February 9, 2007

Cosgrove Mappings

Filed under: cartography, map — ubikcan @ 9:51 am

From Denis Cosgrove’s Mappings, a lyrical passage on maps:

As a graphic register of correspondence between two spaces, whose explicit outcome is a space of representation, mapping is a deceptively simple activity. To map is in one way or another to take the measure of a world, and more than merely take it, to figure the measure so taken in such a way that it may be communicated between people, places or times. The measure of mapping is not restricted to the mathematical; it may equally be spiritual, political or moral.


By the same token, the mapping’s record is not confined to the archival; it includes the remembered, the imagined, the contemplated. The world figured through mapping may thus be material or immaterial, actual or desired, whole or part, in various ways experienced, remembered or projected. In scale, mapping may trace a line or delimit and limn a territory of any length or size, from the whole of creation to its tiniest fragments; notions of shape and area are themselves in some respects a product of mapping processes.

Acts of mapping are creative, sometimes anxious, moments in coming to knowledge of the world, and the map is both the spatial embodiment of knowledge and a stimulus to further cognitive engagements.

In the contemporary world, with its seemingly limitless capacities for producing, repproducing and transmitting graphic images, the map is ubiquitous feature of everyday life: the route map at the bus stop or subway station, the weather map on television, the location map in the travel brochure, the iconic map of the commercial advertisement. Maps are thus intensely familiar, naturalized, but not natural, objects working within a modern society of high if uneven cartographic literacy.

They are also troubling. Their apparent stability and their aesthetics of closure and finality dissolve with but a little reflection into recognition of their partiality and provisionality, their embodiment of intention, their imaginative and creative capacities, their mythical qualities, their appeal to reverie, their ability to record and stimulate anxiety, their silences and powers of deception. At the same time their spaces of representation can appear liberating, their dimensionality freeing the reader from both the controlling linearity of narrative description and the confining perspective of photographic or painted images.

Mappings (1999), pp. 1-2.


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