Hacker News new | comments | show | ask | jobs | submit login
Advice from a Geographer: Put Away the Map (undark.org)
55 points by hownottowrite 4 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 9 comments





As someone who has hiked and canoed extensively in far flung places with and without maps - I can unequivically say that maps can be amazingly useful representations of the world or they can downright kill you with misleading info depending upon when they were updated and how often the landscape changes, as well as the just general quality of the map.

Doesn't the downside kind of outweigh the upside?

Deleuze says "make a map, not a tracing." Here the map is the tracing, because mapmakers in this sense are intent on capturing the territory and the raw data in the finest fidelity, rather than capturing the essence of the territory. (It's arguable that the former is a prerequisite for the latter, but it might also be arguable that focusing on the former makes you lose sight of the latter.)

This article is also reminiscent of Seeing Like A State, which is quickly becoming my favorite book. The book notes that maps (and map-like devices, like censuses, even systems of measures), again prove to be an imperfect device for capturing physical or social reality, failing because the territory changes too much too quickly.


Thx for the book tip. People dont often mention Deleuze here lol.

I don't see anything particularly new here - the ideas described seem like fairly standard post-modernist dismissals of quantitative geography. Great fun to study at undergraduate level and gets you out of the lecture theatre, but for usefulness I'll stick with science.

> To that end, he shows us places around the world — from a garbage city in Cairo to an urban park in Helsinki, from the underground tunnels of Tokyo to a traffic median in Newcastle, England...

So if I don't know where those places are, I should find out by...?


> So if I don't know where those places are, I should find out by...?

Advice from a commenter: Put away the headline.

Out lives are saturated with headlines. We see them in cars, subways, and airplanes. We access them with our phones, computers, and GPS devices. There are headlines of deep space and of the topography of the deepest ocean floors. Then there are the headlines of us — of our genomes, of the cognitive landscape of our brains, of the web of neural connections that allow us to see and think and act. Our faith in the headline as a true representation of the article, and a reliable metaphor for experience and the concepts of modern life, is exercised every day, largely without question.


Going there. You don't need to know where Cairo is, or even a map to go to Cairo. You can just go to any travel agency and book a ticket.

And before doing exactly that, you could start by not taking everything (like the headline or my advice) literally and following it to absurdity.


Easy to forget there's a difference between models and the reality they try to represent. All abstractions are leaky.

In the case of maps there are all sorts of issues that relate to projections and size, the 2d nature of maps vs. the 3d nature of lots of places, editorial decisions as to what is relevant and what is not, etc. There are a lot of political subtleties as well, historical changes, temporary changes, etc. Also, continental drift and gps accuracy are a thing; especially in earthquake sensitive regions.




Applications are open for YC Winter 2019

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: