Morphew, and Andreas Hoenger, University of Oxford and University of Colorado, Boulder.

heartbeat. To protect the calcium signal mes-

and function, but also to make significant

sage requires compartments.

progress in the nano-to-micro domain. This will revolutionize cardiac research by linking

Size and structure matter, nano-to-macro.

molecular biology insight to what happens in health and disease at cell and tissue levels, and thereby aid diagnosis and care. With this

is called electron microscopic (EM) tomogra-

technology, it will be possible to find the best

phy. A small but unusually thick (for EM stan-

location for implanted defibrillators and pace-

dards) cell fragment is mounted in an electron

makers before operating, much like builders

microscope, which takes a stack of images

can decide how to dig a foundation based on

from different viewing angles, a bit like a

blueprints, topographical maps and knowl-

miniature tomography scan. The resulting and

edge of the local water table, rather than by

inherently “fuzzy” images are then aligned,

trial and error. w

and the relevant structures painstakingly extracted, and reconstructed in 3D. The results volumes of 3D EM data (Figure 7). Interestingly, going from micro- to nano-scale (i.e. from cell to sub-cellular compartments), represents a spatial challenge that is similar to going from micro- to macro-scale (i.e. bridging from the cell to the whole heart). This part of the problem is, at present, nowhere near the point at which we can hope to integrate it into full-blown real-time simulations, and this kind of “multi-scale challenge” is set to remain a key area of research and development in many labs around the world.

Future of the 3D Heart

Acknowledgements Much of the content of this article is based on collaborative work between Oxford University teams in the Department of Computer Science, Physiology, Engineering, and Cardiovascular Medicine, as well as at Imperial College London’s Cardiac Biophysics and Systems Biology team. We gratefully acknowledge financial support for this research from the EU Virtual Physiological Human Initiative, UK Engineering and Physiological Sciences Research Council, UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, the UK Medical Research Council, the British Heart Foundation, and the Magdi Yacoub Institute.

With recent and upcoming advances in imaging technologies, computing power, and cartographic modeling techniques at the cellular scale, etc., future physicians will have a 3D GPS to navigate the structure of the heart, developed for their individual patient using non-invasive imagery. In the next decade, we expect to create not only highly detailed micro-to-macro models of a heart’s structure

The text of this article, without images, is free to use under a Creative Commons Attribution license.


show a breathtaking complexity in connected

Supplementary illustrations and videos for this article are available at

issue 8

One tool to map these minute compartments


RetroSpect: ca. 1833-1842

A Map of the Open Country of Woman’s Heart... by Georgia B. Barnhill


hen we think of cartography, we think



This attempt to map emotional and behavioral states

of maps of the world around us. The

is signed “By a Lady.” The heart is partitioned into

opening decades of the nineteenth

various sections—“Land of Love of Admiration,”

century witnessed an expanded production of

“Land of Coquetry,” “Land of Selfishness,” Region

maps due to the use of lithographic printing

of Sentiment,” “Land of Love of Dress” and “Region

technology. The ease of reproducing detailed

of Sentimentality,” “City and District of Love.”

maps using this innovative process reduced the

Linking these “lands” are rivers, railroads and canals,

cost of publishing individual maps. At the same

all named with phrases such as “River Drain the

time, cultural tourism and explorations of western

Purse” in the “Land of Love of Dress” and “River

lands created an increased demand for maps of

Lasciviousness” in the “Region of Sentiment.”

the United States and its territories. Simultaneously

This hand-colored map might have appealed to

during the decades before the Civil War, male and

parents instructing their adolescents to avoid certain

female writers explored the genre of sentimental

behaviors and excessive love of finery, or to young

literature, which also fed the market for related

men unaccustomed to the wiles and love of luxury of

imagery. Publishers of popular American prints,

young women who needed to be warned. There are

such as D. W. Kellogg & Company in Hartford,

few positive emotions expressed in this map, except

Connecticut, met this need by issuing prints such as

in the “Region of Sentiment” where we find “Platonic

this Map of the Open Country of Woman’s Heart,

Affection,” “Hope,” “Enthusiasm,” “Good Sense,”

which comes at the intersection of cartography

“Discrimination” and “Prudence.” w

and sentimentalism, expressed clearly by the river named “Novel Reading.” Given the use of traditional symbols for boundaries, mountains, and the color blue for water, the map actually implies map reading knowledge.

A Map of the Open Country of Woman’s Heart Exhibiting its Internal Communications, and the Facilities and Dangers to Travellers Therein. Hartford: Lith. of D. W. Kellogg & Co., [1833-1842]. Image courtesy of the American Antiquarian Society.

issue 8 Cartography


Losing Finding Our Way >>>

And a conversation about cognitive mapping and orientation with neuroscientist giuseppe iaria by Rachel Sapin with introduction by Carolyn Arcabascio

trip to the bank, a grocery run, a quick stop at the post office. For most of us, the journey to such routine destinations is so familiar and second-nature that the experience is an entirely forgettable one. But for some, the distressing time spent en route is as noteworthy an event as anything that may happen upon arrival. These otherwise capable people get lost along the same route they’ve been traversing every day for years; landmarks, lefts and rights don’t help. But regardless of the mundane or stressful nature of one’s daily travels, the brain is always to blame or to thank. And according to neuroscientist Giuseppe Iaria, cognitive mapping and connectivity are key. Dr. Iaria talks with GLIMPSE’s Rachel Sapin about the neural mechanisms that help those of us who succeed in “getting there,” or that fail those of us who don’t.


functions: perception, attention, memory, decision-making, mental imagery and so on. When people talk about topographical orientation, it’s not easy to define it in terms of cognitive skills. What is easy to say is [that topographical orientation is] basically our ability to find our way around our environments. [Some] people may find ways of [learning a pathway] or getting from A to B by using left and right body turns or distances. Others may remember the same pathway by associating body turns with specific landmarks: they have to turn left at the bakery; right at the cinema; right at the bank again, and so on. Others may just follow sequences of displacement, and others, with time and practice, may actually use mental representations of the environment. So, whenever the environment becomes familiar, you have in your mind a mental map that you use in order to get from place to place. Now, if you think about those cognitive functions—memory, attention, perception, decision-making skills, mental imaging—you realize that these are func-

Rachel Sapin (RS): Could you first explain how it is that we

tions that children develop over time. There are

are able to navigate at all? Is a sense of direction innate

certain strategies that children actually use when

or learned in people without perceptual impairments?

they are four-, five-, six-years-old, and other strategies that they may use for orientation when they

Dr. Giuseppe Iaria (GI): The ability to orient and navigate in

are older—eight-, nine- or ten-years-old. [We un-

space is a very complex phenomenon in humans and non-

derstand it as] developmental, but just because

human animals because it involves many different cognitive

we don’t have evidence in terms of genetics so

issue 8 Cartography

43 “Disoriented yet?” Berlin, 2008. Photograph courtesy of flickr member dospaz.

far. I say so far because we are doing a study trying to find

order. I’m talking about normal people without

out if there is a combination of genes that can identify some

any neurological or brain injury. I was trying to un-

orientation skills in individuals. What makes this story com-

derstand what was, at that time, the relationship

plicated is that there is huge variability across individuals

between this variability and neuromechanisms.

in cognitive strategies for orientation. There is also huge

In the last few years, we have done a fair job in

variability in terms of how good or bad people are in us-

explaining [the way] some behavior affects vari-

ing certain strategies compared with others. Where you live

ability. The literature [on the subject] explains that

also affects which kind of strategies you use.

aging has an effect on orientation skills. We just published a manuscript in which we show that

RS: It sounds as if there isn’t even a “normal” way to navi-

by age 45 orientation skills start to decline in the

gate an environment.

healthy populations. Among the variety of strategies that start to decline though, the ability to

GI: Exactly. It’s very difficult to find out what is actually nor-

form a cognitive map is the skill that predicts best

mal. My interest in this topic came out when I was trying

aging decline. The effects are expressed in terms

to understand all this variability across individuals. I’m not

of time required to form mental maps and errors

talking about pathological cases, or people who have a dis-

made while using them, which reflect a decline in


44 “Topography of Terror” Berlin, 2007. Photograph courtesy of flickr member Luis Villa del Campo.

cognitive skills and therefore a decline in the neu-

clinical populations [to study humans]. We used

ral mechanisms responsible for those skills. Gender

to do experiments on healthy controls (human

also has an effect on orientation skills. We know that

subjects), and we formed our hypotheses. Then

women probably have a bias in looking for land-

we went looking for brain damaged patients;

marks and trying to make use of them; whereas men

damage in certain regions will affect certain orien-

may actually rely on different kinds of information

tation strategies. A major criticism to this neuro-

like body turns or distances. So we have some sort of

psychological approach was that we investigated

variability that can be explained in terms of behavior,

something that wasn’t there anymore: there is

but we don’t know so much more than that.

