: s I t r a e H s e e i h r t o e r m e e h M W f o s I s e t la m A o n H A
In his book Maps of the Imagination: The Writer as Cartographer, Peter Turchi states that "the earliest maps are thought to have been created to help people find their way and to reduce their fear of the unknown" (p. 11). This supports the surface, geographical purpose behind maps that most of us think of when we envision them. However, this geographical purpose is not the only aspect of maps we should consider, however. In addition to this superficial purpose, every map contains a meaning with much more significant motivation. According to Turchi, not only do we use maps to find our way, but "we organize information on maps in order to see our knowledge in a new way" (p. 11). The maps in my atlas demonstrate how one location can be organized in multiple ways based on the viewpoint of the creator. I aim to show how different maps of the same place can be extraordinarily different, depending on the viewpoint of the "sender," or creator. I asked nine family members (ten including myself) to draw their own maps of my parents' home. I provided minimal instructions to my family and simply asked them to "draw a map of Mom and Dad's house." I immediately received questions such as, "Do I draw the outside, too?" "How much detail do I need to have?" and "Do you want both floors?" Each time, I answered with, "Draw whatever you feel you need to include to draw a map of the house." As a result, I received a wide range of maps, each illustrating how each family member interpreted my instructions. These differences in interpretations are precisely what I was seeking when I provided the vague directions. In their own way, each family member unwittingly drew a narrative of their perception of the house. Turchi claims that asking someone to draw a map is to say, â€œTell me a story.â€? Through their drawings, my family members did just that.
Eileen, mother, 59 Each map, including my own, illustrates something about my family members. Because the maps are mostly self-explanatory, their literal meanings are not difficult to read. According to Denis Wood in his book The Power of Maps, "It is notâ€Ś that maps don't need to be decoded; but that they are by and large encoded in signs" (p. 98). While a simple drawing a map of my parents' home may not appear to be indicative of more than a visual representation of the house, how it is viewed is not only affected by who created the map, or "sender," but by who is reading the map as well, or the "receiver." The map on the right is an aerial view of the house, drawn by my mom. To readers who are unfamiliar with my house, much of this map is unclear. For example, the curved object with lines in the upper-right is a deck that once was attached to a pool. The two squares at the upper-left signify horseshoe pits, and the circle and square represent a flower pot and a garbage can, respectively. To anyone other than myself and family members, the symbols I mentioned would be meaningless. As a viewer with personal knowledge of the objects and their locations, I am better able to interpret the map.
Additionally, although my mom included these details, her map does not include every detail of the property. It is through this exclusion of detail that my mom illustrates Turchi's description of all cartographers' dilemma: "The question has never been whether to make maps, but what to select for inclusion and how to represent it" (p. 73). Based on what my mom chose to draw, it is clear that representations of the objects mentioned above are more symbolic of the character of her home than, for example, the numerous trees that populate the property. My sister Heather and my cousin Olivia took similar approaches to drawing their maps of the house. Although they also drew the house and property from the outside, their viewpoint was different in that they drew only the front of the house. Each did, however, include extra details that illustrate some of the house's character. For example, Heather included wind socks at the corners of the house, which are hanging to deter woodpeckers from hunting for their food behind the shakes of the exterior. Heather also includes the grain detail for the cedar shakes on the house. Olivia's map includes a duck sitting on a stump. While there never was a duck that sat on this stump, a frog figurine does call it home. Although she could not remember what was on the stump, Olivia thought it was important enough to indicate that there was something there, so she substituted it with a duck. Additionally, Olivia is the only person who decided to color her map. While I believe this is due to her age and comfort with coloring, her colors add another level of depth to her map. The colors on her map add meaning to her depiction of the house: the viewer now knows that the house is blue and has a red door, even though the shade of blue (which is not exact) gives the viewer a false impression of the color of the house.
