Tuesday, April 18, 2006


The upcoming issue of The New Yorker includes an article first released yesterday to the magazine's web site.  "Getting 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 gadgets.

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 discord.

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.

Bookmark and Share Posted by at April 18, 2006 9:50 PM to Rhetorico-Geography