damage in the brain, a lack of orientation skills. Another criticism was that one couldn’t really

RS: To touch on another aspect of this, how much

make so much of a brain that is damaged because

have technological advances in neuroimaging al-

maybe it organizes in a different way. When the

lowed you to begin to understand this very com-

neuroimaging technique became available, we

plex skill humans and animals have?

were able to finally describe how things worked in a healthy brain. In the first few years, people

GI: [These advances have been] huge because until

started using virtual environments—very simple

around 15 years ago, neuroscientists relied mainly on

kinds of video games—to design tasks that aimed

to assess specific orientation strategies. You cannot

easily realize, any damage in the brain that is going

do fMRI in real environments, so we tried to recreate

to affect one of these skills may affect your ability to

the specific daily life activities in terms of orientation

orient. I’ll go to extremes: if you have damage in the

by using these virtual environments. We were able

brain where you cannot recognize landmarks, then

to show that the use of differ-

you get lost because you cannot

ent orientation strategies relied,

recognize the bakery or the bank

for example, on different brain regions as confirmed by neuropsychological status. This was the first approach in neuroimaging; it was purely functional. People were looking at functionality of ity in specific regions compared to others: why people were using the last seven or eight years neuroimaging has developed much more technologically, and we are able now to make sense of structural data—very fine differences within the structures of the brain

in the brain that is affecting your memory, generally speaking, then you get lost because you don’t remember where things are. If you have more frontal damage, which is affecting your attentional skills, then you get lost because of this problem. People refer to these patients as having a topographical disorder. If you want to be more specific, these are acquired topographical disorders. They’re acquired because the brain damage occurred after the person de-

and specific brain regions—rather

veloped properly. That’s the part

than the functionality of the brain

of the story that I was interested

alone. We have found in our lab


that there is a very strong relationship between specific brain

There is another part of the story,

regions—how they are structur-

which is not actually a disorder; it’s

ally organized—and the ability to

a condition called Developmental

make use of specific orientation

Topographical Disorientation. This


distinction is very important. The people that I’m describing and investigating right

RS: Topographical disorientation, which you’ve

now do not have an acquired topographical disori-

studied for a long time, has to do with a specific

entation. There was no brain injury—no car accident,

part of the brain being structured somewhat differ-

no brain tumor or stroke. They just didn’t develop

ently. Can you tell me what this condition is?

certain skills. We have found that these people who have this condition, in which basically they get lost

GI: A little bit of clarification: We started this con-

every day in the most familiar surroundings, have

versation by saying that topographical orientation is

been this way all their lives. That’s the reason why

very complex because there are different functions

we call it developmental and not congenital topo-

involved—memory, perception, etc. Now, as you can

graphical disorientation; we don’t have evidence


different orientation strategies. In

left or right. If you have damage

issue 8

the brain—increased neuroactiv-

. .they get lost every day in the most familiar surroundings..

where you were supposed to turn


that there is a gene that is actually going to develop

they don’t know where things are, even if they

or define our orientation skills. These people are ba-

have been there for 20 years.

sically people like you and me: no memory-related or perceptual complaints, no decision-making or

There’s one thing I want to add that is very im-

mental imagery problems.

portant for us, which is where our research with these DTD people is taking

RS: Do you have any ideas as

us. We’re doing a variety of

to the cause at this point in

things, but we have two ma-

your research?

jor goals in our lab: one is to

we don’t have evidence that there is l m t a gene that is TENT ibe.h N scr O actually goiY nCg to/sub L m N o ne develop O orl.cdefi N rna O I our uorientation T P I sejo R C p S ski l ls. m B i l U g

identify children who are not


GI: So people with what we

going to develop these impor-



tant orientation skills. It’s not

Topographical Disorientation]

because we don’t care about

get lost in the place where

these people, we absolutely

they have lived for 20 or 25

do; but they have been this

years for the simple reason

way all their lives. This means

that they are not able to form

that my children or yours may

in their minds a mental map of

not develop these important

the environment. That’s what

orientation skills. What we

we call the cognitive map. So,

want to do is find out who

if you move to New York, you

these children will be.



might move to a place that

is 15 or 20 minutes walking-

We’re doing several projects:

distance from your office. You

one is developing a tool that

will most likely look around for

will be able to assess a variety

landmarks, trying to define the

of orientation skills in schools;

S w. w w / :/

pathway to get to your office

the other is to do genetic

everyday; or you will Google

studies in families with mem-

your address—you will try to

bers across generations. We

make sense of things. You

want to identify genes able

p t t h

will start having experiences with the environment,

to detect this specific condition. Why all of this?

which will become more and more familiar with time.

Because it’s easier to modify the development

You will discover the area around you—where to find

of children rather than modify the brain of a

nice bread, and so on. With time, you will have a very

55-year-old person. The other aspect we are re-

good mental representation of the environment.

ally focusing on is the rehabilitation treatment for

People with DTD are not able to create this mental

people that are not children. It’s very important

map. Whenever they move, they have to remember

for us to use technology, but we also believe

sequences of pathways, which is fine; but they can-

there is some cognitive rehabilitation that we can

not do this for every place they go because it will be

do. In some way, we are working on developing

too much for the memory. So if they don’t have this

some sort of task that will help these people to

map in their minds, whenever they move around,

develop those skills that for some reason they

“bread and cakes”: Bread and cakes in the shop window of Tunnocks Tea Rooms on Uddingston High Street, Glasgow, Scotland, 2010. Photograph courtesy of flickr member zoetnet.

didn’t develop when they were at a certain age.

reorganization of the human brain according to this new

This is very important research for us and we’re

sensory stimulation, it will be a huge help for these people

also using technology. For example, right now I

with topographical disorientation.

: p t t


have two German students in my lab who have designed a special belt that contains a compass,

RS: Is creating a cognitive map—however you do that—

which gives you sensory stimulation wherever the

essential to orienting ourselves?

north is. So you receive the vibration on your skin while you’re wearing this belt, and if you wear it

GI: It is absolutely essential. These people that I’m describ-

for six or eight weeks, our hypothesis is that we’ll

ing are the evidence. A very important question that I hope

detect a change in behavior or performance in

my lab will be able to answer in the next few years is: “What

terms of orientation, but also a change in terms of

is a cognitive map? How do you build it?” I can tell you a

brain regions, and connectivity between regions.

definition of a cognitive map, which is “a mental representa-

If this belt has an effect on the neuroplasticity and

tion of the environment in which the spatial relationships


T . N E ribe T N sc O b C u s LY m/ N O N rna O I T jou P I R pse C S im B SU w w / /

issue 8

l m ht


l m ht



T . N E ribe T N sc O b C u s LY m/ N O N rna O I T jou P I R pse C S im B SU w w / /

“Disoriented No 2,” 2008. Photo courtesy of flickr member Owen Byrne.

between landmarks are reported.” It’s not so much

learn that. Some people may actually rely on very

important to have landmarks on the map, but what

specific landmarks; some can actually build cogni-

is really important is to have proper spatial relation-

tive maps by relying on body turns and an outline

ships between landmarks. Now, do we really have a

of the environment. Some use verbal information.

[mental] top-view survey of the environment? If so,

Semantic knowledge goes into the map as well.

how do we create it? It’s very complicated because

So if you meet your boyfriend in a nice bar and it’s

if I ask you to imagine where the closest washroom is

the first time you’re meeting after a few months in

from where you are now, you can probably imagine

Manhattan, then that bar will have a significance

how to get there through the walls. But if I ask you

for you, which is different from the significance of

where Rome is compared to Paris, you would prob-

a bar where you meet your usual colleagues every

ably picture a top-view of Europe. The way that we

Friday afternoon. So how people use information

represent the environment is different according to

to create a cognitive map becomes very, very com-

the space that we have to rely on, which probably




suggests that it’s also different in terms of acquisition of information. We can acquire the same cognitive

RS: The next thing I’d like to get into is the role

map by using different kinds of information and this,

of the hippocampus.

I think, taps into the variability that we were talking about earlier.

GI: Everything that we reliably knew until about 20 years ago in terms of the hippocampus and orien-

There is no evidence in the scientific literature of how

tation really comes from studies in rodents—rats

we create different cognitive maps, but we want to

basically. O’Keefe and Nadel are the two people

scientists think of when they think about the hippocampus

So we look at the hippocampus and we detect

and spatial orientation. In 1978 they discovered via electro-

increased Blood Oxygenated Level Dependent

physiological evidence that within the hippocampus in rats,

Signal within the hippocampal region, suggest-

there are specific cells called “place” cells that fire when the

ing increased neural activity. We don’t measure


animals are in a specific location within the environment.

single cells, so the information is a little bit dif-

So you have cells that respond when the animal is in X, Y

ferent [from that of rodents]. We also have struc-

and Z location, and then other cells that respond when the

tural information within the hippocampus that

animal is in a different location. [Athough] the first thoughts

confirms that it’s really critical for orientation and

[on this matter were] from Edward Tolman, a scientist who started talking about cognitive mapping in 1948, O’Keefe and Nadel provided evidence there are these cells, these neurons within the hippocampus that fire and cally means that the hippocampus is in some way responsible for mapping the environment. Since these “place” cells were discovered, there have been many studies in rodents trying to prove when these neurons respond.

