Geography 222 The Power of Maps and GIS

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Geog 222 Lecture Outline: Map People
Update: 1/9/14

Today: some basics and an overview of general issues about maps and mapping - and all of us as map people.


Maps and Us

...last time...examples...the power of maps.... But what is a map?















Map: one official definition: "a symbolized image of geographic reality, representing selected features or characteristics, resulting from the creative efforts of cartographers and designed for use when spatial relationships are of special relevance" (ICA, 1995)


Map: another definition: a "spatial representation of reality"

Map: yet another definition: "A graphic statement that locates facts" (from Krygier & Wood)

Even more crazy map behavior:

Maps simplify the environment; making "reality" easier to understand


Maps show us what we cannot see; what we feel temperature (so maps are synesthetic)


Maps represent a multitude of phenomena: way more than just road maps!

Maps are diverse, and all around us...but there are some problems with maps:




  • they are simplifications and generalizations ... a subjective selection of what is out in the world

    Dorling: a key focus when trying to understand maps is "how the creation and use of maps affects the various ways in which we think of and view the world"


    Monmonier: the "paradox" of cartography: to present a useful and truthful picture, an accurate map must tell white lies"


    Krygier & Wood: "Different goals lead to different maps! Frequently the quality of a map is a matter of perspective, not design. This is because a map is a statement locating facts, and people tend to select the facts that make their case. That's what the map is for: to make their case."




    1. Knowing our Surroundings

    First step in understanding maps: how do we come to know the environment around us?


    Environmental knowledge NOT acquired in a passive manner


    Knowing the environment: a simplified process (series of steps)


    1a. Sensory Data

    Use of sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch all provide us with sensory data


    Sound: "Sound is vibrations propagating through a medium such as air. The detection of these vibrations is a mechanical sense akin to a sense of touch. In humans, this perception is executed by tiny hair fibres in the inner ear which detect the motion of a membrane which vibrates in response to changes in the pressure exerted by atmospheric particles within a range of 20 to 22000 Hz, with substantial variation between individuals." (source)

    Using soundscapes: Boat Captains off the Coast of Canada:

    "They used to get their position by echo whistling. They'd give a short whistle and estimate the distance from the shoreline by the returning echo. If the echo came back from both sides at the same time they'd know that they were in the middle of the channel. They could recognize different shorelines by the different echoes - a rocky cliff, for example, would give a clear distinctive echo, whereas a sandy beach would give a more prolonged echo. They could even pick up an echo from logs. Nowadays, if the radar (or GPS) breaks down, they have to put out an anchor. Their ears aren't trained to listen their way through the fog." (Schaefer)


    Mapping Soundscapes in Vancouver BC, Canada

    Vancouver, British Columbia (Canada) soundscape "regions"


    Mapping Soundscapes around the Columbus OH Airport

    Mapping Noise and Noise Abatement Zones


    Smell: smell-scape: "Smell is a "chemical" sense (like taste). Unlike taste, there are hundreds of olfactory receptors, each binding to a particular molecular feature. Odor molecules possess a variety of features and thus excite specific receptors more or less strongly. This combination of excitatory signals from different receptors makes up what we perceive as the molecule's smell." (source)








    Touch: "Touch, also called tactition, mechanoreception or somatic sensation, is the sense of pressure perception, generally in the skin. There are a variety of nerve endings that respond to variations in pressure (e.g., firm, brushing, and sustained). (source)


    Taste "Taste or gustation is a chemical sense. There are at least four types of tastes that "buds" (receptors) on the tongue detect. The four well-known receptors detect sweet, salt, sour, and bitter." (source)


    Even more senses: Balance/acceleration, temperature, kinesthetics (sense of the relative position of body parts), pain...



    Vision: "Sight or vision is the ability of the brain and eye to detect electromagnetic waves within the visible range (light) interpreting the image as sight." (source)

    Maps are usually about vision - stuff in the environment we can see (on maps we can see), or invisible stuff mapped so it can be visible.

    Tuan: "Blindness makes a geographical career virtually impossible, whereas it presents no insurmountable barrier to wisdom" (Sight and Pictures)


    1b. Abstraction and Categories

    Humans have the ability to think abstractly

    Categories: a unit or a subunit of a larger whole made up of members sharing one or more characteristics





    Common categories of human and environmental phenomena on maps:


    Categories simplify our environment so we can understand it easily


    1c. Symbols and Representation

    Communication: We cannot always point to something when we want to communicate about it, so we need something to stand for these objects: symbols

    Symbol: A thing representing something else because of relationship, association, convention, or resemblance.


    Symbols for human and environmental phenomena on maps:


    Visual Abstraction Gradient: the Visual Forms


    Natural languages, maps, numbers, and words complement each other


    Maps, as visual representations, and their symbols, are important as a means of enhancing and speeding up our understanding of the environment around us


    2. Visualizing the Human and Physical Environment

    Dorling: "...maps are not independent of the view of the observer: maps are context-dependent, often available only to the initiated, unlikely to be value-free and should be viewed with caution (although not necessarily scepticism). The role of the human being in interpreting and rendering world views in map form is central." (p. 4)

    Monmonier: "The purpose of this book is to promote a healthy skepticism about maps, not to foster either cynicism or deliberate dishonesty. In showing how to lie with maps, I want to make readers aware that maps, like speeches and paintings, are authored collections of information and also are subject to distortions arising from ignorance, greed, ideological blindness, or malice." (p. 2).

    Krygier & Wood: "Different goals lead to different maps! Frequently the quality of a map is a matter of perspective, not design. This is because a map is a statement locating facts, and people tend to select the facts that make their case. That's what the map is for: to make their case."



    The way we envision or visualize the environment takes two general forms

    1. intangible maps: representations of spatial relations in our head:


    2. tangible maps: representations of spatial relations on paper or computer screens:


    We will spend the majority of this class discussing cartographic maps, but will start out with an introduction to mental maps


    Next lecture: Psycho-Geographic & Mental Maps



    E-mail: jbkrygier@owu.edu

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