Geography 222 The Power of Maps

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Geog 222 Lecture Outline: Maps in Society
Update: 11/19/07

"Maps provide powerful images. For people who want to change the way we think about the world, changing our map of the world is often a necessary first step." (Dorling/Fairbairn, Mapping p. 154)


Propaganda Maps

Generalization (selection) and symbolization (emphasis) to create 'propaganda' maps

Propaganda: "Persuasive communications directed at a specific audience that are designed to influence the targeted audience's opinions, beliefs and emotions in such a way as to bring about specific, planned alterations in their behavior. The information communicated by the propagandist may be true or false, the values appealed to may be sincerely held by the propagandist or cynically manipulated, and the presentation may be either logically and dispassionately argued or rhetorically tailored to arouse the most irrational emotions and prejudices -- but the message content of propaganda is always deliberately selected and slanted to lead the audience toward a predetermined mindset that benefits the cause of the propagandist." Source: Paul Johnson, Auburn University

Word Origins: Pope Gregory XV: Congregatio de Propaganda Fide (Committee for Propagating the Faith)


Nazi Propaganda Maps, ca. 1940



How do you distinguish propaganda maps from other kinds of maps?




Advertising Maps

Using selective and inconstant generalization to manipulate a map

Some 'real' advertising maps:

Are advertising maps 'propaganda' maps, but propaganda maps that are 'ok' as they sell products rather than ideology?




Development Maps

Eleven Rules for Polishing the Cartographic Image (Monmonier, p. 78-81)

Are development maps 'propaganda' maps, but propaganda maps that are 'ok' as they are selling economic development rather than ideology?




Critical Cartography

Is the evolution of mapping erasing differences in the world: homogenizing our view of the world - aiding in globalization of one world view...?

Doug Aberley: "...if you were entirely cynical, you could view the appropriation of mapping from common understanding as just another police action designed to assist the process of homogenizing 5,000 human cultures into one malleable and docile market. As a collective entity we have lost our languages, have forgotten our songs and legends, and now cannot even conceive of the space that makes up that most fundamental aspect of life - home. (Aberly, Boundaries of Home, 1993, p. 2)

Has mapping been appropriated by corporations, states, and 'eggheads' at the expense of the average Joe? Has a corporate, state view of the world been imposed on us with the aid of maps? Has evolving technology aided in this 'oppression'? Has evolving technology reversed this 'oppression?'

"In our consumer society, mapping has become an activity primarily reserved for those in power, used to delineate the 'property' of nation states and multi-national companies. The making of maps has become dominated by specialists who wield satellites and other complex machinery. The result is that although we have great access to maps, we have also lost the ability ourselves to conceptualize, make and use images of place - skills which our ancestors honed over thousands of years. In return for this surrendered knowledge, maps have been appropriated for uses which are more and more sinister. Spewed forth from digital abstraction, they guide the incessant development juggernaut. They divide the whole local, regional, and continental environments into the absurdity of squared efficiency. They aid in attaching legitimacy to a reductionist control that strips contact with the web of life from the experience of place." (Aberly, Boundaries of Home, 1993, p. 1)




Maps, Defense, and Misinformation

Monmonier: "As historian of cartography Brian Harley has noted, government maps have for centuries been ideological statements rather than fully objective, 'value free' scientific representations of geographic reality. Harley observed that governments practice two forms of cartographic censorship - a censorship of secrecy to server military defense and censorship of silence to enforce or reinforce social and political values.

"This second, more subtile form of cartographic censorship usually occurs as silences - as features or conditions ignored. Hence basic maps of most cities show streets, landmark structures, elevations, parks, churches, and large museums - but not dangerous intersections, impoverished neighborhoods, high crime areas, and other zones of danger and misery that could be accommodated without sacrificing information about infrastructure and terrain. By omitting politically threatening or aesthetically unattractive aspects of geographic reality, and by focusing on the interest of civil engineers, geologists, public administrators, and land developers, or topographic 'base maps' are hardly basic to the concerns of public health and safety officials, social workers, and citizens rightfully concerned about the well-being of themselves and others. In this sense, cartographic silences are indeed a form of geographic disinformation." (Monmonier, How to Lie with Maps, p. 122)


The goal is to link these complicated examples of maps in their real human context



E-mail: jbkrygier@owu.edu

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