“What is a l m t cognitive map? ENT be.h T cri N s How doLYyou CO sub / m N co O lt. ?” bui l d i a N IO urn

T jo P I R pse C S im B SU w w / p:/

What has been found is that they respond when animals are trying to map


has been evidence provided in the last ten years about taxi




move within their environ-

ment daily for an enormous amount of time. They have

a huge, detailed [cognitive] map of the environment. In London,



and her colleagues showed that if you measure the vol-

ume of the hippocampus of

taxi drivers, you can see that the right hippocampus is

the environment, but relying on visual

bigger when compared with

landmarks to do so. So this was trans-

the hippocampus of non-taxi

lated in the human research in terms of

drivers living within the same

topographic orientation soon after, in

city.2 The second point that I

neuropsychological patients, and also

wanted to make is that when

in neuroimaging. The idea is that, even

we think about topographic

in humans, if the hippocampus is dam-

orientation, we think about

aged, it’s going to affect the ability

critical regions [of the brain]


to orient by using landmarks. When we talk about the hip-

that we know are important (for example, the hip-

pocampus and about neuroimaging [in humans], we don’t

pocampus, but also the parietal cortex) What the

really have the detailed information that we do for rodents

majority of scientists investigating this [subject]

because in humans, we cannot enter the hippocampus of

are interested in is connectivity. We are interested

healthy controls and record neurons from there. But we use

in the network, not just specific regions because

neuroimaging, which provides more of a microscopic pic-

what we have understood in the last few years is

ture of what’s happening. There’s no electrophysiology that

that in the brain, what really makes a difference,

can really help [in studies on humans], although we do have

is not just a specific region, but how the regions


communicate with other regions. If you think


respond in specific locations, it basi-


maps. For example, there

issue 8

[through their experiments] that if



about the first comment that I made about the

in terms of connectivity, and if you think about

complexity of orientation and navigation in hu-

the neuroanatomy, you can easily realize it has

mans, which involves different cognitive skills and

to do with development. You develop new skills,

[therefore] different brain regions, you’ll easily

you develop your brain, your cortex is folding

realize that the connectivity must be very relevant

more and more: the baby grows and the baby

in order to assess the neural mechanisms that are

experiences the environment. So, clearly there is

responsible for orientation.

a change in your anatomy,

We are interested in l m T .ht N E ribe the network, T N sc O b C u s LY m/ not-ONjust co . l N rna O I u fic T jspeci o P I R pse C S im B regions.. SU which basically means there



I mentioned that for stud-

is a change in the connec-

ies in humans, we don’t re-

tivity. Is this change de-

ally have electrophysiological

termined genetically? The



answer is most likely “yes,”

hippocampus. This is not to-

but we don’t actually have

tally true because in order to

evidence yet. People who

localize the epileptic focus of


patients with epilepsy, neuro-

this are interested in devel-

surgeons used to insert micro-

opmental disorders, just to

electrons within the temporal

see if there is any way we

lobe. Sometimes, in order to

can detect a gene or a se-

detect the discharge of these

ries of genes that will tell us

neurons and then remove

about the development of

that part of the brain that

specific cognitive skills. We

has the epileptic focus, neu-

do have the ability to detect

roscientists like me use these

functional connectivity and

patients to see how neurons

also structural connectivity,

are responding while they are

but we don’t really have evi-

doing some hippocampo-de-

dence yet that the variability



pendent orientation task. We


do have electrophysiological


measurements, but mainly in




across individuals in terms of

connectivity can be referred to genes.

a clinical population. RS: Switching gears a bit, you made a very

RS: Are we at a point with how we can investi-

interesting comment in The Denver Post that

gate the brain where we know if the structural

alluded to GPS technology as a contributor to

organization of the hippocampus and the con-

the deterioration of mental mapping skills.

nectivity between the hippocampus and other regions of the brain is more due to genetics or

GI: The reason why I made this comment is to


illustrate a point: let’s say you move to New York and you buy a car with a GPS. You will use it ev-

GI: That’s a very big question mark for us. There

erywhere you go, so you never use your brain. You

are a lot of people doing developmental studies

will not have a mental map of New York. If you

issue 8 Cartography

51 “Compass Inlay� Compass Rose, Terminal Tower, Cleveland, Ohio, 2010. Photo courtesy of flickr member, Steve Snodgrass.

Compass Rose


he compass rose has been around as long as the Portolan charts that emerged in Spain and Italy in the 13th century. Portolan charts, lovely for their detailed and colorful illustrations of harbors and trade routes of the Mediterranean, were ornamented by the compass rose, which was created to show the direction of winds, a factor that was important to Mediterranean traders. The compass rose contains 32 points, which indicate the directions of the eight major winds, the eight half-winds and the sixteen quarter-winds. The colors on the compass rose were created to ensure visual clarity for seafarers viewing Portolan charts in the dark of night on rolling ships. That’s why the eight major winds on the compass rose are often prominently displayed in black to be easily seen against the lighter background and other trade-wind colors, the half-winds generally being blue or green and the quarter-winds being red.

do this over and over again, you do not practice

use of GPS do worse in our orientation tasks. I

your skill, which means the regions in the brain

don’t really know what this means in terms of

that are responsible or that put effort into sup-

neural mechanisms, but it basically means that

porting your skills of creating cognitive maps will

if I take away the toy from these people, they

do something else. In some way, then, you will

will not perform the task as other controls do.

lose the ability to create cognitive maps. In other

There’s only one study showing that if people

words, if you use GPS, you replace your neuro-

have to use a technology aid for finding their way

networks responsible for creating the maps. Then

in the environment, then they find their way in a

you always have to rely on GPS because those

real surrounding differently.3 What we are doing

regions in the brain responsible for creating maps

now is assessing a variety of orientation skills in

may become responsible for something else;

users and in non-users, and we’re already finding

that’s the evolution, that’s the way it goes. Hav-

a trend, which basically means we just need more

ing said that, I don’t really have anything against

subjects in order to provide significance to this

the use of GPS as long as it’s used properly. Many

trend. But the trend is there.

l m ht

T . N E ribe T N sc O b C u s Y m/ L ON N rna O I T jou P I R pse C S im B SU w w //

people with DTD are able to move around just

because of GPS, so the advantage is huge. I don’t

RS: I wanted to end by asking you if your re-

like black and white comments on things like that.

search has influenced or changed your own

It’s an extremely useful tool if you really need it.

relationship to maps, cognitive and otherwise.

It’s fun. You can use it as long as you are aware of the effect of the technology.



GI: Sometimes people assume that I do have orientation problems because I have so much

RS: Do you use GPS?

interest in all of this research. I don’t actually. I think I have an average, maybe a bit below aver-

GI: I don’t have GPS [laughs]. But, for example, I

age orientation ability, but I am very aware of the

went to Lethbridge [in Alberta] for a seminar, and

environment. I am very biased in trying to look

I usually don’t use any technology, but I was get-

at landmarks or trying to remember things about

ting late and used my iPhone to track my direc-

locations; I’m too much aware of my knowledge

tions. I do realize it’s very useful, and sometimes,

to be detached and to be so naive about the

it’s very critical to use it. I trust my brain more, at

environment. If I walk along a new pathway, I

least now. When I’m 75, I’ll trust it less.

usually turn around seven or eight times, just to


: p t t

see how things will look when I’m going back.

RS: I always like to look at a map—I like to see

I’m really biased because of my knowledge. I

where I am—before I use a GPS.

think it helps me to appreciate a little bit more the information that’s available in the environ-

GI: It also becomes more personal, and on the

ment. I look at people, and I’m really interested

psychological side, it becomes more interesting.

to sometimes ask them questions to see how

We’re doing a study in our lab now where we ask

they give directions and information. I like to

people that make use of GPS and people that

experience the environment, because I think I’ve

do not to solve a variety of orientation tasks that

developed some knowledge through the years

assess different orientation skills. What we are

of how our brain works in the environment. It’s

finding so far is a trend where people that make

fascinating because it’s very, very complex. w

To learn more about Dr. Iaria’s research on Developmental Topographical Disorientation, visit

Endnotes O’Keefe, J, Nadel, L. (1978) The hippocampus as a cognitive map. Oxford: Clarendon Press.


