It is impossible for one map to contain all the possible information about a given place. When a mapmaker makes decisions about what to include and exclude, he or she betrays a certain ‘interest.’ Read the excerpt below from Denis Wood’s book, The Power of Maps. What does Wood mean by ‘interest’? What would Wood say about the American Airlines map below?
I roll out the Raleigh West Quadrangle/North Carolina‚—Wake County/7.5 Minute Series (Topographic) survey sheet. . . . Under the red tint that covers my neighborhood only landmark buildings are shown, landmark buildings, hydrography, contour lines, and names. I can see well enough where [my] house should stand, directly under the second “a” in “Caburrus.” There is the road all right, but not the shifting shade or even the cars that despite the early Sunday morning hour do not hesitate to hustle down the road. The house is there on the larger scale insurance maps. . . .They even show the garage we took down the day we moved in. But they don’t note the squirrels or the pecan tree they nest in, though this is larger (and in the long run more important) than the house. . . .
“Irrelevant,” one mutters: “No one insures trees.” “Too ephemeral, too transitory,” says another. . . . "Birds and bees? The mapmakers weren’t interested in those things.” Exactly. So what did they map? What they were interested in. And this is the interest the map embodies . . . inevitably.
Source: Wood, Denis. The Power of Maps. New York: The Guilford Press, 1992. 72.
Source: American Airlines, inc. American Airlines system map. David Rumsey Collection.
1. What does Wood mean by ‘interest?’
2. What would Wood say about the American Airlines map above?
3. Do you agree with Wood’s point? Does every map serve an interest? What about a regular road map of California?
4. Why does the ‘interest’ of a mapmaker matter?