Arthur Robinson Personnel File
In 2008 the federal government released the personnel files of people who worked for and with the OSS, the WWII intelligence service.
Shown here is the cover of the file for Arthur H. Robinson, who later became a (or some say, the) leading American cartographer in the post-war years. Robinson’s time with the OSS has never before been examined.
Compare to the Peters critique of the Mercator emphasising the global north (see bottom left image):
Everybody should at least glance through this book. James Gall, Primeval Man Unveiled: Or the Anthropology of the Bible.
Yes, that James Gall. Cartographer. Preadamite.
Entire book available here.
Take a snapshot of the use of maps and geographical knowledge at one hundred year intervals: 1820, 1920, 2020. What best characterises the use of maps at those different times (I use 2020 to fit the scheme not as a prediction but as a convenience to talk about the present).
Well in the early 19th century thematic mapping was developed as part of the “moral economy” and the invention of statistics in order to more ably govern your country. As others have written more ably than myself (Matt Sharpe, James Scott, Denis Wood) modern mapping is effectively an arm of the state. They were brought into being on behalf of and for the purpose of the state (Wood goes so far as to say that before the modern state mapping was an epiphenomenon and occasional event).
By the early twentieth century mapping was a part of the rise of the knowledge disciplines, in this case, geography. Of course this has roots in the 19th century too with our friends Alexander von Humboldt, Darwin and co. establishing positive and definite domains of knowledge that were formalized in academic specialties we are familiar with today, which have not lessened but as everyone knows (?) have only become further specialized. So the first geography degrees were offered, textbooks were written on mapping (Eckert Die Kartenwissenschaft, 1921, Erwin Raisz General Cartography, 1938) and people occupied posts with names like Chief Cartographer (eg. Mark Jefferson for the Inquiry in Paris following WWI).
Now we see an absolute orientation around serving the consumer with relevant geographical information. Why? Apart from open source efforts (and even some of those) the answer is to realize a financial return in the modern market economy. Where it would be difficult to think of a “chief cartographer” (and despite Ed Parsons a geographical evangelist in a company) there are now plenty of people working on delivering consumer-relevant geographical information (note, not data, but meaningful information). These need not be in the form of maps at all, but will be underpinned by geographical data.
Thus: politics, knowledge, money.
Great idea from the TPM folks:
It’s one thing to accept money from a piece of legislation you campaigned strenuously against. But we’re seeing more and more stories about Republicans who just got done trashing the stimulus bill in Washington and are now back in their districts taking credit for the spending programs contained in it. A lot of the stories have already been written up. But I think there are many, many more out there. So keep an eye on your local media for examples.
See, politics and mapping do go together!
A couple of great new posts at the Making Maps blog mustn’t be allowed to go unnoticed.
First, John provides details on the forthcoming sessions at the AAG on subversive cartographies:
To be subversive, is to wish to overthrow, destroy or undermine the principles of established orders. As such subversive cartographies offer alternative representations to established social and political norms. Maps are no longer cast as mirrors of reality, instead they are increasingly conceived as diverse ways of thinking, perceiving and representing space and place which express values, world-views and emotions.
There are 3 sessions planned. John’s own paper is titled “Are maps autistic?” Hmm.
Second, there is a superlong detailed entry by John and Denis Wood about the samizdat Atlas of Boylan Heights. Denis Wood has been working on this project since the 1970s but it has never been published in full form. Parts of it have popped up from time to time or been passed around by hand. Boylan Heights is an area of Raleigh, NC where Denis has long lived.
The valuable thing about this post are the high-resolution maps from the Atlas, the best ever publicly available as far as I know. Here’s the famous “pumpkin map” for example (featured on This American Life in 1998):
First there was this:
Now there is this:
Which one invades privacy more?
Of course to be serious for a moment in the NYT pic she gave her permission, and was photographed with her knowledge.
The cat’s name by the way is “Monty” so I propose we call these “montymaps” in his honor.
A bit of an obscure one this. If you contribute to the History of Cartography project you get an annual hand-printed broadsheet (available here).
This year’s is called “the surveyor as madman” and it’s a quote from a letter by one Flavius Magnus Cassiodurus, written some time between 507 and 511 AD.