Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘maps’

05 MAY, 2011

Mapping the Human Condition

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What the empire of love has to do with the intellect forest and the bay of agoraphobia.

We love maps. There’s something about cartography that lends itself to visualizing much more than land and geography. We’ve previously looked at how the London tube map was appropriated as a visual metaphor for everything from The Milky Way to the Kabbalah, and today we turn to seven cartographic interpretations of the human condition, using the visual vocabulary of classical maps to interpret various facets of the human psyche — a genre that came of age during the late Renaissance, when it became known as “sentimental cartography.”

THE KINGDOM OF WISDOM

In 1961, Norton Juster wrote The Phantom Tollbooth, a timeless children’s classic and one of our essential children’s books with philosophy for grown-ups. It tells the story of a bored little boy named Milo who one day receives a magic tollbooth that transports him to a fantasy land called The Kingdom of Wisdom. Though at first he gets lost in the Doldrums, a grey place where thinking and laughing are not allowed, he goes on to incredible adventures before returning to his own room as magically as he had left it.

 

This map by mid-century American cartoonist Jules Feiffer, who illustrated the book, depicts the marvelous land that Milo finds himself in as he follows his own curiosity.

Thanks, @dethe

ISLE OF KNOWLEDGE

Last week, delicious new work by designer Marian Bantjes (whose latest book, I Wonder, is among the most ambitious and beautiful visual communication volumes ever published) made the rounds — and for good reason: Isle of Knowledge is a beautifully illustrated map of “the ‘known’ beyond which lie monsters,” created for the second installment in Bantjes’ column for UK illustration magazine Varoom on the theme of “Knowledge.”

The map is clearly — whether consciously or not — inspired by the Phantom Tollbooth map, which is perfectly fine: With the concept of combinatorial creativity in our DNA, we deeply believe that all creative work is derivative, everything is a remix, and good ideas come from other good ideas.

MAP OF AN ENGLISHMAN

English artist Grayson Perry‘s 2004 Map of an Englishman portrays his mind in a mock-Tudor etch of an imaginary island, surrounded by the “seas” of his perceived psychological flaws — desires, vanities, prejudices, fears. The island itself is vaguely brain-shaped, turning the map into a kind of cartographic phrenology of the self.

Map of an Englishman

Image courtesy of Grayson Perry and The Paragon Press via BBC

CARTE DE TENDRE

Carte de Tendre (Map of Tenderness) is a 17th-century French map by the writer Madeleine de Scudéry depicting the peaks and valleys of amorous pursuit, from the River of Inclination to Lake of Indifference to the Great Spirit. With its undetermined itinerary that offers you multiple routes to Tenderness, it’s part map, part choose-your-own-adventure narrative for love.

THE EMPIRE OF LOVE

We first featured this extraordinary antique German map of Das Reich der Liebe (The Empire of Love) more than three years ago, and it remains an absolute favorite. Created by Johann Gottlob Immanuel Breitkopf in 1777, it’s a pinnacle of sentimental cartography, as detailed and obsessive as love itself.

If you don’t sprechen Sie Deutch, here’s the gist:

