The upcoming issue of The New Yorker includes an article first
released yesterday to the magazine’s web site.
There: The science of driving directions," offers a sharp-right overview of
evolving navigational technologies, running from Rand McNally paper maps to
their updated on-dash equivalents. A brief history of automobile
navigation gets a few column inches, too; both the "Jones Live-Map" and the "Photo-Auto
Guide" were early twentieth century contrivances for first-person (um,
first-vehicle?) navigating. Though it’s only briefly mentioned and mixed
in with a bunch of other fun, interesting details, one proposition is that we’re
seeing a resurgence in egocentric navigational devices with various mobile
Ground-truthing comes up in the mid-section of the piece. I’m sure this
is common parlance for geographers, but ground-truthing is basically a
validation process–driving the map to confirm its correspondence to the real
(locating attributes, checking them off, tracking the new, etc.). It gets
at the correspondence between places and their abstractions, whether digitally
coded or paper based. And so ground-truthers, working for geographic
outfits such as Navtek, free-drive the urbanscapes noting signs of
Seeing the road through the eyes of a ground-truther made it seem a thicket
of signage–commands and designations vying for attention, like a nightmare you
might have after a day of studying for a driving exam. Once you start looking
for attributes, you spot them everywhere.
And there are also a few sweet moments of meta-:
A map is a piece of art. It is also a form of language–a rendering of
information. A good map can occupy the eye and the mind longer than almost any
other single page of data, including Scripture, poetry, sheet music, and
baseball box scores. A map contains multitudes.
Read the rest of it if any of this sounds good. I stole a few minutes this
morning to do just that, and I was glad for it. Next, in GEO781 we looked
at Moretti’s chapter on maps. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but everyone
was really taken by his project (even the physical geographers in the group!).
We tangled with wide range of issues related to place-name stability, databases
and automation of mapping textual data, transmedia and fictional maps (re
Lord of the Rings, mainly), and Moretti’s distinction between geography
(locative logics) and geometry (relational/directional logics). One
question got at whether Graphs, Maps, Trees is being thought over by
folks beyond the humanities. And one of the most salient suggestions was for the
book to be reviewed for a geography journal toward broader and
cross-disciplinary conversations/projects emerging from his work.