A (Brief) Tribute To My Experience With Maps This Semester

This semester we looked (albeit it somewhat briefly) at maps and how they had the ability to tell stories through a cycle of memory and forgetting and even had the power to give a narrative perspective to all types of places and locations. I had never spent much time looking at maps before my experiences in this class, as I, with only a little bit of shame, admit that I am closely tethered to my exclusively Internet accessible Google Maps safety rope whenever I am in a new place or need directions somewhere.  To be quite honest, I have memories of scoffing to my friends and housemates when I found out that the book list for this class included a couple of real paper atlases. My fondness for maps was limited, to say the least, before we dove into texts such as, Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas. 

I was really inspired, however to make a kind of ‘tribute to my experience with maps this semester’ post after reading Christina’s post, as it sparked a memory of something that I had read early in the semester in Solnit and Snedeker’s Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas: “A great map should stir up wonder and curiosity, prompt relevation, and deepen orientation. It should make the strange familiar and the familiar strange.”

This excerpt snuck it’s way back into my brain after I realized that I easily spent about ten minutes diving through the map that Christina had created, looking deeply into all of the places that she had tagged in the digital space that held meaning for her. It was evident to me that maps really did have the potential to have a capturing quality to them and made this little section of the world, Al Ain in the United Arab Emitrates, seem familiar, in a sense, to me.

Another great example of a map that stirred my wonder and curiosity was Jack’s cemetery map that I found linked to in Christina’s post. I really felt that I was engaging in course concepts and practices by cycling back to Jack’s post and thinkING about how things had really churned back up to still be pertinent and related a month after the original post, that in part sparked Christina’s post, which in turn led to this very post I created. Anyway, Jack’s map included pictures that were tied to tagged locations and places in the cemetery, which definitely brought me back to grade school class trips and adventuring with friends around my town when I was little. I really, once again, noticed that the strangeness of this unfamiliar place was made familiar to me through this interactive map.

I know that there is a lot more that can be said here about maps in general, and maps that we’ve specifically looked at in class, but for me, I felt that it was important to draw the class’ attention to this quote from Solnit and Snedeker and respond to how it tied back in with how i’ve viewed maps throughout this semester. I would love to hear if anyone has any other thoughts related to this quote!

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