Maps — Charting the Waters


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There is no greater tool for universal communication than maps. The idea that reality and the imaginary can be shared as a visual medium is amazing. So effective are maps that we apply the concept to more than just geography, charting all uncharted waters along the way.

While maps originally focused on graphically representing a location, early cartography was influenced by religion and culture. For example, during Medieval times, European maps portrayed Jerusalem as the center and directionally, east was north. Then in the 15th century, with exploration and the printing press, maps became more common. Features such as compass lines, navigation charts and distance projections tied maps significance to economic and political advancements. Nowadays, the boundaries between countries have been defined and we struggle to determine the borders of neighborhoods.

Thanks to the democratizing force of the Internet, dozens of amateur cartographers are reshaping these lines themselves, taking advantage of malleable Web sites to provide their own definitions for where, for instance, Park Slope ends and Gowanus begins. — New York Times

Following voyages by Christopher Columbus to the New World, the first whole-world maps appeared in the early 16th century. But it was Martin Waldseemüller in 1507 who created the first true whole-world map which labeled the New World as America. From Waldseemüller’s world map to Google’s most recent high-res photos of Earth (as of last week), the urge to capture infinite detail is as strong as ever.

From political ideology to mind mapping creativity to the Human Genome Project, we have the ability to chart it all. Take a look at Strange Maps, by Frank Jacobs, whose own fascination has created an obscure atlas of sorts from the local independent coffee shops of London to phantom islands off the coast of Brazil.



We found this map that said that underneath this place there’s buried treasure. Come on, guys, this is our time. Our last chance to see if there really is any rich stuff. We’ve got to. — Goonies

Perhaps it is our human nature to want record every last detail and with the ambitious Google Maps project we can. You can personalize maps to your location and everyday existence using Google, and even Krrb allows you to scale your map to see what’s for sale just next door, or in the whole wide world. Even so, there’s something special about the unknown, discovery, and the potential treasures that lie below where X marks the spot.


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