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Lecture notes - Forsberg- maps and cognition

On the 12th century world map, please find the following locations: Europe, Africa, Japan, America


What were some of the initial challenges in finding the assigned locations?


Why doesn't Idrisi's 'world map' show all the assigned locations?


What regions are the most accurate? Which become more distorted? Why?


Distance Decay: "the attenuation of a phenomenon over distance." e.g. earshot, signal reception, details on mental maps.


"Our immediate neighborhood we know rather intimately. But with increasing distance our knowledge fades . . . Until at the last dim horizon we search among ghostly errors of observations for landmarks that are scarcely more substantial." (Edwin Hubble)


How was the data for the map gathered?

"Cartographers sat . . . debriefing mariners returning from their voyages, weighing the credibility of each report and each measurement, piecing it all together into a single, coherent, consistent picture of the geographic world" (Latitude, Longitude, Infinitude).


"Each new 'picture of the world' has the power to tyrannize beliefs and to overthrow beliefs " (Latitude, Longitude, Infinitude).


"New maps have contradicted, and will continue to contradict, expectation " (Latitude, Longitude, Infinitude).


"Human beings think in terms of images, and they know what they're looking for" (Latitude, Longitude, Infinitude).


"The neocortex retains flexible maps of expected reality, working copies of the physical world, against which the maps of perception are compared and incorporated again and again . . . Notions of reality may be primarily a process of interior cartographic revision " (Latitude, Longitude, Infinitude).


Christopher Columbus' . . . cosmographic ideas about America capture the spirit of denial in its purest form.  The most distinctive characteristic of the way Columbus interpreted his own discoveries beyond the Atlantic was the stubborn manner in which he tried to force practically everything he encountered on his first voyage to America into the traditional image of a tricontinental world. Throughout that voyage, it was his rigid preconceptions, evidently unaffected by the facts themselves, that dictated his cosmographic interpretation of what he actually found beyond the "Ocean Sea." Columbus was indeed, under the domination of a fixed idea, and rationalized all his experiences into harmony with his earnest wishes. Zerubavel, Eviatar. Title: Terra cognita : the mental discovery of America / Eviatar Zerubavel. Pub. Info.: New Brunswick, N.J. : Rutgers University Press, c1992.

Most remarkable in this regard were Columbus's relentless efforts to force the totally unfamiliar new continent into the familiar contours of the Old World. As evidence from the entry in his diary on the day of his very first encounter with it, Columbus identified America right from the start as "the Indies" and its inhabitants as "Indians." Zerubavel, Eviatar. Title: Terra cognita : the mental discovery of America / Eviatar Zerubavel. Pub. Info.: New Brunswick, N.J. : Rutgers University Press, c1992.

Cuba, Hispaniola, and the Bahamas, whose existence had until then been virtually unknown in Europe, thus became in his mind rather familiar entities. They were among the 7,440 islands lying, according to Marco Polo, in the China Sea off the shores of Asia. His strong belief that he had actually reached the Orient is also quite evident from the repeated references in the diary to Japan (Cipango) as well as to the Great Khan. Zerubavel, Eviatar. Title: Terra cognita : the mental discovery of America / Eviatar Zerubavel. Pub. Info.: New Brunswick, N.J. : Rutgers University Press, c1992.

Maps can be seen as diagrams showing the evolution of our collective thought about a particular spatial domain, and as archival images documenting states of knowledge. 

Today with GIS, "Computers collate information from a variety of sources before plotting out the result in a map" (Latitude, Longitude, Infinitude).


The speed and 'efficiency' of GIS means that "Never before in human history has so much diverse territory succumbed to the march and measure of discoverers and cartographers."


The definition of a map has changed as new instruments of measurement reveal previously unexplored frontiers at levels of resolution from the "atomic and microscopic to the cosmic." 


Map - 1910: Encyclopedia Britannica"a representation, on a plane and a reduced scale, of part or the whole of the earth's surface"


Map - 1976: The Nature of Maps by Arthur Robinson and Barbara Petchenik"a graphic representation of the milieu"


CARTOGRAPHIC COMMUNICATION:All maps are abstractions and simplifications of the real world. Certain real-world phenomena are selected by the cartographer, represented by symbols on the map, and presented to the map reader who interprets the map and learns something about the selected phenomena in their geographic setting . . . It is important . . . to recognize the perceptual limitations that are common to all map readers, and to design the map to accommodate those limitations.(Thematic Maps, Their Design and Production (1982) David Cuff & Mark Mattson London: Methuen & Company)