Maguire, E., Gadian, D. G., Johnsrude, I. S., Good, C. T., Ashburner, J., Frackowiak, R. S. J. & Frith, C. D. (2000) “Navigation-related structural change in the hippocampi of taxi drivers,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences U.S.A 97(9), 4414-6.


Ishikawa, T., Fujiwara, H., Imai, O. & Okabe, A. (2008).“Wayfinding with a GPS-based mobile navigation system: A comparison with maps and direct experience,” Journal of Environmental Psychology 28(1), 74-82.

Hutchinson, A. (2009, November) “Global Impositioning Systems: Is GPS technology actually harming our sense of direction?” The Walrus. articles/2009.11-health-global-impositioningsystems/


Further Reading

issue 8


you are here


Reorganizing Space, Negotiating Identity The use of placenames in ordinary conversation by Lisa Gabbert


lthough the study of placenames—and onomastics more generally—constitutes a relatively small domain of scholarship, placenames are crucial semiotic features

of the landscape. They’re linguistic labels that verbally shape perceptions of “what’s out there,” long before one actually visits a particular locale. Despite their textual brevity, there is no tidy one-to-one correspondence between a name and a specific geographic location, notwithstanding the desire on the part of some cartographers for linguistic transparency.1 While “official” placenames exist, as in standard cartographic maps, there are also “unofficial,” or folk placenames. These



names are used locally, but are not formally codified by the government. Places may also have several different names in different languages, creating a symphony of monikers for a particular spot. My research site of Valley County, and more specifically, of a town called McCall, is located in west-central Idaho near the Salmon River Mountains, and is surrounded by the Payette National Forest and the Frank Church River of No Return wilderness area. It is an isolated, rural area. Traditionally McCall relied on the timber industry as its primary economy, but tourism has also long been an important secondary source of income. McCall has been a weekend destination area for Idaho families like mine since the turn of the 20th century, and more recently has grown into a destination resort. My family owned a small share of a cabin near McCall on the edge of Payette Lake, which is located at the northern end of the county, and I spent many weekends in the area as a child during the 1970s and ‘80s. Yet it was not until I briefly returned in the early ‘90s to work as

a summer wilderness firefighter that I

visible signage for most of the streets

began to take an active interest in local

and the houses did not have house

culture, which quite clearly was linked to

numbers. Street signs were expensive

the landscape. My interests lie in folklore

and house numbers unnecessary;

and landscape, and so placenames

most people received their mail at the

seemed an obvious area to explore.

local post office. Instead, in order to get around, people organized space

In my initial research, I compared cat-

according to local features and well-

egories of name types in Valley County.

known landmarks, such as physical

that places

features, the

that had been

houses of

named during

locally known

exploration and

families and

settlement drew


on a wide range

known build-

of available

ings like the

types, including

local high

personal names,

school or the

such as “John-

Forest Ser-

son Creek;”

vice building.

names associ-

Such wayfind-

ated with work

ing methods

like mining, as in

are common

“Two-Bit Creek;”

in rural

and descriptive

areas, and

names, such as

indicate what

“Nasty Creek.”

All images courtesy of the author

In contrast, newer

participants perceive to

names—mostly street names found

be out there in the landscape. They

within newly developed subdivisions—

offer a verbal picture of an individual’s

generally referenced natural features,

cognitive map, and therefore, produc-

resulting in placenames such as “Moon-

tive insight into how people organize

beam Way.” These modern naming

and use space. In addition, place-

practices suggest a more limited range of

names send messages about what

available types.2

is going on in conversation between two people, suggesting that organiza-

One of the most interesting things I no-

tion of space is intimately related to

ticed was that, historically, many portions

perceptions of personal and social

of McCall (population 2,554 in 2010) and


the surrounding county did not have

go down to the intersection there at the Nissula’s, turn north. Go past the Kruikshank place



“You turn left at Lake Fork Store,

issue 8

I concluded

Before the Rural Addressing System

hang first left there. Up at the next road, which is uh—Heinrich,


head towards the railroad. Just before you hit where it drops into the river, hang a right on that driveway there across the street from the—from the irrigation pumps. That’ll put you on our place. You can see the house from there.” 4

With these changes, the government aimed to implement a 911 emergency response system, My family’s cabin, for example, was located on

increase efficiency in the delivery of city services

an unmarked dirt road. We told people how

and facilitate the transfer of property. Our unnamed

to find the turnoff by instructing them to drive

dirt road became “Squirrel Lane,” and eventually

one-and-a-half miles

our cabin was given

down Warren Wagon

a house number,

road (one of the few

even though mail

roads that did have

delivery was not

signage), and then


sign that read

Rather than relying

“Dingle,” which was

on immediate

nailed to a tree. The

personal experi-

cabin was the first

ence or historical

one on the right. This

knowledge such

method of conceptu-

as old homesteads

alizing space is what

or well-known


56 to look for a wooden

sociologist Anthony

landmarks (both

Giddens calls “embedded,” meaning it is highly

seen and unseen), the RAS divides space into a

dependent on local knowledge, including histori-

grid, upon which interchangeable units (i.e., houses)

cal knowledge, as well as landscape features

are exactly plotted by means of street names and

such as a wooden sign nailed to a tree that are

house numbers.7In McCall, and the rest of the

directly seen or experienced.5

United States, the RAS constitutes a reorganization of space that Giddens describes as “distanciated”

Eventually, government officials decided to

or “disembedded,” meaning that space is sepa-

implement the Rural Addressing System, which

rated from place. By implementing the system,

began in the 1970s and culminated in the

the US government linked McCall to all the named

‘90s. The RAS named streets that did not have

and numbered houses and streets in the rest of the

names, erected visible street signs, assigned

country, thereby fostering the town’s relationship

numbers to houses and put them on buildings.


with “absent others.”

began to evaluate one another and This street-names-and-house-numbers

assess each other’s identity and

means of organizing space is considered

status according to wayfinding and

“modern” in that it presumes space to

placename cues used in conversation.

be empty and Euclidean, a ground upon

The ability to give directions using

l m ht

that entails a seemingly objective,

bird’s-eye view. The broader purpose of such reorganization is to make society more legible

through standardization, and it is

linked to the spread of capitalism, the

increase of bureau-

cracy, and modern forms of surveillance.8

pre-RAS wayfinding methods came to be more valued in the post-RAS con-


What is interesting to me, however, is

text, and attributed new social capital

how local people responded to this

because it signaled the user’s status

reorganization of space in terms of

as an “old-timer,” which gave him or

wayfinding and placename use. People

her increased social cache in some

give directions based not only on a

cases. Furthermore, people could now

referential understanding of their local

tacitly acknowledge the addressee’s

surroundings, but also based on percep-

identity as someone who could also

tions of participant identity—that is, who

understand the pre-RAS system,

they think they are and who they think

thereby staking a powerful claim

their addressee is. In McCall, rather than

about the ongoing social interaction

appropriating the RAS by giving their

as one old-timer speaking to another,

street name and house number when

without saying so directly. This act of

asked where they lived, local people

purposefully using an alternate form


T . N E ribe T N sc O b C u s LY m/ N O N rna O I T jou P I R pse C S im B SU w w / /

be mapped and


“Say, I was telling Jayne Brown where the drive-in is going to be? Well, it’s Burt and Esther Brewster’s old house. She knows exactly where that is. If I told her it was 1148 Boydstun, she wouldn’t know where that is.” 4

issue 8

which anything can

After the Rural Addressing System


of communication other than the “modern” one available is what scholars have identified as “codeswitching,” that is, communicative tactics used for the purposes of sending covert messages.9

the fact that he did not have the firsthand, experiential knowledge that the

People also used one system or the other some-

pre-RAS system conventionally required.

what strategically. In what might be interpreted

His ability to use the pre-RAS system

as a tactic, a tiny practice of everyday resistance,

established a sense of trust between

some people purposefully did not bother to learn

himself and potential clients and appar-

the RAS system, consciously disregarding the new,

ently loosened up the real estate market.

l m ht

“official” system as a means of resisting ideological



T . N E ribe T N sc O b C u s LY m/ N O N rna O I T jou P I R pse C S im B SU w w / /

domination.10 One woman for example, recounted

Examining the ways in which placenames

a conversation to me in which a tourist asked her

are used as wayfinding devices in

for directions to

conversation can

Forest Street. The

help us better

woman replied that

understand not

she didn’t know

only how people

where Forest Street

may respond to

was because they

spatial reorganiza-

had just got the road

tion, but also the

names in a couple

intimate relation-

of years ago and

ship between the

she hadn’t bothered


memorizing them

of space and

yet. Her response

perceptions of

strongly asserted her stance against changing so-

personal and social identity. In other

cioeconomic circumstances in that area. As another

words, people do not give directions

example of strategic manipulation, I learned of a

uniformly and space is not something


real estate agent who purposefully memorized the

“out there” as a concrete fact to be

wayfinding cues of the pre-RAS system (such as the

found objectively. Rather, people give

: p t t

names of homesteading families and buildings that no longer existed) in order to sell houses, despite

directions according to who they think they are, who they want others to think they are (e.g., the real estate agent), who their audience is, and how they perceive their relationship to that audience.



