The Practices of Mapping
Kitchin, Rob (2008) The Practices of Mapping. Cartographica, 43 (3). pp. 211-215. ISSN 0317-7173
For the past three decades Denis Wood has explored the nature and power of maps; how maps are designed, used, and understood, the role of maps in society; and cartographic theory more broadly. His collaboration with John Fels, The Natures of Maps, furthers this project and seeks to detail both the nature of maps and the nature of maps. For Wood and Fels, ontological thinking about cartography has been fixated on the nature of maps. They illustrate this argument with reference to Arthur Robinson and J.B. Harley, two cartographic theorists with very different ideas about the ontology of maps – maps as objective truths and maps as social constructions. Wood and Fels argue that, despite their differences, Robinson and Harley both conceive of a map as having an inherent truth (they note that for Harley the map itself remains ideologically neutral, with ideology bound to the subject of the map and not the map itself). Wood and Fels reject this position to argue that the map itself, its very make-up and construction – its selfpresentation and design, its symbol set and categorization, its attendant text and supporting discourse – is ideologically loaded to convey a particular message. In so doing, a map does not simply represent the world, it produces the world. To illustrate their argument, they use the example of the nature of a map – how the supposedly neutral, objective natural world is produced by maps – to demonstrate how maps produce nature rather than reflect it.
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