  • GEBIET DER JUGEND = Land of Youth (Forest of Love, Kiss Field, Flirting Game, Charm Castle, Stream of Wishes, Worry-Free, Joy’s Home, Beautiful House, Source of Joy, Sweet Look, Wisecrack Place, Rich River, Warning Castle)
  • GEBIET DER RUHE = Land of Rest (Nightcap, Grandfather City, Equanimity, Manly Place)
  • GEBIET DER TRAURENDEN LIEBE = Land of Mourning Love (Anger’s Home, Flood of Tears, Whim Mountain,  Complaint Place, Hopeless Mountains, Loathing, Strict Place, Swamp of Profanity,  Desert of Melancholy)
  • GEBIET DER LUSTE = Land of Lust (Illness Valley, Weak Home, Intoxication Field, Lechery, Hospital)
  • GEBIET DER GLUCKLICHEN LIEBE = Land of Happy Love (Lust Wood, Answered Prayers, Pleasant View, Enjoyment, Tenderness, Good Times, Affection Farm, Satisfaction, Compliance Mountain, Fountain of Joy, Marriage Harbor, Reward City, Peace of Mind, Bliss Town)
  •  GEBIET DER HAGESTOLZE = Bachelor Country (Stupidity Town, Rejection Place, Irritation, Indifference, Place of Contempt, Reprehensibility, Old Age Mountains, Separation, Hat, Obstinacy, Wrangler Hall, Exasperation Heath, Hamlet of Death, Sea of Doubt)
  • GEBIET DER FIXEN IDEEN = Land of Obsessions (Place of Sighs, Desire Town, Unrest, City of Dreams, Bridge of Hope, Disloyalty, Sweet River of Tears, Little Town of Instincts)

Many of these maps can be found in these 7 must-read books on maps, particularly in the excellent You Are Here: Personal Geographies and Other Maps of the Imagination — a treasure trove of imaginary and imaginative cartographic explorations of self-conception.

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28 APRIL, 2011

HyperCities: Every Past is a Place

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What 17th-century Manhattan has to do with Peru’s grid and the Renaissance in Berlin.

We love cities, maps and urban storytelling. So we’re all over HyperCities — a digital research and educational platform for exploring the layered histories of cities and public spaces, based on the idea that “every past is a place.”

The fundamental idea behind HyperCities is that all stories take place somewhere and sometime; they become meaningful when they interact and intersect with other stories.”

From a digital recreation of Manahatta in 1609 to an archival print of Berlin’s 1772 geometric grid, the project is absolutely fascinating and a treasure trove of urban time travel.

Most recently, HyperCities mapped real-time voices from Cairo using social media, offering an entirely different way to experience the news, not by digesting static newswires and frontpage headlines but by actively hearing the reality of the people on the ground — something last week’s Tweets from Tahrir tried to capture in a different medium.

The project, which received a Google Digital Humanities Award last year, is the brainchild of Todd Presner, Yoh Kawano, and David Shepard and is a collaboration between UCLA and USC.

HyperCities is currently available for 19 cities, including London, Shanghai, Tel Aviv, Tokyo, Berlin, New York, Los Angeles and Mexico City. You can contribute to the project by adding your own georeferenced map — here’s how.

via @kirstinbutler

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06 APRIL, 2011

SubMap: Visualizing Subjective Urban Patterns

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What Twitter in Finland has to do with villages in Hungary and the solipsism of urbanity.

Maps, cities and data visualization are among our sharpest points of interest, so when the the three converge, we’re swooning all over. SubMap, which we stumbled upon on the excellent new ArtsTech News aggregator, is a visualization project that flies in the face of the traditional conception of maps as static and objective representations of the public world, and instead maps the subjective personal experiences of a city’s residents.

From locals’ favorite places in Budapest to Finland’s real-time Twitter chatter to a subjective map of the city plotting the cartographers’ homes as the epicenter, the maps are living abstractions of civic sentiment, part Hitotoki, part ComplexCity, part We Feel Fine, part something else entirely.

The project’s latest iteration, SubCity 2.0: Ebullition, captures 12 years worth of data patterns from origo.hu, Hungary’s leading news site, not only visually but also through a sonic representation.

In the 30 fps animation, each frame represents a single day, each second covers a month, starting from December 1998 until October 2010. Whenever a Hungarian city or village is mentioned in any domestic news on origo.hu website, it is translated into a force that dynamically distorts the map of Hungary. The sound follows the visual outcome, creating a generative ever changing drone.”

SubMap is the work of Dániel Feles, Krisztián Gergely, Attila Bujdosó and Gáspár Hajdu from Hungarian new media lab Kitchen Budapest, a hub for young researchers and experimenteurs looking to explore the intersection of mobile communication, online communities and urban space.

via Creators Project

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