Dorion, Henri. 2000. “Should All Unofficial Placenames Be Eliminated?” Names 48(3–4):249– 55.


Gabbert, Lisa. “Naming Places: Re-Shaping and Re-Modeling through Local Linguistic Practices.” Midwestern Folklore 26(2) (2000):5–10.


Basso, Keith H. 1988. “‘Speaking with Names’: Language and Landscape among the Western Apache.” Cultural Anthropology 3(2):99–129.


Interview by author. McCall, Idaho 8 July 2005. Previously published: Gabbert, Lisa. “Distanciation and the Recontextualization of Space: Finding One’s Way in a Small Western Community.” Journal of American Folklore 120/476 (2007):178–203.


The process of implementing the Rural Addressing System took a number of years. According to city council minutes, an ordinance requiring house numbers to be adopted was passed in 1975 but not enforced since residents could not comply with the requirement that they be visible from the street. In 1984 and 1985, the police chief was again ordered to enforce the house number ordinance, but street signs still had not been installed due to lack of time and money. A proposal was made to include them as part of the 1987 budget or alternatively to install them partially over the next several years to offset the costs. (Taken from McCall City Council minutes, August 5 1974; January 7, 1975; July 16 1984; September 5, 1985; June 2, 1986). The term “grid” is used metaphorically here simply to mean a space upon which points can be plotted. The streets of McCall are not literally laid out in a symmetrical plane consisting of equal horizontal and vertical lines.


Scott, James C. 1998. Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

: p t t


l m ht

T . N E ribe T N sc O b C u s LY m/ N O N rna O I T jou P I R pse C S im B SU w w / /



Warroad, MN, received its fighting name from being located on the mouth of a war path once used by the Sioux to invade Chippewa territory. The city was once one of the largest Chippewa Villages in the Lake of the Woods region, and the Chippewa fought long and fierce battles against the Sioux for control of the lake’s rice fields.

Radner, Joan N., and Susan Lanser. 1993. “Strategies of Coding in Women’s Cultures.” In Feminist Messages: Coding in Women’s Folk Culture, 1–30. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

10. For the concept of tactic, see de Certeau, Michel. 1984. The Practice of Everyday Life. Berkeley: University of California Press. In his examination of the use of placenames in 19th century Stockholm, Allan Pred suggests that the purposeful disregard of official placenames by the working classes was a means of symbolic resistance to ideological domination. See Pred, Allan. 1992. “Languages of Everyday Practice and Resistance: Stockholm at the End of the Nineteenth Century.” In Reworking Modernity: Capitalisms and Symbolic Discontent, ed. Allan Pred and Michael John Watts, pp. 118–54. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

Hopeulikit, GA, was named after a local dance hall that was popular during the big band swing era. It no longer exists today, but lives on in local memory. Two Egg, FL, may have been founded before the Civil War, but it didn’t get its moniker until the Great Depression. The city was once named Allison after a company that built a saw mill in town, but later became Two Egg when legend has it, two boys traded eggs for sugar so much at a store during the hard-hit 1930s, regulars started calling the store “Two Egg.” Times improved in the Florida city by 1940, but the name Two Egg has not left the area since.


Giddens, Anthony. 1990. The Consequences of Modernity. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press

n 1950, Hot Springs, NM, decided to change its name to Truth or Consequences, after the popular 1940s NBC radio program by the same moniker. When show host Ralph Edwards called on any town in America to change its name to the show title to celebrate the show’s 10th anniversary, Truth or Consequences, NM was born.

issue 8



Place Names





navigate. Clemens served as

and author Joan Didion

a steamboat pilot as a young

wrote in her collection of

man, an experience he reflects

autobiographical essays about

on in later years with his

life in California in the ’60s

memoir Life on the Mississippi.

(The White Album), “A place

It’s a memoir that not only

belongs forever to whoever

serves as a sweeping historical

claims it hardest, remembers it

narrative of Twain, but of the

most obsessively, wrenches it

river itself, and his collected

from itself, shapes it, renders

observations of the mélange of

it, loves it so radically that

communities that congregated

he remakes it in his image.”

on its waters and at its shores

Didion was commenting on the

at the height of Manifest

idea that some places simply


The Literary Terrain belong to certain writers,



such as “Oxford, Mississippi,

Amidst Twain’s signature mix

belongs to William Faulkner.”

of reverence and humor for

It’s not surprising that Faulkner,

antebellum river life, he also

an author who drew so much

demonstrates an impressive

literary inspiration from the

cartographic knowledge of

place where he grew up,

the Mississippi. The very first

looked to Mark Twain as “the

paragraph of Twain’s Life

first truly American Writer.”

on the Mississippi reads like something out of a USGS

Samuel Clemens was a writer

pamphlet. “Considering the

who formed much of his

Missouri its main branch,

literary identity alongside

it is the longest river in the

the great Mississippi River in

world—four thousand three

his hometown of Hannibal,

hundred miles,” he explains

Missouri; his pen name, Mark

in introducing us to a river he

Twain, was in fact a river term

deems remarkable:

used by steamboat pilots to indicate that the water was 12 feet deep and thus safe to

It is a remarkable river in this: that instead

of widening toward its mouth, it grows narrower; grows narrower and deeper. From the junction of the Ohio to a point halfway down to the sea, the width averages a mile in high water: thence to the sea the width steadily diminishes until, at the ‘Passes,’ above the mouth, it is but little over half a mile.

unpublished chapter of the

The nature of the river is

novel in his memoir, and

so vast and encompassing,

describes the urge to write

Twain eventually likens his

the book as coming from

knowledge of it to reading a

a desire to capture “the

book. “And it was not a book

annual processions of mighty

to be read once and thrown

rafts that used to glide by

aside,” he writes, “for it had

Hannibal when I was a boy

a new story to tell every day.

. . .the rude ways and the

Throughout the long twelve

tremendous talk of their big

hundred miles there was

crews, the ex-keelboatmen

never a page that was void of

and their admiringly

interest, never one that you

patterning successors.”

form. He remarks that the

could leave unread without loss . . .There was never so

Imagine if Twain never


the river’s ever-changing


m t h .

T N E ribe T N sc O b C u s Y m/ L ON N rna O I u T o P j I R pse C S and B im l U g S w. w w / /

as well as perplex Twain is

issue 8

But what seems to infatuate

any shape at all,” he muses.

of Mark Twain The Mississippi river’s “disposition to make

wonderful a book written

experienced these early

by man; never one whose

years of mental and literal wrestling with the river. Reading Twain over a

hundred years after his

death, it’s hard to know

prodigious jumps by cutting

through necks of land...have thrown several river towns

By Rachel Sapin

out into the rural districts,

and built up sand bars and

: p t t

forests in front of them.” One


subject Twain reflects on with awe is how he ever learned to navigate the Mississippi river to begin with. “It was plain that I had to learn the shape of the river in all the different ways it could be thought of—upside down, wrong end first, inside out, fore-and-aft... and then know what to do on gray nights when it hadn’t

interest was so absorbing,

which character is more

so unflagging, so sparklingly

shrouded in American lore

renewed with every reperusal.”

today: the Mississippi River or Twain himself. w

Through his own unflagging interest in this epic river, Twain


created a canonical work


of American literature, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Twain’s Huck is still in its nascent form in Life on the Mississippi; he includes an

Twain, Mark. Life on the Mississippi. NY: Buccaneer Books, 1986, 13.


Ibid., 2.


Ibid., 62.


Ibid., 67.


Ibid., 25.




issue 8 Cartography


Many Rivers, 2009. Inlaid maps, acrylic, on panel. 48 x 78 inches. Š 2011 Matthew Cusick. Image courtesy of the artist.



issue 8 Cartography


Kara’s Wave, 2009. Inlaid maps, acrylic, on panel. 24 x 36 inches. © 2011 Matthew Cusick. Image courtesy of the artist.

