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Geographic curiosity: a confession to maps

2011 September 11

Map on the -marble- floor of the Royal Palace, Amsterdam

Triggered as I was today by a MapBrief on The New Golden Age of Cartography, I realised there is no point in denying I have a great curiosity for maps. I will not just pass by a map, not even in bad weather, without taking a closer look or even taking a picture. Shops which sell maps have my ever attention. As do websites, newspaper, scientific articles, mobile apps, etc. etc.

Early signs of that curiosity were clear to discover, but I don’t have a fixed point in mind of how this all got started. My guess is fatherly directions were somewhat involved. In school (11th grade) I was told to stop staring out of the window and look at that great (world,3d) map instead. Books about discoveries and travel to faraway lands, which involved extensive mapping efforts, always captured my imagination. The Dutch Golden Age and the boy scouts probably had something to do with it as well.

Maps invite their authors, cartographers, to tell a story. And great maps invite readers to explore, to read and understand the story behind the visualization.  Maps should encourage geographic thinking. Not all, but many do. But models of reality they are, we should always remember they are nothing more, or less, than that. Not reality.

Maps are great metaphors for many things, like the map of life and strategy maps. My geographic curiosity has lead me to other fields of interest (like the geography of innovation, the philosophy of place), but I have always returned to the map. But a neocartographer I am not.


Only one side of New Zeeland was mapped...

Firstly, because I don’t think it will be fair to future generations; we force them to call themselves superneocartographers. Second, I don’t see what has really changed. This discussion has been around since I was in college, in the last century. Third: I don’t really care much for definition discussions.

I understand there is some awkwardness involved in –publicly- confessing to maps. One may expect a confession to something which is really not done, and a confession to maps seems rather harmless. I trust it suffices to say it is all part of a greater plan (and yes, I aim to sparkle your imagination…).



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