A search of Fast Company's most popular pages yields 15,526 entries for "map"-related articles. BuzzFeed, the barometer of web bravado, daily pushes geography to the top of its "Win" column.
Recent popular BuzzFeed features have included, "This World Map Shows Where Every Disney Movie Is Set," "This Tube Map Of The Best Coffee Shops In London Is Marvelous," and "6 Maps That Show How The United States Has Changed Since 1990."
|Source: BuzzFeed; The Most Interesting Maps From 2013|
For crowd-sourced proof, YouTube features 24,300,000 map-related videos. For more scholarly evidence, a survey of literature over the past 200 years has seen a 363% increase in references to maps in English language books.
|Source: Google Ngram Viewer|
Geography, for some reason, has piqued the modern zeitgeist. Not too long ago, many purists decried the predicted demise in skills as paper AAA maps were replaced by handheld GPS devices. The effect, however, was the opposite. More people than ever began interacting with cartography on a daily basis.
In essence, the two forces spurring geography's current widespread allure are the human search for place and meaning, combined with the clever art of contemporary cartography.
The Search For Place And Meaning
The Atlas Of True Names aims to plumb the origins of the world's most familiar names. The reimagined maps on this terrific site replace the familiar schoolhouse combinations of vowels and consonants with actual interpretations of their historically given names. The site is an ideal crossover for humanities courses, where social studies and English teachers can navigate the resources together. The maps use word etymologies to offer a more accurate rendering of what each label actually signifies. In North America, for example, New Mexico is "New Navel Of The Moon," Idaho is "Light Of The Mountains," and British Columbia is "Doveland Of The Tattooed." The global derivations are even more interesting. The site, a mixture of scholarship and whimsy, is self-described as "an invitation to the world as a strange, romantic continent."
|Source: Atlas Of True Names|
As students encounter more and more geographic variations across the web, they begin to recognize that maps are self-creations. This YouTube clip (which is no stranger to history teachers or West Wing watchers) has notched almost a million views in revealing the true nature of earth's landforms. Americans reared on the Mercator projection may be stunned by the more authentic Gall-Peters rendition.
As another avenue toward defining one's personal space within a metropolis, the Urban Cartography project from Alex Varanese seeks to add patinas and labels to the moods and buildings of a city's facade. The geography, in effect, becomes a living infographic.
|Source: Alex Varanese|
Clever Art And Graphics
Among the many enterprising individuals delineating their own geographic spaces, perhaps the most consistent is Jerry's Map. Heralded on multiple sites and blogs, artist Jerry Gretzinger from Cold Spring Harbor, New York, has designed a fascinating, beautiful map of an imaginary city. What began in 1963 and now spans 3100 panels has become a feat of internally defined rules and freewheeling topographical genius. The video is worth showing to any audience of students or adults.
Other artists have sought to stamp their signatures on top of preexisting, classical charts. Ed Fairburn, for example, transports the physical features of valleys and rivers into the facial lines of expressive portraits. Take a look at Visual News' write-up on his work in "On The Map: Synchronizing Face With Cartography."
For her part, Becky Cooper sought to transfer the design of place into the hands of everyday New Yorkers. She gave out blank maps of Manhattan to passersby and invited the strangers to render their own dreams and demons of the city. Her ensuing gallery became an unforeseen map of personal memories.
|Source: Ed Fairburn; Visual News|
|Source: Becky Cooper; NYTimes|
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