Cartography and Humanism Concordances and discordances by Yi-Fu Tuan


artography and humanism are concordant in

over which their soldiers march. It is no accident

that they have much in common, yet discordant

that geography as a school subject received a

in that they have incompatible components. The same may be

said of geography and humanism, which

Cartography is a tool

is hardly surprising, since cartography is a key tool and subfield of geography. My progress, discussing the concordances first and then the discordances, will not be




geography and humanism have overlaps

for possession

boost in France after the national defeat in the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-1871 was attributed to ignorance of geography. Germany and Great Britain vied for empire in Africa from the mid-1880s onward, and success depended, in large part, on exploration, mapping and knowledge of geography. World

and differences that make it hard to say

War I gave the subject a further

whether I am addressing the one or the

boost in Europe.1 As for the United

other, or both. In what follows, the word “landscape” will

States, geography is inexplicably neglected in

appear often. It, too, is a hybrid concept, falling between

schools, all too often taught superficially under

cartography and the fine arts, science and the humanities.

“social studies.” American military academies are an exception. Surveying, map interpretation



and an understanding of landforms are necessary parts of their curriculum.2

oncordance is most evident in power and aesthetics. To a lesser degree, it is manifest in technique, use and correct

Humanism emerged during the Renaissance, when

representation or accuracy. Of course, correct representation

an awareness of classical antiquity’s achievements

is a desideratum of cartography, but it is also an aim of

gave elite Europeans of the 15th and 16th centuries

landscape painting—both products of a resurgent humanism

a heightened confidence in what they, too, could

and displays of human skill, knowledge and power.

achieve. The gains in knowledge were large and various, but uneven. Take cartography: On the

Cartography is a tool for possession, civil and military.

one hand, the Renaissance gave rise to superior

In civil contests, the claimant to land has a better chance

map projections; on the other, it continued the

of winning his case in a court of law if charts show the

cosmographies of the medieval period that

boundaries of his claim. It would seem that the lines

could beguile an explorer like Columbus. Where

themselves carry authority. In military contests, the role of

geographical facts were scarce, mapmakers

maps is critical. Commanders must know the lay of the land

allowed themselves much freedom to embroider.

Strangely, landscape artists were more likely to hew to the

As in Europe, maps bespoke power. Military

facts since they strove to record what their eyes saw. They

cartography emerged early in China. Silk maps

were, in this sense, more ”scientists“ than ”artists,” though

dating back to 150 BCE show army installations

both terms had yet to be invented and gain acceptance.

and headquarters. Color, used to differentiate geographical features, could have been a credit to

Landscape painting dominates reality’s multiple elements by

the cartographer’s technical sophistication or his

arranging them into a unified whole. Confining the elements

aesthetic sensibility. As for landscape painting, it

within an arbitrary frame enhances this sense of a whole.

first appeared as a major genre of art in the Tang

Mapping, too, confines many elements within an arbitrary

Dynasty (618-907), and rose to a new peak in the

frame that, unlike in a landscape, do not add up to a whole—a composition or picture. Commonalities, however, do exist Take technique: Long before cartographers invented hachures and contours, they landscape painters did. Maps had practical uses, whereas landscape paintings did not. Yet, even in this regard, the difference was not always clear-cut. Some landscape paintings depicted houses, streets and farms from a high-enough angle and with sufficient accuracy to be the portrait of an actual place; one can imagine them being used

and landscape


art dovetailed

in purpose and execution

arts but manufacturing and trade flourished. could



humanism, a term of Western coinage, should be limited to the West. Yet, if one means by it simply a sharp rise in people’s awareness of their individuality, dignity and capacity to initiate and create, applying it to China’s Tang




for orientation as though they were maps.

is justified, especially if it

As for aesthetics, it guided mapmaking

leads to comparative studies

almost as much as it did landscape painting.


Long after cartographers ceased producing







beautiful mappaemundi and decorating their maps with

instance of such dynamism. Though the question

mythical beasts, they retained a keen interest in the look of

is bound to arise: How can landscape painting

their product. Only the means to achieve the desired look

indicate human power when its message is the

became far more abstract. It is no exaggeration to say that in

vastness of nature, compared with which human

our own time, the finest maps are works of art—realistic, as


beings are insignificant? True, one way to view

in USGS topographic quadrangles; abstract, as in thematic

a typical Chinese landscape is to submit to its

maps of great range and power.

awesome scale. But, if we look closely, we find that


it nonetheless accommodates human needs: the river carries fishermen’s boats; a trail penetrates the mountain vastness allowing the man on his

ore than in Europe, in China, cartography and

donkey to reach his destination; the splendid

landscape art dovetailed in purpose and execution

view itself is at the disposal of a hermit drinking

such that they could almost seem one joint venture.

tea in his hut. More radically, landscape painting


showed mountains as side views, just as


both times when not only the issue 8

and emerge when we view them historically.

...In China,

Song Dynasty (960-1279)—


domesticates wildness by reducing it to the size of a scroll, which can then be brought into the house and hung on the wall. Human power is such that an artist can turn the wildest nature into a pet. In Europe, cartography, even while it retained a taste for beauty, progressively distanced itself from the fine arts and humanities. China’s story is different in that cartography, its early scientific/empirical start notwithstanding, never lost its close tie to these disciplines. One reason lies in conservatism. Chinese map makers saw no need to depart from representing mountains as side views. The prestige of landscape painting itself might have played a role in this regard. Second, such was the prestige of writing that, rather than depending on cartography, the Chinese resorted to ever more detailed and precise forms of verbal description. Third, in China, landscape paintings drawn from a high angle could satisfy a basic function of maps: orientation.3




he discordances between cartography and humanism are at their sharpest in three areas: time,

emotion and morality. Time and emotion are, however, so intertwined that they have to be addressed together as well as in seriatim. Geography and its principal visual tool, maps, are about space and spatial relations. History, by contrast, is centered on time and, in particular, on events that have beginnings, Hall in Mountains, Dong Yuan (ca. 934–962)

middles and ends. History is, for the most part, told through narrative or storytelling—the natural way to deal with directional time. To escape this bind, some historians have opted to limit the period of their study to, say, a single year. Moreover, to ensure that they are still not tempted to tell a story, they select a year during which nothing special happens. Examples are Jérôme Carcopino’s Daily Life in Ancient Rome and Ray Huang’s provocatively titled 1587: A Year of No Significance: The Ming Dynasty in Decline.

The time span thus curtailed, historians’ works

perspective, or, in China, by the technique of

become barely distinguishable from those of

placing features (say, mountains) one behind


another such that their outlines grow more faint





traditionally avoided studying societies that show

with each recession.

clear development. Anthropologists are best known for researching primitive, seemingly timeless ways of

Maps do not conjure up spaciousness, much less

living. Geographers, for their part, focus on ordinary

time, even when they depict a continent. They

people whose lives are repetitive and cyclical rather

cannot do so, in part, because points separated by

than directional. Until recently, geographers have

thousands of miles are reduced to inches that can

avoided major events. In the United States, the Civil War certainly counts as one, and it is noteworthy that

is such

also because they inform rather than hint. Nothing on a map is

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purposefully hidden. Mountains are exposed, not tucked away

have no doubt produced maps and

one behind another. For lack of

atlases showing lines of battle, the

the power to project distance,

numbers of soldiers and civilians

maps do not generate frisson, a

killed and wounded, and other

sense of the unknown and the

data; but, lacking the temporal

unknowable; in short, mystery.

dimension, maps are bloodless and

give no hint of the violence and

To clarify further the difference

anguish of war.




and mapping, I offer a miniature

As for time in landscape paintings, I

history of landscape painting,

have noted that when the viewpoint

itself an intermediary between

is high, the landscape so perceived

cartography and the fine arts,

is like a map and is essentially static.

science and non-science-driven

A landscape painting can, of course, show dynamic

endeavors. Landscape hardly existed in medieval

events such as the cavalry charging toward a platoon

: p t t

paintings, dominated, as they were, by religious

of foot soldiers, but as a frozen moment. The viewer

figures and biblical stories. Mountains and rivers,


realizes that the horsemen and the soldiers will

where they were shown, appeared flat, more

never meet, and the initial excitement of seeing the

symbolic than real. The sun was a gold disk

charge dissipates. On the other hand, even without

high in the sky, a position that conformed with

human figures, landscape paintings can evoke

a vertical conception of space and a cyclical

emotion. Unlike the map’s abstract signs, concrete

conception of time. So located, the sun couldn’t



cast the shadows that, at a later date, would

streams, trees, clouds, roads and buildings—are

unify topographic elements into landscape. As

themselves evocative. Moreover, as a composition,

European society became more secular, the sun

the landscape painting suggests distance in time and

was lowered to the horizon and appeared as a

space—an openness toward the unseen and beyond

patch of light or blue sky, rather than a gold disk.

