Saturday, February 19, 2011


A map is a visual representation of an area, a symbolic depiction highlighting relationships between elements of space such as objects, regions, and themes.

Typically when the term map is used it is referring to a two-dimensional spatial map, like the map of the world. But maps can be used for much more, to visually represent information. We see them all the time and may not realize it. A basic spatial map that is not to scale or spatially accurate but quickly communicates order and direction is the TTC subway map:

This kind of map can be used to communicate basic information even though it leaves out most of the geographical features of the area that is represented, another example is how to get to the coffee shop from my house:

Maps can get more interesting when they use metaphor, here is an example of a metaphoric map of my route to school:

Another interesting way to visually convey meaning by using a map is a cartogram. A cartogram is a map in which a thematic variable is substituted for land area or distance. The space of the map is distorted to communicate the information about the variable in question. For example, M.E.J. Newman created this cartogram with each county of the U.S. rescaled in proportion to its population. The colours refer to the voting results of the 2004 Presidential election.

Maps can also reveal the scope of the knowledge of a time, such as the T and O maps of the early modern era, that reveal what they knew the world to be then: Asia at the top, Europe on the left and Africa on the right. This one was created by Gunther Zainer (one of the first printers from Augsburg) in 1472 illustrating the Etymologiae of Isodore of Seville.   

Class activity: 
Part 1:(Think/ Pair/Share) Start by creating a verbal, instructional map of how to get somewhere from the school, or another public place. Share with a partner so that they will be able to get there. 
Part 2: Individually create a basic spatial map, like the one from my house to the coffee shop. 
Part 3: As a first step in a long-term project, choose to begin either a metaphoric map or a cartogram and work on some overall ideas and themes that you want to explore. 

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