Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Maps In The Wild

Source: Maps In The Wild

Rob Edsall, Associate Professor of Geography and Earth Science, Communication and Digital Media at Carthage College gave one of the keynote addresses at the annual International Visual Literacy Association conference in October. Edsall stressed that maps by definition are distortions of reality, requiring as critical a lens as text, and that iconographic “maps in the wild” reveal untold stories of power and culture.

In general, representations of geography can be divided into three types: reference maps, thematic maps, and then a vaguely defined third category. This third category includes the clever use of geography in media, logos, posters, signs, or any public sphere where graphic maps are incorporated into designs intended for purposes other than instruction. These "maps in the wild" convey messages.

Source: Maps In The Wild

Source: Maps In The Wild, Sharpie
Maps have saturated today's technological world, and yet they lie. They are given authority and judged uncritically. Even though they clearly make representational choices, we tend to trust them over the written word. Maps are not just about getting from point A to point B, and Professor Edsall firmly believes that we should be teaching students how maps are mirrors of society. To this end, we decided to create a place where we, along with our students, can collect “maps in the wild” as a way of developing a dialogue about how icons are used to convey ideas.

Source: Maps In The Wild,
Fourth Annual Latke Festival
The only warning that Rob Edsall gave us was that it can be addicting. We tend to agree. Our hope is for our students not just to see maps as maps, but also as signs and symbols that are constructed to relay messages. The kids have enjoyed spotting maps in ads and billboards and snapping pics to share.

Feel free to share our continually updated Tumblr site with any of your students. Also, if you spot any "Maps In The Wild," please email any photos our way.

Source: Maps In The Wild, Lowe's

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