that excites. In the West, it can do so by means of

The viewer’s eyes were drawn to it or to some





T . N E ribe that an artist T N sc O b C can turn the u s LY m/ N o wildest c O nature . l a N n r a pet IO into u T IP sejo R SC imp B SU w w / /

significantly to its literature.4 They

issue 8

geographers have not contributed

Human power

be encompassed at a glance; and


other prominent object, such as a church. Space was what one saw looking outward rather than upward; it was horizontal rather than, as in the Middle ages, vertical. So reoriented, space, for the first time, invited a temporal, directional reading. Where the viewer stood was the present. The patch of light or distant object toward which he could travel was the

l m ht



T . N E ribe T N sc O b C u s LY m/ N O N rna O I T jou P I R pse C S im B SU w w / /


p t t h

Theatrum orbis terrarum. Ortelius, Abraham, 1527-1598. Image courtesy of Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division.

future; or it was the past, what he would see if he cast a backward glance.5 Maps do not invite such a reading. Their space, though defined by the cardinal points, is directionless. True, arrows and other conventional symbols can indicate

human activities that have direction and purpose,

the fragrance of mowed grass, the sound of

but these abstract signs and notations appeal to the

children roller-skating, the silence that follows a

intellect rather than to the emotion.

heavy snowfall, the warmth of an exposed brick wall, the coolness of a glass-topped table, the

Emotion, considered apart from time, marks an-

games of scrabble in the den, the conversations

other major discordance between cartography and

after dinner and the quarrels before bedtime. Of

humanism. I can best convey what I mean by draw-

course, what “home” is varies from person to

ing attention to “place” and ”space.” Place is the

person, culture to culture, but all understandings

densely particular, an entity toward which one can

of it must engage with an inchoate density that

be deeply attached. Space, by contrast, is imperson-

exceeds the density of most other types of place.

al and open. It can, however, be humanized—a first step toward

With the

l m ht

intimate space, it is the subtlety

T . N E ribe T N sc O of sound, and b C u s Y m/ L N especially sight, O N routreach na O spatial I T jou P I e abstract R psand C S im B SU thought are w w / promoted, and /

this difference lies in that human

beings possess both proximate and distant senses. With the

of language rather than the

precision of numerical data and spatial analysis; in other words,

proximate senses of touch, taste

the method of the humanities

and smell, the tone and atmo-

rather than that of geography

sphere of one’s immediate en-

and cartography.

vironment—place—is enriched.

With the distant senses of sound,


and especially sight, spatial out-

perhaps the most important

reach and abstract thought are

source of discordance between

promoted, and human power


enlarged. Geography as a disci-

morality. Complicating morality

pline encompasses both place

is its relationship to aesthetics.

and space but, for historical rea-

Aesthetics, we have seen, is

sons, it has favored space over

integral to both cartography

place, making it more a science

and the humanities. Morality,

than a humanism. As such, its

on the other hand, is more the

: p t t


treatment, even of place, tends

toward the abstract—that is, toward a place’s spatial characteristics, its mappable externalities.

human power enlarged.

As for the interiorities of place, geographers and cartographers








central concern of humanists: philosophers,



writers. When the Biblical God separated light from darkness and land from water, he declared the result “good”: that is to say, he found his work aesthetically

have little to say, their techniques being rather ill-

pleasing. In this archetypal example, the good and

suited to their probing. One type of place—home—

the beautiful are concordant; they are practically

is especially challenging by virtue of its elusive

the same thing. Beauty, however, may well be a

intimacies: I think of the food odors of kitchen,

cover for evil. A task of literature is to explore and


distant senses

richness of a fully lived life in

issue 8

which is to map it. The root of

If any method can capture the


expose evil in all its guises. Language, however,

their visual surface, but repelled by their content? Or

seems to favor evil, being richer and more

should one attend solely to the technicalities of color

evocative when it speaks of it than when it speaks

and brush stroke?

of good. Tolstoy’s War and Peace is a case in point. In this great novel, Tolstoy shows the horror

Compared with literature and history, cartography is

and pointlessness of war, but he fails to make war

innocence itself. Of course, maps can be biased and

so dull that no one can wish to participate in it, or

have often been used for propaganda. Nevertheless,

read about it. On the other hand, the goodness

their restriction to abstract patterns and conventional

of family life—Natasha showing off the stain in

signs means that they cannot truly depict good and

her baby’s diaper—invites the yawn even when one is led to it by Tolstoy’s masterly hand.

with literature

proper to them. Consider maps drawn by cartography students at

l m ht

the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

T . N E ribe T and history, N sc O b C u s cartography is LY m/ N o c O . l innocence itself. a N n IO ur T IP sejo R SC imp B SU w w / /

Pictorial art is similarly con-

tradictory and paradoxical.

They cover two sides of a corridor in Science Hall. From a distance,

It is, however, far more so in

the sixty-five maps provide a splash

the West than in China, where

of color. Upon closer look, I see an

only beauty and goodness are

extraordinary range of information.

admissible subjects. Chinese

It would seem that whatever is

still life paintings show fruits

communicable in words is also

72 that GLIMPSE


evil, or arouse the sorts of emotion

are always fresh, flow-

communicable in images. Traffic

ers that are always in bloom.

noise in the Twin Cities? Viking

European still life paintings


of the 17th and 18th centuries,

Return of the wolf in Wisconsin?

by contrast, seem almost an

Decaying Polish cities? National

excuse to broach the subject

awareness of global warming?




of mortality: fruits that look

inviting show, upon closer study, discoloration and

Ten out of the sixty-five maps reveal something

other signs of decay. Paintings in Europe are in-

negative: for example, a natural disaster such as

tended as much to arouse and educate as to give

the San Diego wildfires or a disaster that is humanly

: p t t


pleasure. Exposure since the Middle Ages has

caused such as AIDS in southern Africa; or it is a

taught eyes to be unflinching to pictures of suf-

morally questionable event, an example being the

fering saints, tortured martyrs and blood-stained

establishment of American military bases throughout

Christs. Grim religious art paved the way for artists

the world; or it shows how economic stress can affect

of a more secular age to depict the commonplace

community health in Michigan, the subtext of which

and the rowdy: Hieronymous Bosch’s Haywagon

is the prior existence of socioeconomic inequality

(ca. 1500); the repellent: Rembrandt’s The Slaugh-

and injustice. Whatever the subject matter, its

tered Ox (1655); and the psychologically disturb-

cartographic portrayal is unintentionally pleasing.

ing: Edvard Munch’s The Scream (1893). In front

An example is the map showing decaying Polish

of such works and more extreme ones in the 20th

cities. The shades of blue and straw yellow, from

century, how is the viewer to feel? Attracted by

which circles of red and orange stand out brightly,

Endnotes 1.

Joerg, W. L. G. ”Recent Geographical Work in Europe,” Geographical Review, vol. 12, 1922, pp. 445-447.


The literature on military geography, though little known to academic geographers, is vast. By 1963, there were already approximately 1,000 items. L. C. Peltier, ed., Bibliography of Military Geography (Washington, D.C.: Association of American Geographers, 1963), 76 mimeographed pages. By 1990, the United States Military Academy published A Bibliography of Military Academy in four volumes (West Point, New York).


Yee, Cordell D. K. ”Cartography in China“ in J. B. Harley and David Woodward, eds., The History of Cartography (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1994), vol. 2, book 2, pp. 35-231; Yi-Fu Tuan, ”Charting the Actual and the Imagined,” Natural History, July, 1994, pp. 26-31.

for cities in varying stages of decay did I become a little queasy. To take a more extreme example, what should a map that shows Nazi concentration camps and mass burial sites look like? What can it look like when the available means of representation are color, shading, signs and symbols?



have compared and contrasted cartography with humanism, using “humanism” as a convenient

l m ht

not severely reductive or abstractive and that, unlike


An example of a geographical essay on the Civil War is Joseph P. Henderson’s ”A Military Geography of the Civil War: The Blue Ridge and Valley and Ridge Province,” in Eugene J. Palka and Francis A. Galgano, The Scope of Military Geography (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2000), pp. 53-73.


Yi-Fu Tuan, Topophilia: A Study of Environmental Perception, Attitudes, and Values (New York: Columbia University Press, 1990), pp.133-136.

cartography and the applied sciences, also do not strive to be practical. I find this distinction of value,

for it encapsulates what it means to be human. To be human is to be a cartographer, engaged with

mapping and understanding the world “out there” so as to be oriented, and to be oriented is to gain some


T . N E ribe T N sc O b C u s LY m/ N O N rna O I T jou P I R pse C S im w B SU w w / /

term to cover all the intellectual endeavors that are


sort of control, a necessity of survival. On the other hand, to be human is also to be intimately engaged

with one’s fellow creatures, with locality and home, with ”here“ rather than ”there,” with memory and hope, good and evil, life and death.

century BC with the Han Dynasty. The name “Silk Road,” coined by 19th-century German geographer Ferdinand von Richthofen, serves as an oversimplification for an array of trade routes that crisscrossed Eurasia for thousands of years. These routes crossed through every kind of terrain and almost every kind of climate, and also engendered an unprecedented amount of interaction between what were before disparate and often isolated cultures. Marco Polo, one of the Silk Road’s most famous travelers, reflected on his experience traversing it, “there has been no man . . .who has known or explored so many of the various parts of the world and its great wonders.”