Heather, sister, 35
Olivia, cousin, 11
The most creative representation of my parents' house is the map my sister Jenn created. A little more "black and white" than the rest of my family, Jenn had a hard time grasping what I wanted her to draw. As a result, my mom tried to push her along by telling her to draw her "memory" of the house. Because my mom added the word memory to her description of the task, Jenn interpreted the task literally and drew a picture of how she remembered the house when she lived there over ten years ago. Through her drawing, Jenn demonstrates how "our thinking about objects, images, and texts starts to become structured and composed by time" (Hall, p. 90). Because Jenn's mindset was in the past, she drew objects that no longer exist, such as the bench in the foreground and the swing set in the background. Additionally, Jenn drew the tree near the center of the picture and the two trees alongside the house as very young trees. This demonstrates the passage of time, as today they are much fuller than her depiction of the past. Jenn, sister, 33
Amy, sister, 30
Sue, aunt, 49 Mike, fiancĂŠ, 24
The remainder of the maps were drawn using a stereotypical representation of a house: a floor plan. This stereotype was probably chosen because, as Hall explains, "Stereotypes are sometimes helpful to us. They can give us a shortcut to understanding a certain thing or situation" (142). Because the cartographers (Sue, Amy, Mike, and myself) were already comfortable with the concept of a floor plan, they employed this method for their own maps. Each of these maps contain a different level of detail, yet they employ similar symbols to signify various objects. For example, Sue, Mike, and I all used similar symbols to represent a door opening. While Sue included a representation of both the open door and the swinging motion of the door, I included a closed door and a swinging motion. Mike's doors are depicted as being open, with no swinging motion illustrated. While Mike and I both included representations of the furniture in the house, Sue and Amy did not (although Sue does include some details, such as toilets, sinks, and the refrigerator). This exclusion of the furniture signifies Amy and Sue's interpretation of the assignment: while they were
asked to draw a map of the house, they were not asked to draw its content. One symbol all members have in common is windows: everyone drew the windows of the house with similar lines along the walls. However, it is interesting to note that, while all the cartographers depicted windows the same way, only one, Amy, felt that she needed to make her intention clear to her viewer (and it is more noteworthy that she did not feel the same need to inform the viewer what the half-circle on the first floor signifies). The fact that none of the cartographers, other than Amy, provided the viewer or receiver with a legend demonstrates their familiarity (and presumed familiarity of the receiver) with symbols for household items. While Wood states that "NO symbol explains itself," he also explains that "Most readers make it through most essays (and maps) because as they grew up through their common cultureâ€Ś they learned the significance of most of the words (and map symbols)" (p. 98). As a result, although the cartographers do not provide a legend, the viewer is able to read and interpret the intended symbols with accuracy (Although the accuracy depends on the viewers position, or knowledge, of the location). The familiarity each family member has with the house can clearly be seen in the details. Although Mike has more detail in terms of representations of furniture, Sue, Amy, and I are much more detailed with regard to the architectural layout of the house. For example, because we are more familiar with the layout, we are able to create a more accurate depiction of the closets in the house. My map, though not without its flaws, appears to be the most accurate floor plan map in respect to the representations of rooms and what they contain. The shapes of the rooms depicted in my map are close to the shapes that exist in the actual house. However, the proportions of the rooms and objects in the rooms are inaccurate. For example, on the first floor (top), it appears that the bathroom is
half the size of two of the bedrooms, and the master bedroom is the same size as the living room. Because of these flaws, my map demonstrates how even a fairly close depiction of a known location can create a false sense of knowledge for the viewer. This atlas of maps illustrates the subjectivity of cartography on a familiar level. Although certain aspects of the maps remained constant across the maps, the inclusion and exclusion of certain objects enhances the differences in the connotations behind the senders' intentions. As Wood states in Everything Sings: Maps for a Narrative Atlas, "they are maps with all of the science and technology that his implies, yet they have fingerprints all over them. I don't know where it comes from, but they have heart" (18). I do know where the heart comes from in my maps. After all, home is where the heart is, isnt it?
Nicholas, nephew, 9
Makayla, niece, 7
Hall, S. (2007). This means this, this means that: A user’s guide to semiotics. London: Lawrence King. Turchi, P. (2004). Maps of the imagination: The writer as cartographer (pp. 11, 73 – 98). San Antonio, TX: Trinity University Press. [pdf] Wood, D. (1992). The power of maps (pp. 143 – 181). New York, NY: The Guilford Press. [.pdf]