The Zuni maps, says Jim, contain something very important: a different way of looking and knowing. “To assume that people would look at the earth only from a vantage point that is above and looking straight down doesn’t consider the humanity of living on the landscape. Saying that there’s a pond, there are cattails, there are turtles in that water—that is a different view that expands the human experience of a place.” This different view is what Jim, the committee, and the artists hope the Zuni people will recognize when they encounter these maps and consider their place in the cosmos—not a world that is constructed from GPS waypoints or one that was decreed in an executive order—but a particularly Zuni world, infused with the prayers and histories that created it. The Zuni maps have a memory, a particular truth. They convey a relationship to place grounded in ancestral knowledge and sustained presence on the land. That such a relationship consistently fails to appear on modern maps has been the impetus for creating and sharing the Zuni maps—both with the A:shiwi people and with a wider audience. They remind all of us of the ancient names, voices, and stories that reside within the landscape, inviting us to examine our assumptions about what it is that makes up a place and the role that we play in that long and layered story.
Posts tagged mapping
“Kalaallit Nunaat (Greenland), the Inuit people are known for carving portable maps out of driftwood to be used while navigating coastal waters. These pieces, which are small enough to be carried in a mitten, represent coastlines in a continuous line, up one side of the wood and down the other. The maps are compact, buoyant, and can be read in the dark.
These three wooden maps show the journey from Sermiligaaq to Kangertittivatsiaq, on Greenland’s East Coast. The map to the right shows the islands along the coast, while the map in the middle shows the mainland and is read from one side of the block around to the other. The map to the left shows the peninsula between the Sermiligaaq and Kangertivartikajik fjords.”
For the last decade, Taylor and her renters have been visited by all kinds of mysterious trouble. They’ve been accused of being identity thieves, spammers, scammers and fraudsters. They’ve gotten visited by FBI agents, federal marshals, IRS collectors, ambulances searching for suicidal veterans, and police officers searching for runaway children. They’ve found people scrounging around in their barn. The renters have been doxxed, their names and addresses posted on the internet by vigilantes. Once, someone left a broken toilet in the driveway as a strange, indefinite threat. As any geography nerd knows, the precise center of the United States is in northern Kansas, near the Nebraska border. Technically, the latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates of the center spot are 39°50′N 98°35′W. In digital maps, that number is an ugly one: 39.8333333,-98.585522. So back in 2002, when MaxMind was first choosing the default point on its digital map for the center of the U.S., it decided to clean up the measurements and go with a simpler, nearby latitude and longitude: 38°N 97°W or 38.0000,-97.0000. As a result, for the last 14 years, every time MaxMind’s database has been queried about the location of an IP address in the United States it can’t identify, it has spit out the default location of a spot two hours away from the geographic center of the country. This happens a lot: 5,000 companies rely on MaxMind’s IP mapping information, and in all, there are now over 600 million IP addresses associated with that default coordinate. If any of those IP addresses are used by a scammer, or a computer thief, or a suicidal person contacting a help line, MaxMind’s database places them at the same spot: 38.0000,-97.0000. Which happens to be in the front yard of Joyce Taylor’s house.
When providing directions to a place, web and mobile mapping services are all able to suggest the shortest route. The goal of this work is to automatically suggest routes that are not only short but also emotionally pleasant. To quantify the extent to which urban locations are pleasant, we use data from a crowd-sourcing platform that shows two street scenes in London (out of hundreds), and a user votes on which one looks more beautiful, quiet, and happy. We consider votes from more than 3.3K individuals and translate them into quantitative measures of location perceptions. We arrange those locations into a graph upon which we learn pleasant routes. Based on a quantitative validation, we find that, compared to the shortest routes, the recommended ones add just a few extra walking minutes and are indeed perceived to be more beautiful, quiet, and happy.
In some ways, all 2D maps of Earth are interrupted at some point, even if it’s just along the antimeridian at 180°. Interruptions are often in areas of less interest e.g. oceans for a land-focused map.
A couple of weeks ago, I was writing up a description of Einstein’s general theory of relativity, and I thought I’d compare the warping of spacetime to the motion of Earth’s tectonic plates. Nothing on Earth’s surface has fixed coordinates, because the surface is ever-shifting. Same goes for spacetime. But then it struck me: if nothing has fixed coordinates, then how do Google Maps, car nav systems, and all the other mapping services get you where you’re going? Presumably they must keep updating the coordinates of places, but how?