Edward Quin, Historical Atlas, 1830, via David Rumsey Map Collection

This week we’ll talk about how maps embody truth claims, how they represent what we know and don’t know and our degrees of (un)certainty. We’ll consider how our framing of maps as artifacts, as texts, as media, etc., shapes the way they function as epistemological objects. And we’ll discuss the value of critiquing maps and methods through which we can engage in that critique.


  • Reading Discussion 
  • Map Critique Demo and Practice 
  • Map Lab #1 with Emily: Entry Points for Operationalization: we’ll extend our practice of map critique in reverse-engineering the technical production of a few maps: what tools did they use?, what data?, how did they choose to represent those data, and to what ends?


The following list looks like a lot – but please fear not! You’ll be engaging in some online orientation activities; reading one long-ish, dense academic piece (Pickles); two long-ish but not-so-dense works of popular scholarship (by me and, uh, me); and a few shorter, highly accessible articles (Latour, Parshley, Tingley, Kurgan/Rankin).

  • Join our class Slack. If you’re new to the platform, please check out the Slack Help Center and watch this tutorial video. Be sure to configure your notifications (including all those potentially intrusive dings and emails), and to brush up on the protocols for addressing groups and individuals, sending direct messages, and using threaded discussions.
    • Now, please introduce yourself on Slack! Find the #introductions channel in the left-hand sidebar and share with us, in 150 words or fewer, who you are, your pronouns, what program you’re in, what your primary research or creative interests are, and how those interests intersect with the major themes of our class. Feel free to include links to your work. And please share a map – a picture, a video, a mappy song, etc. that emblematizes you or captures your current interest or concerns. 
    • I encourage you to check back later in the week, too, to review + respond to your colleagues’ posts. This isn’t obligatory – but I do want to build a culture wherein we all feel free to use our class Slack as a forum for (optional) ongoing discussion, resource sharing, etc. 
  • Register your thoughts about our community agreement.
  • Sign up for a week to share your map critique! We’ll discuss the method in class this week. We’ve got a big group this semester, so we’ll need to start these presentations soon in order to accommodate everyone. I hope four of you will be willing to kick us off on February 9!
  • Bruno Latour, “The Domestication of the Savage Mind” in Science in Action: How to Follow Scientists and Engineers Through Society (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1987): 215-219 [recall that you’ll be prompted to log in to access copyrighted readings].
  • More on what Latour calls “implicit geographies,” or embodied spatial knowledges: Kim Tingley, “The Secrets of the Wave Pilots,” New York Times Magazine (March 17, 2016).
  • John Pickles, “What Do Maps Represent?” in A History of Spaces: Cartographic Reason, Mapping and the Geo-Coded World (New York: Routledge, 2004): 29-59.
  • Shannon Mattern, “Mapping’s Intelligent Agents,” Places Journal (September 2017). 
  • What are the limits of what we can know through cartography? Lois Parshley, “Here Be Dragons: Finding Blank Spaces in a Well-Mapped World,” Virginia Quarterly Review 93:1 (Winter 2017) [one project that illustrates these principles beautifully is Marco Ferrari et. al.’s A Moving Border; see below]. 

    On Map Critique:
  • Shannon Mattern, “Gaps in the Map,” Words In Space (September 15, 2015) [The “Mapping Mindset” section foreshadows next week’s discussion on cartographic history. Feel free to skip the discussions of indigenous mapping since you have already, and will again, encounter these ideas elsewhere. Consider, too: how might thinking of maps as media open them up to constructive critique?].
  • Laura Kurgan and Bill Rankin, “Seeing CitiesGuernica (December 15, 2015). Browse through Bill’s Radical Cartography, too [see “Projects” in the left-hand sidebar]. 
  • Recommended Listening: M83, “New Map [this is supposed to psyche us up for the semester 😃]

Olaus Magnus, Carta Marina, 1539

Supplemental Resources: 

