Matthew Edney explores the history of maps and games, beginning with the three basic forms of early map games: playing cards, board games, and puzzles, all of which had the “improvement” of youth as their aim. Over time game maps became more abstract (grids, simplifications) and puzzle pieces didn’t follow territorial boundaries. Edney doesn’t get very far into modern-day computer games, where the map becomes synonymous with the playing field, but that’s understandable: it’s too big a subject on its own (I’ve left it out of my fantasy map work for that reason).
Markus Moestue’s Critical Tourist Map of Oslo turns the unremitting positivity of tourist maps on its head, painting the Norwegian capital’s landmarks and history in a bracingly negative light.
In most countries, what we are taught about our own nation in school does not correspond much to reality. And Norway is no exception. We are made to believe in myths surrounding our own nation and are given a perfect mirage of excellence and good intentions in our history lessons. Stories of abuse, greed and war are often swept under the carpet, and it seems that, by some twist of faith, we are born into the best country in the world, and that all other nations are beneath us. Is Norway really the most happy place, the most environmentally conscious, the most peace loving or the most ethical? Hardly!
In this map I aim to correct a few myths, point to some problematic aspects of Norway and Oslo. And I wish for this map to be a contrast to the mindless commercially motivated map you’ll receive at the tourist information centre.
In a short video, Markus tries to stunt-distribute the map on the streets of Oslo:
Earlier this year CityLab invited readers to submit maps of their life under lockdown. Now they’re soliciting reader maps again, with a slightly expanded focus: 2020 in general. (Which, in general, was a year: how do you represent that cartographically? That’s the idea.)
We’re inviting you, our readers, to create a homemade map of your life, community, workplace or broader surroundings as you experienced them in 2020. Show us how the extraordinary changes of this year have shown up in your life. Or, try to envision how this year will impact 2021. Perhaps you want to map the city you hope to see—changes in architecture, transportation or public space—or how you imagine, hope or fear humanity might be changed due to this collectively lived experience.
Deadline is Monday, 7 December.
Apparently independently of one another, Sean Conway and Dmitriy Worontzov have been taking old geological and relief maps and applying using digital elevation models to apply 3D effects to them. The end result is a two-dimensional image, or a print, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that these maps now have real depth and texture. Conway, an orthoimagery specialist, works mainly on old U.S. relief maps; the results are available for sale as posters. Read more about him at My Modern Met. Worontzov, a Moscow-based art director, goes for geological maps, mainly from the Soviet era; see his work on Behance and Instagram, and read about him at Abduzeedo. [Alejandro Polanco, WMS]
Alternate history is a long-established subgenre of science fiction. “But one of the deepest pleasures of alternate histories are their maps. Sometimes these allow stories to unfurl, or complement the hypothetical world of a tale being told. But in many cases, the map alone tells a story,” writes Samuel Arbesman in a piece exploring alternate history and its maps at BBC Future. It’s a 101-level piece insofar as alternate history the subgenre is concerned; the pleasure, as you might expect, is the maps shared and linked to. [ICA]
Blue Crow Media, which for the past few years has published a series of maps focusing on urban architecture, sent me samples of two of their most recent maps. The Great Trees of London Map is the first of a series of maps highlighting noteworthy trees in a city’s urban forest (Amazon). (A similar map for New York is forthcoming.) The second is another in their line of architecture and urban design maps: Pyongyang Architecture Map features 50 buildings in the reclusive North Korean capital, and includes text and photographs shot by Guardian architecture critic Oliver Wainwright (Amazon). An architecture map of Tbilisi, Georgia, in English and Georgian, has also been released (Amazon). Each map costs £8.
Motherboard reported last week that the U.S. military was buying location data that originated, among other places, from Muslim prayer and dating apps. The Motherboard exposé details how it happened: how the location data supply chain works, and, for example, how data brokers pay app developers to incorporate their frameworks into apps so that user data can be harvested and sold to buyers like law enforcement and military contractors. Developers may not necessarily be aware of what they’re agreeing to when they accept those frameworks, but they don’t have to embed data harvesting algorithms in their apps either. [Daring Fireball, MetaFilter]
Writing at Atlas Obscura, Jeffrey Arlo Brown has the frustrating story of a German map thief—the extraordinarily slippery eel Norbert Schild—and the decades-long attempts by librarians to catch him, or when caught convict him, or when released stop him from stealing again.
