Maps and sense of place

Rebecca Handcock handcock at
Fri Sep 10 12:59:53 EDT 1999

The formatting of the previous posting got a bit messed up, but ...

% From: Melissa at (Melissa Proffitt)
% Subject: Re: Sense of place
% On Fri, 03 Sep 1999 10:58:22 -0400, Nat Case wrote:
% >>From: Melissa at (Melissa Proffitt) %>> %>>>
% It's very hard to imagine living in a world where you haven't seen a
% map. Or >>>where you don't think of the land in terms of your
% understanding it on a >>>map. It's very confusing and a little scary. >>
% >>Doesn't that sound a lot like life in the medieval era, with so many
% >>people never really going anywhere beyond their immediate
% >>surroundings? It would be really easy to believe horrible things about
% >>people from other places too...they live too far outside the world
% you know.

I would argue that people still don't have much of a sense of space. It
has been shown that most people only create the 'mental maps', (which were
discussed in an earlier post). These show the relative location of objects
or places, with the scale being distorted all over depending on the
persons idea of how they fit into their world view. Nowdays, who can
actually draw a map of a city or country or the world which shows real
distances and locations? Even your standard street atlas for a city will
tend to show the streets and intersections etc, but not exact scales.  
Everyone (including myself) has a mental map of these places, but would
have to go look at a hard copy map to see the boundaries exactly.

This is why the development of cartography was of such importance to the
Renaissance through to the present. The idea of having an accurate map
with a real scale that represents real distance, for example your standard
map of the world, has not existed until then. Before that all maps were
extremely distorted.

I hope this is not too much off topic. I am a Geographer, so have a great
interest in these topics and how they are perceived. I also find it
exceedingly scary that 2nd year university students in Geography can't
read latitude and longitude off a map, and that the majority of those that
I have taught have no real working knowledge of maps beyond the broad
ideas of 'mental maps' and ideas such as 'France is over there in Europe

Take care

Rebecca Handcock ________________________________________________________
Dept. Geography, University of Toronto          handcock at
100 St. George St. Toronto, ON, M5S 3G3, CANADA       Fax:+1(416)946-3886

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