Quote for the Day

To the best of our knowledge, every culture has engaged in some sort of mapping. The question has never been whether to make maps, but what to select for inclusion and how to represent it, given that any map is, as Mark Monmonier says, "but one of an indefinitely large number of maps that might be produced from the same data."

Cartographers must continually confront the fact that there is no such thing as objective presentation. All maps are like the Way Finder in that, in the name of usefulness, they must assume a bias. The first lie of a map -- also the first lie of fiction -- is that it is the truth. And a great deal of a map's, or story's, or poem's authority results from its ability to convince us of its authority. While we expect realistic writing to be accurate when it refers to the world we know, in fiction and poetry, authority has relatively little to do with objective reportage, or simply getting the facts right. [...]

Early in 1942 President Roosevelt urged people to have a map nearby for his next fireside chat, but they probably needed no presidential dictate. The American people wanted urgently to see the world as it had been redefined. Nearly sixty years later, when the towers of the World Trade Center were destroyed, millions of people suddenly wanted to know better the precise geography of lower Manhattan, including the identification of nearby buildings, historic sites, and bridges. (At the same time, New York City's Department of Design and Construction called upon one of the original designers of the buildings' foundations for accurate information on the locations of walls, passages, floors, and water, sewer, electrical, telephone, gas, subway, and train lines under the ruined plaza. No single drawing contained that information; the best resource was one man's mental map.) Soon after, newspapers began printing maps illustrating the topography of Afghanistan and its neighbors, the location of military bases and suspected terrorist strongholds. How we see depends, in part, on what we want to see.

--Peter Turchi
Maps of the Imagination: The Writer as Cartographer


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