All over Germany, librarians waited for the Bonn state prosecutor’s investigation to proceed. But they never filed charges against Schild. The evidence was largely circumstantial: While libraries could show that Schild used the damaged books, they couldn’t necessarily prove that he was the one cutting out the pages. A search warrant executed at Schild’s home on November 22, 2002, turned up “tools of the trade,” such as bibliographies and lists of historical materials at Germany libraries, but no actual stolen maps. Prosecutors in Bonn were busy, and the stakes may have seemed low—old books, not human lives. The charges in Trier—where Schild was caught red-handed—were dropped due to negligibility, after damages were estimated at just €500. A spokesman for the prosecutor’s office in Bonn declined to comment.
Astonishing. [Tony Campbell]
To keep myself connected to distant friends and family members during the pandemic, one thing I’ve been doing has been to send them actual, handwritten correspondence. A bit old-fashioned in the era of Zoom meetings and video chat, but it gets me away from the computer, and the firehose of awful that comes with it. Since I’m me, I was interested in finding map-themed postcards, notecards and stationery that I could use when writing to friends and colleagues who shared my interest in maps. It turns out that there is some out there.
This post is a roundup of what map-themed stationery for correspondence I’ve been able to find. It can serve as a gift guide, if map-themed stationery strikes you as a good gift; the holidays, after all, are coming up. As usual, I link to stores selling the stuff; I get a small cut of the income from qualifying purchases.
Out last month from Princeton Architectural Press: A Slice Through America: A Geological Atlas by David Kassel. This is a history of stratigraphic illustrations, which Kassel has been collecting for decades. “Historic stratigraphic illustrations depict the earth beneath our feet in captivating hand-drawn diagrams. Each drawing tells a unique geologic story, exquisitely rendered in colors from pastel palettes to brilliant bolds that show evolving scientific graphic conventions over time. Created by federal and state geologists over the course of one hundred years, the maps reveal sedimentary rock layers that present an unexpected view of our treasured public lands, making this collection an important record of natural resources, as well as a beautiful display of map design.” Amazon (Canada, UK), Bookshop.
Here’s another map artist who draws maps of real-world places in the style of fantasy maps: Isaac of Lord of Maps has around 30 maps—mostly of U.S. states, but also a few countries and one city—available for sale as prints of various sizes. Style-wise they’re dead ringers for Christopher Tolkien’s maps of Middle-earth, down to the hill signs, trees and red lettering.
OpenStreetMap, says Joe Morrison, “is now at the center of an unholy alliance of the world’s largest and wealthiest technology companies. The most valuable companies in the world are treating OSM as critical infrastructure for some of the most-used software ever written.” Corporate teams, rather local mappers, are now responsible for the majority of edits to the OSM database; Morrison speculates that their participation is about “desperately avoiding the existential conflict of having to pay Google for the privilege of accessing their proprietary map data.” In the end, he argues that we’re in a strange-bedfellows situation where corporate and community interests are aligned. (To which I’d add: for now.) [MetaFilter]
New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority has released a beta of a new digital subway map that aims to solve several problems at once. It shows train positions in real time and provides service bulletins in a single location. It also promises, says Fast Company’s Mark Wilson, to bridge the long-standing (and often acrimonious) divide between geographically accurate transit maps (Hertz) and diagrammatic network diagrams (Vignelli).
Here’s a video about how the new digital map came to be:
On Transit Maps, Cameron Booth has some criticisms of the map and its approach. “The main selling point of this map is that it has the clarity of a diagram but the fidelity of a geographical map—‘The best of both worlds!’ the articles happily proclaimed this morning—but the reality is more like ‘Jack of all trades; master of none.’ As much as I try, I simply can’t see any real benefit to this approach.”
Another point Booth makes, and I can confirm, is that the map isn’t just slow; it’s profoundly slow. On Safari it makes my current-generation, eight-core Core i7 iMac with 40 GB of RAM and a Radeon Pro 5500 XT feel like a snail; it’s a little better on Chrome, and on my third-generation iPad Air, but it’s still slow and janky and not very pleasant to use. Well, it’s a beta. But a beta that crawls on hardware faster than what most people own is, I’d gently suggest, not ready for release.
The British Cartographic Society’s 50th anniversary book, which came out in 2013, is now available as a free download (68 MB PDF). “This beautiful book, lavishly illustrated with over 130 maps, is presented in double-page map spreads for each year from 1963 to 2013, one map illustrating a UK event and the an overseas event for each of the fifty years.”
The European Space Agency’s new Climate from Space website presents satellite data on a host of different climate indicators, from aerosols to CO2, from land cover to sea ice, via 3D virtual globes. From the announcement:
The new, easy-to-use site provides access to the same satellite observations used by scientists to understand climate change and support international organisations such as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to drive action.
There is a suite of 21 climate data records to explore, which are generated by ESA’s Climate Change Initiative. The suite includes sea level, sea surface temperature, soil moisture, snow depth and the greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide and methane, as well as new visualisations for the latest climate variables records such as permafrost and lakes.