Living Cartography

By Stallmann, Tim | American Scientist, January/February 2013 | Go to article overview

Living Cartography


Stallmann, Tim, American Scientist


GEOGRAPHY Living Cartography ATLAS OF DESIGN, Volume 1. Timothy R. Wallace and Daniel P. Huffman, editors, xi + 81 pp. North American Cartographic Information Society, 2012. $35.

"Cartography" wrote Denis Wood in 2004, "is dead." He argued that cartography is increasingly irrelevant as a profession, as a mode of claiming power over the land and as a set of stylistic devices - the everpresent North arrow and scale bar, the neat line boxing off map from page. In 2012, it isn't difficult to find support for his claims. Since the introduction of computer-based geographic information systems in the 1960s, paper maps have mostly ceased being the authoritative storage medium for geographic information. Their role in military conquest and political control has been supplanted by, among other things, the triangulated irregular network elevation data, used in geographic information system (GIS) software, which help guide drone missile strikes. The navigational maps that many people in the United States rely on presently (on smartphones, on the Web and in global positioning system devices) lack neat eat lines and North arrows completely, and they flout the stylistic conventions of traditional cartography.

The North American Cartographic Information Society's inaugural Atlas of Design lavishly demonstrates the ongoing vitality of mapmaking, if not the profession of cartography. The atlas brings together 27 pieces, ranging from whimsical experiments at the intersection of mapping and art to detailed maps that appeal to the aesthetics of objectivity, clarity and neutrality that are closely associated with cartography as a profession. Ryan Sullivan's Portland Finger Plans use the shapes of human hands to map aspects of the city, suchas bridges, light rail and regional location, These simple, graphically striking maps raise questions about scale and the relation of domesticity to the city. Brian E. Stall's Empire of Torentine: A Political Map, a reference map of a completely fictitious country, manages to catch both ends of this invented art-science binary, The maps were selected from a field of 140 entries by a panel of six judges. Each of the pieces is accompanied by a one-page (or shorter) essay in which the designer or cartographer explains some of the decisions behind the work, Unfortunately, for most of the maps, the accompanying text doesn't address the contextual questions that came to my mind, about the map-maker 's background, for instance, or how the map fits into a broader project.

In their introductory essay, "An Argument for Beauty," editors Tim Wallace and Daniel Huffman make the case that cartography is design. As they put it, cartographers are people who "care about how the map looks." In keeping with the broader mission of the North American Cartographic Information Society, the editors argue for a refocusing of the work of cartography: from a sole fixation on the science of accurately and legibly representing data about Earth's surface and the phenomena that occur on it, to a practice that includes the aesthetic and design processes that take data and produce "something worth looking at something that acknowledges the human need for beauty."

Daniel Coe's map, titled Willamette River, Oregon, is a striking example. Coe describes his piece as "half map, half painting; somewhere between science and art." Willamette River indeed looks at first like an abstract painting - the page is covered in a deep blue hue, with swashes of white tracing a curve in the foreground, surrounded by lighter blues and whites. The effect is like an image of a lightning bolt or a Harold Edgerton photograph of smoke diffusing. This quality persists even as the accompanying text reveals that the image is the display of high-resolution elevation data within a 50-foot range in the river's basin. Dark blues are higher elevations, bright white the lowest. By revealing a wide range of detail inside a relatively small range of elevation, Coe's map makes it possible to see the subtle influence of the river's hydromorphology on the surrounding land. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Living Cartography
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.