Silk Road Maps

:he Silk Road served as the primary overland trade route from China to the p t ht TMediterranean. Some historians believe the Silk Road started in the second

issue 8

are a delight to see. Only when I realized, through reading the legend, that the reds and oranges stood




(Above) Map showing the distribution of the slave population of the southern states of the United States, by Edwin Hergesheimer, 1861. Published by Henry S. Graham. 66x84cm. Image courtesy of the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library. View online:

Mapping History: The Boston Public Library casts new look on the Civil War by Meghan O’Reilly It’s surprising to think that cultural tension can be mapped: that economic differences and opposing visions for the future can be detected on a flat piece of paper. Yet that is precisely what the Boston Public Library’s exhibition Torn in Two: The 150th Anniversary of the Civil War demonstrates. Showcasing maps from the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center, the exhibit ion examines the relationship between conflict and geography during the American Civil War.

The first of the exhibition’s three sections, “Rising Tensions,” interprets the geographic and demographic differences that contributed to the first shots at Fort Sumner in 1861. Maps depicting the USin the 1850s reveal the incongruous settlement patterns that belie the cultural incompatibility between the North and South. The dense conglomeration of cities, roads and railways in the North is jarringly different from the spacious South, whose agricultural economy depended more upon the Mississippi River than on trains. Indeed, the pre-war maps of the South have a

(Left) Panoramic View of the Gettysburg Battlefield. 1866. 38x38cm. Not drawn to scale. Image courtesy of the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library. View online: http://maps.bpl. org/details_14352/?dl_ pp=9&mtid=1117

The second section, “Nation in Conflict” addresses how cartography functioned during the war, both in terms of military tactics and popular engagement. Notably, most maps displayed in this section were published in the North. While the

The final section of the exhibition examines how memory is recorded in maps. Focusing on the decisive battle of Gettysburg, we are asked how our “common visual experience” arose from incongruous recollections of the conflict. We learn how technological advances, the advent of photography, and the federal government’s increasing power influenced cartography, and finally, we consider how slave narratives have helped modern historians map the Underground Railroad. With its wealth of documents and textual guides, the Torn in Two exhibition is valuable for cartog-


With maps of the Western territories from the 1850s, the exhibition makes us consider what was at stake for Americans in the years before the Civil War. The country was undoubtedly expanding after the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, and the KansasNebraska Act of 1854 allowed settlers to decide on slavery’s legality by popular vote. Whose lifestyle would prevail in the new territories? Which region’s economic and moral values would dominate as the United States fulfilled its manifest destiny? One map of “the territories whose fate has yet to be decided,” illustrates the geographic and political scale of these questions. The North in blue, the South in red, the West in neutral white, one wonders what color will ultimately dye the vast, virgin West.

Boston exhibit is perhaps biased towards Bostonian maps (Boston and New York were also major publishing hubs), it’s true that in the 1860s, maps of Dixie were in high demand. The North, on the offensive, was at a tactical disadvantage. Neither politicians nor the general public knew much about Southern geography, and were thus hungry for more information. The exhibition asserts that the Civil War (not Vietnam!) was the first “Living Room War,” for even in an era predating living rooms, the media allowed the public to stay abreast of the action. Indeed, newspapers published over 2,000 maps and diagrams throughout the course of the war, more than they’d ever published before. The increased interest and political urgency led to great improvements in cartography during the Civil War.

issue 8

feudal quality, as plots of land are labeled and color-coded according to family ownership rather than administrative county. The section also showcases an interesting map charting the concentration of slave populations by township in the South. Apparently, Abraham Lincoln also found it fascinating, and used it to link emancipation policies with military operations.




(Above) Historical sketch of the rebellion, by Henry Lindenkohl. Published by United States Coast Survey, 1864. 47x45cm. Scale: 1:5,850,000. Image courtesy of the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library. View online:

raphy and history enthusiasts alike. In fact, it’s valuable for anyone who has ever considered what unifies the United States, or who has ever questioned the permanence and authority of the seemingly static map. Can a map unite or divide a nation? Can it record the hopes and fears of a people? Can it mandate our collective memory? If you want to jog your brain down the roads these questions lead to, through the tangles of war, race and nationalism, the exhibition continues at the Boston Public Library through 2011. But beware: these roads, and these answers, are as yet uncharted territory. w

Torn in Two: The 150th Anniversary of the Civil War Boston Public Library May–December 2011 700 Boylston St. Boston, MA 02116


The Discovery of France: A Historical Geography by Meghan O’Reilly

Robb opens our eyes

Yet in The Discovery of France: a Historical Geography, historian Graham Robb dissects this orderly package of Parisian culture to reveal the disharmonious, chaotic truth of French history. In a vast yet detailed account, Robb examines the discombobulation of languages, ethnicities, and cultures that compose the France we know today. He opens our eyes to the vivid, savage France, where geographically isolated populations thrived without knowing they were French, much less speaking French. A noted biographer of Balzac, Hugo and Rimbaud, Graham Robb confesses that writing the historical geography was both a mental and physical endeavor: the fruit of fourteen thousand miles of cycling and four years in the library. Robb artfully layers historical and contemporary statistics, maps, and anecdotes to paint a complete tableau of France.

to the vivid, savage France, where


isolated populations thrived without

“Hostile aliens” is precisely the term one would have used in 1740 to describe the villagers of Les Estables who butchered a young cartographer in Cassini’s team. Suspicious of his tools, his clothing, and the incomprehensible French he spoke, the people of this isolated village in the Massif Central collectively decided to kill the geometer, and were never afterwards punished. The villagers were conscious of maps’ consequences; charts, records, and ethnographies were tools of colonization. By killing

knowing they were French


The book opens with a gripping account of an early cartographic expedition in the mid-18th century. Led by astronomer James Cassini and commissioned by Louis XV, the quest was the first attempt to create a national map based on mathematical surveys. While the mission was unprecedented in size, scope, and expense, Louis XV recognized the martial necessity of a complete map of France. Cassini recruited only the most athletic, daring geometers for the endeavor, as the team would travel great distances and often accompany military campaigns. Robb compares the cartographers to astronauts, though he notes that Cassini’s group would have been even more likely to encounter “hostile aliens.”

issue 8

Anyone who has ever braved the lines at the Louvre knows that France has a certain magic, a certain je ne sais quoi that beckons tourists from all over the world. France, which has given us champagne, Chanel, and 250 different kinds of cheese, possesses a rich, authentic culture that, for many, is the paragon of culture itself.




Resistance to centralization is a recurring theme in French history. Whether in terms of infrastructure, language, or bureaucratic organization, the discrete pays outside of Paris remained relatively isolated until well after the French Revolution. An “official indifference to geographic truth” worked against the urge to explore throughout the 19th century, and in spite of limited government support of cartographic endeavors, even the nation’s hexagonal shape (of whose perfect symmetry many Frenchmen now boast) was unbeknownst to most people. In fact, maps deliberately omitted borders to prevent enemies from infringing on French territory. Yet eventually, as accurate maps were drawn and modern roads constructed, populations migrated and mentalities changed. Maps, roads, and the possibility for exploration opened physical and imaginary access to the mysterious lands outside Paris. They allowed Parisians to romanticize the savage, natural France. They celebrated, as Robb writes, “home grown diversity” and established “the supreme importance of Paris as the guardian and regulator of that diversity.”

The Discovery of France is a geographical, historical, and sociological journey exploring how a nation’s collective identity is linked to its perception of space. In the 21st century, we have extensive access to accurate maps, photographs, and satellite images. Yet as Graham Robb concludes, much of France is still misunderstood. Just as the peasants of Brittany and the Massif Central were, less than one hundred years ago, ridiculed for their foreign peculiarities, so too are colonial North African immigrants of today. Perhaps the next frontiers to traverse are those within our minds and our memories, those that prevent us from seeing the rich expanse of cultural diversity that coexists in a single nation. w

The Discovery of France: A Historical Geography by Graham Robb W.W. Norton, 2007

Film projector. Photo courtesy of flickr member big-ashb. Booker, High Wycombe, England, 2009.

the geometer, the villagers were undermining the power of a foreign government.

In the next issue, Cinema...

issue 8 Cartography


The history of cinematic technologies Maureen Eckert on Plato’s Cave and modern cinema Kevin Corbett explores why so many people are choosing to watch movies in groups in the “festival” setting when NetFlixTM and mobile devices are making it ever-easier to watch in isolation Silver Screen Society re-conceptualizes the art and design of the movie poster Tony Pacitti explores how Star Wars shaped his self-identity Public film projection during the Spring 2011 uprising in Egypt and more...



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