OT long - Maps and sense of place

Katherine Ferguson list at maulu.demon.co.uk
Tue Sep 14 08:37:43 EDT 1999

On Fri, 10 Sep 1999, Rebecca Handcock wrote:
>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?

I think it depends. I certainly couldn't draw an accurate (by which I
mean fairly good, not absolutely precise) map of somewhere which I know
as a place but have never seen a map of. And I couldn't draw a precise
one at all since I've no intention to take up surveying <g>. But once
you've seen a map it is fairly easy to sketch something in more or less
the same proportions at a later date.

What I find hard is *describing* maps to people who don't know them. The
most common example for me is when talking about holidays of mine near
Inverness in Scotland. I'm amazed by how few people know where Inverness
is (this is English as well as international friends), and I try to
describe it: "well, you know the rough shape of Scotland? OK so the very
top of S. is only over on the left hand side, yes? And a bit further
down it is sort of fullwidth. Between the two is a horizontal coastline
-- *very roughly* you've got a blob of land with the top right corner
missing? Well Inverness is where the corner of the land is....!"

I just can't do it <vbg>

On Mon, 13 Sep 1999, Philip wrote:
>I find it annoying that fewer and fewer modern atlases (atlae?) print latitude
>and longitude in the index.  They expect you only to use it to find a place on
>the map, and they claim that people finde page + square references easier to
>use.  Which means that it is more and more difficult to look up the co-ordinates
>of places.

Out of curiosity why do you want the exact lat-lon? Atlases will have
the markigns on the maps even if it's not listed in the index, so a
rough lat-lon is easy enough to get. I'd certainly agree that page
references are necessary, but that doesn't mean they can't have both.

And for national atlases aren't there standard grid systems? Certainly
in the UK the OS National Grid seems just as useful as lat-lon for
"geographical" (as opposed to what I think of as "planetary") data.

>I am not a geographer - I just didn't mesh with the teaching we had at school,
>and gave it up at age 14.

Me too. But I am the daughter of a geographer, and I've always loved,
memorised, and drawn maps.

>  But more recently I have been buying books on
>geography, cartography and the like and my interest is reviving.  My personal
>problem is that most of these books adopt a very non-mathematical approach, and
>I keep asking How do you calculate this and that...

That's cos the majority of geography students can't cope with maths!!!
<vbg> (sorry geog students, I know lots of you can). At the uni here
it's a bit like the game Black Maria (to try to get this vaguely back on
topic!) -- whoever ends up having to teach first year stats has lost the

On Mon, 13 Sep 1999, Melissa Proffitt wrote:
>On Mon, 13 Sep 1999 18:24:13 +0100, Lucy Mackintosh wrote:
>>I firmly believe that all towns are laid out in a nice, neat grid pattern.
>Maybe most cities are...but definitely not all.

Can anyone think of any at all in Europe? I've never been to a grid city
but imagine them to be a little dull? Less landscape and town plannign
history to them, and probably really boring road names???? (coo, what
prejudice <g> I grew up with mediaeval layouts extant.)

Goodness, I've actually caught up with all the list email now! But still
no time to reply to much.
Katherine Ferguson
To unsubscribe, email dwj-request at suberic.net with the body "unsubscribe".
Visit the archives at http://suberic.net/dwj/list/

More information about the Dwj mailing list