Sunday, June 6, 2010

The map fades

At Wherecamp 2010, I twittered, "as we extend our senses with sensors the map fades." The idea that maps will eventually become obsolete and affectations for future descendants of steampunk aficionados has been difficult to let go. Mike Liebhold started the idea by asking the question, "is 1:1 scale mapping a reasonable idea" on the geowanking list. This touched off a thread that included David Asbury's response containing a link to quotes that touch on the various facets of the 1:1 map. Quotes from the comedian Steven Wright and writers Jorge Luis Borges and Lewis Carroll highlight the absurdity of such a map; and respondents to the question cited information overload would make such a map impractical.

The answer is simple, there is no map. It's gone. Moving freely through the world without resorting to abstractions of location places a large cognitive burden.  Studies of societies steeped in wayfinding have shown that they have developed acute abilities to distinguish environmental clues and extract meaningful information.  What if you no longer need years of experience to develop wayfinding cognitive abilities? 

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