  • Keir Clarke, “Working with Map Projections,” Map Mania (October 9, 2017). 
  • Cornell University Library’s PJ Mode Collection of Persuasive Cartography
  • Mark Denil, “Cartographic Design: Rhetoric and Persuasion,” Cartographic Perspectives 45 (Spring 2003): 8-67. 
  • Matthew H. Edney, Cartography: The Ideal and Its History (University of Chicago Press, 2019). 
  • Marco Ferrari, Elisa Pasqual, and Andrea Bagnato, A Moving Border: Alpine Cartographies of Climate Change (Columbia University Press, 2018); see also Italian Limes
  • **Lauren Goode, “Google Maps’ Jen Fitzpatrick Says the Future of Maps Goes Beyond Driving,” Wired (February 6, 2020) + Jen Fitzpatrick, “Charting the Next 15 Years of Google Maps,” Google Maps Blog (February 6, 2020). 
  • J.B. Harley, “Deconstructing the Map,” Cartographica 26:2 (Summer 1989): 1-20. 
  • J.B. Harley, “Maps, Knowledge, and Power” in Denis Cosgrove and Stephen Daniels, Eds., The Iconography of Landscape (Cambridge; Cambridge University Press, 1988): 277-312.
  • Nick Houde, “For Any, For All, For Each,” Glass Bead (n.d.).
  • Daniel Immerwahr, How to Hide an Empire:A History of the Greater  United States (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2019).
  • Christian Jacob, The Sovereign Map: Theoretical Approaches in Cartography Throughout History, trans. Tom Conley (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006 [1992]).
  • Rob Kitchin, Justin Gleeson & Martin Dodge, “Unfolding Mapping Practices: A New Epistemology for Cartography,” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 38:3 (July 2013): 480-96. 
  • Rob Kitchin, Chris Perkins and Martin Dodge, “Thinking About Maps” In Rethinking Maps: New Frontiers in Cartographic Theory (New York: Routledge, 2009): 2-25. 
  • John Krygier and Denis Wood, “Ce n’est pas le monde (This Is Not the World)” [comic] in Rob Kitchin, Chris Perkins and Martin Dodge, eds., Rethinking Maps: New Frontiers in Cartographic Theory (New York: Routledge, 2009): 189-219.
  • Bruno Latour, “Visualization and Cognition: Drawing Things Together” in H. Kulick, ed., Knowledge and Society Studies in the Sociology of Culture Past and Present 6 (Jai Press). 
  • Manuel Lima, The Book of Trees: Visualizing Branches of Knowledge (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2014). 
  • Sophia B. Liu & Leysia Palen, “The New Cartographers: Crisis Map Mashups and the Emergence of Neogeographic Practice,” Cartographic and Geographic Information Science 37:1 (2010): [where do our data come from, and how do we render them mappable?].
  • * Olaus Magnus’s Carta Marina (1539). 
  • Shannon Mattern, “A Map That Tracks Everything,” The Atlantic (November 30, 2018). 
  • Shannon Mattern, “Public In/Formation,” Places Journal (November 2016). 
  • Shannon Mattern, “Local Codes: Forms of Spatial Knowledge,” Public Knowledge / San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (January 18, 2019).
  • Lily Bui On, “Dragons, Memory & Navigating the Globe Using Only Your Wits,” Nautilus (October 13, 2014).
  • John Pickles, “Mapping and the Production of Social Identities” In A History of Spaces: Cartographic Reason, Mapping and the Geo-Coded World (New York: Routledge, 2004). 
  • William Rankin, After the Map: Cartography, Navigation, and the Invention of Territory in the Twentieth Century (University of Chicago Press 2016) + companion website
  • Bill Rankin, “Base Maps and Invisible Landscapes,” University of Nebraska, Lincoln, February 14, 2018 {video}. Bill Rankin, “Mapping Social Statistics: Race and Ethnicity in Chicago” {video}.
  • Bill Rankin, “Redrawing the Map,” Architecture Boston 18:2 (Summer 2015). 
  • Bernhard Siegert, “Exiting the Project” and “The Permanently Projected World” In Cultural Techniques: Grids, Filters, Doors, and Other Articulations of the Real (New York: Fordham University Press, 2015): 142-5.
  • Bernhard Siegert, “The Map is the Territory,” Radical Philosophy 169 (September/October 2011): 13-6. 
  • Chet Van Duzer, “‘With Savage Pictures Fill Their Gaps’: On Cartographers’ Fears of Blank Spaces,” New York Map Society (September 21, 2019) < video: 41:50 >. 
  • Why All World Maps Are Wrong,” Vox (December 2, 2016) < video: 6:00 > [on projections]. 
  • Matthew W. Wilson, New Lines: Critical GIS and the Trouble of the Map (University of Minnesota Press, 2017). 
  • Denis Wood, “The Mathematical Transformation of the Object” In The Power of Maps (New York: Guilford Press, 1992): 56-61 [on projections].

On Map Critique: 

On Borders + Gaps: