Last week Boston magazine marked the 100th birthday of Norman B. Leventhal. The real estate developer, philanthropist and map collector died in 2015; in 2004 he co-established the eponymous Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library as a public-private partnership with the Library. [WMS]
Alastair Bonnett’s latest book, Beyond the Map, is out today in the U.K. from Aurum Books. An exploration of “thirty-nine extraordinary places, each of which challenges us to re-imagine the world around us,” including disputed enclaves, emerging islands and other idiosyncracies of geography, Beyond the Map looks like a follow-up to his 2014 book, Off the Map (published in North America as Unruly Places), which I reviewed in February 2015.
Related: Map Books of 2017.
As part of her Project Subway NYC, architect Candy Chan has created a series of X-Ray Area Maps of various New York subway stations. These maps show the subway stations—their platforms, their passages, their staircases—relative to the surrounding streets and buildings. Absolutely engrossing. Chan explains her methodology in this blog post. She’s also selling posters. [Kottke]
Earlier this year I mentioned the publication of Mark Monmonier’s latest book, Patents and Cartographic Inventions. This week at All Over the Map, Betsy Mason does a bit more than mention the book, with a closer look at some of the more unusual patents from Monmonier’s book: an early voice navigation system, a map folding method, and a rural address system. (None of which caught on, of course.)
The Barry Lawrence Ruderman Conference on Cartography takes place from 19 to 21 October 2017 at the David Rumsey Map Center at Stanford University. Speakers include a number of graduate students—the conference’s focus is on emerging scholars—as well as Connectography author Parag Khanna, who’s giving the keynote, and Chet Van Duzer, who’s giving a talk on the fear of blank spaces on early modern maps—something I’m very much interested in. [WMS]
The Washington Post maps rainfall and flooding levels in the Houston area.
The New York Times is collecting several maps on two web pages. The first page deals with subjects like rainfall, river level, current and historical hurricane tracks, damage reports, and cities and counties under evacuation orders. Maps on the second page look at Harvey’s impact on the Houston area.
Esri’s U.S. Flooding Public Information Map includes precipitation and flood warnings.
— NWS (@NWS) August 28, 2017
Kenneth Field critiques the National Weather Service’s decision to add more colours to their precipitation maps (see above). “Simply adding colours to the end of an already poor colour scheme and then making the class representing the largest magnitude the very lightest colour is weak symbology. But then, they’ve already used all the colours of the rainbow so they’re out of options!”
Christina E. Dando’s Women and Cartography in the Progressive Era (Routledge) came out earlier this month. From the publisher: “As women became more mobile (physically, socially, politically), they used and created geographic knowledge and maps. […] Long overlooked, this women’s work represents maps and mapping that today we would term community or participatory mapping, critical cartography and public geography. These historic examples of women-generated mapping represent the adoption of cartography and geography as part of women’s work. […] This study explores the implications of women’s use of this technology in creating and presenting information and knowledge and wielding it to their own ends.” [WMS]
Related: Map Books of 2017.
While we’re on the subject of fantasy maps, here’s Camestros Felapton with a thing: “I thought I’d look at the most classic of fantasy maps again but from a different perspective. Part of the problem and the attraction of Tolkien’s original map is the additional detail and a sense of a bigger explorable world. What happens if we strip that away and while we are at it making the right-angle problem a bit worse?” What happens is my eyeballs bleed: that’s what happens. (The right-angle problem is probably a reference to Alex Acks’s critique.)
Paul Weimer offers up a defence of fantasy maps, at least the good ones.
It might be facile to hashtag #notallmaps, but, really, not every map is a geologic mess, not every map is a Eurocentric western ocean oriented map, with an eastern blend into problematic oriental racial types. Not every map has borders which strictly follow natural barriers and does not have the messy irregularity that real world maps and borders have.
He offers up some examples of what he considers the better sort of fantasy map. Notably, and one I didn’t know, a map from Arianne “Tex” Thompson’s One Night in Sixes:
This is a map I love because it is precisely an in-world artifact. This is a map as used by the characters, changed and remarked for current conditions. Oftentimes, a map in a fantasy novel will be in “god game mode,” an omniscient point of view at the reader, not the character level. Even if characters traverse the entirety of the map, Tough Guide to Fantasyland style, they often aren’t seeing the world of the map as the map. The style and technology of a map is often at odds with what the characters already have.
The difference between maps for the reader and in-world maps is an interesting point, one I plan to look at in more depth in a future article. And I’ll have more to say on fantasy map style, and fantasy map design, shortly.
Whenever a cataclysmic weather event occurs—like Hurricane Harvey right now—there’s usually a heated political argument over whether or not it can be blamed on climate change. It turns out that there’s a field of research dedicated to assessing whether extreme weather can be attributed to climate change: it’s called extreme event attribution. There have been more than 140 peer-reviewed attribution studies of extreme weather events around the globe, which Carbon Brief has mapped here.
Carbon Brief’s analysis suggests 63% of all extreme weather events studied to date were made more likely or more severe by human-caused climate change. Heatwaves account for nearly half of such events (46%), droughts make up 21% and heavy rainfall or floods account for 14%.
NPR last month, reporting on a problem with FEMA’s flood insurance maps: they’re not keeping up with reality. “FEMA’s insurance maps are based on past patterns of flooding. Future sea level rise—which is expected to create new, bigger flood zones—is not factored in. So some communities are doing the mapping themselves. Like Annapolis, the state capital of Maryland.” [Leventhal]
At Longreads, Adrian Daub has a long, discursive, in-depth essay about fantasy maps, fantasy novels with maps, and what it meant to grow up loving same. It’s so full of good bits and covers so much ground that quoting just a paragraph would mislead you into thinking it was just about that one thing. It’s piece I’ll be returning to often, I think.
Alex Acks, whom we last saw complaining about the mountains of Middle-earth, admits that they don’t like fantasy maps. Remember: Acks has an M.Sc. in geology, and that’s part of it, but it’s also about how the maps reveal failures in worldbuilding (the lands look like they were created to fit the story) or basic mapmaking (e.g., no scale).
Politico maps the locations of Confederate monuments in the United States, and correlates their locations with where African-American populations are concentrated.
The majority of these symbols were dedicated between 1900 and 1920, when the South enacted Jim Crow laws aimed at resegregating society or discriminating against blacks. There was also a notable spike in new symbols during the height of the civil rights movement.
Among states with the highest proportion of African-Americans, Mississippi, whose population is 37 percent black, has more than 130 commemorations, while Louisiana, which is 32 percent black, is home to 91 symbols. Georgia, whose population is 30.5 percent black, has 175 monuments.
There’s an unstated implication there.
Distilling the entire three-thousand-year history of maps and mapmaking into a 2,400-word article seems awfully hubristic, but Clive Thompson’s piece for the July 2017 issue of Smithsonian Magazine gives it a try, tying everything together right from the outset:
Is it possible that today’s global positioning systems and smartphones are affecting our basic ability to navigate? Will technology alter forever how we get around?
Most certainly—because it already has. Three thousand years ago, our ancestors began a long experiment in figuring out how they fit into the world, by inventing a bold new tool: the map.