From Denis Wood, Rethinking the Power of Maps (2012):
“People make maps to discover their minds and to connect themselves…Maps selectively link places in the world (theres) to other kinds of things (to thises)…maps are more or less permanent, more or less graphic artifacts that support the descriptive function of human discourse that links territory to other things.”
Maps are a collection of codes or sign systems. They present a set of rules, signs, a framework, a language, or what Barthes would call a “myth”. Maps are works of fiction, and should be considered metaphors or similes (Greehhood 1964).
Importantly, maps are narratives, but can only be partial narratives. Data can only tell some of the story. As I wrote in an earlier post, our smartphones provide the illusion of location awareness. “[T]o be truly location aware, we need to be narration aware. Key to our awareness of where we are is the understanding of the stories of the people, the community and the space.”
Jake Barton’s City of Memory is a narrative map of New York that allows visitors to create a collective, online memory by submitting stories. Inspired by this work (and envious of his budget), I’ve taken the data from my morning commute and layered some narrative onto the map.
The orange arrows combine with the red itinerary line to provide the main narrative, the central plot of the story. I’ve also included black squares to mark places I’ve lived, my “homes”. The black arrows point in the general direction of other homes, not shown on this map. I’ve also included years (the last 2 digits) of the years I lived in each of these locations. In addition, with a more lyrical than empirical approach, the squares are different sizes according to the length of time I lived in these places.
To the uninformed viewer, a large part of the codes above will be confusing, misleading and uninformative. I’ve deliberately not included a legend (except in the paragraph above) to provide an example of how individual maps and images can be interpreted differently, what Bachelard would suggest are “resonances” and “reverberations”, based on our connections to the map/image.