Wood, Denis. “Maps Work by Serving Interests.”
Wood, Denis. “Maps Work by Serving Interests,” The Power of Maps, Guilford, 1992, pp. 4-25.
In this chapter, Wood discusses the function and value of maps. He explains that maps connect us with the past and the present and allow us to interact with previous cartographers of the same land. Through maps, we connect with each other, as well as with the world around us because maps allow us to do so. Wood claims this chapter, “attempts to say how it is that maps work, how they make present –so that we can use it today—the accumulated thought and labor of the past” (2).
“And this, essentially is what maps give us, reality, a reality that exceeds our vision, our reach, the span of our days, a reality we achieve no other way” (Wood 4).
“Ultimately, the map presents us with the reality we know as differentiated from the reality we see and hear and feel. The map doesn’t let us see anything, but it does let us know what others have seen or found out or discovered, other often living but more often dead, the things they learned piled up in the layer on top of layer so that to study even the simplest-looking image is to peer back through ages of cultural acquisition” (Wood 7).
“It is this ability to link the territory with what comes with it that has made maps so valuable to so many for so long” (Wood 10).
“Better simply…to admit it that knowledge of the map is knowledge of the world from which it emerges—as a casting from its mold, as a shoe from its last—isomorphic counter-image to everything in a society that conspires to produce it” (Wood 18).
“That is, maps, all maps, inevitable, unavoidably, necessarily embody their authors’ prejudices, biases and partialities (not to mention the less frequently observed art, curiosity, elegance, focus, care, imagination, attention, intelligence and scholarship their makers’ bring to their labor)” (Wood 24).
If maps allow us to experience the world in a more specific way, seen through the eyes of the past (Wood 9), but we still live our lives in the way we choose, regardless of the impact of the map, then what true impact do maps have on our realities?
This may sound cynical, but I can’t help but wonder about the usage of maps. If, as Wood claims, maps play a vital role in our society by linking the past with the present, especially regarding property taxes and the function of the land, then why doesn’t society utilize maps in a more mainstream fashion?
“That is, maps, all maps, inevitable, unavoidably, necessarily embody their authors’ prejudices, biases and partialities (not to mention the less frequently observed art, curiosity, elegance, focus, care, imagination, attention, intelligence and scholarship their makers’ bring to their labor)” (Wood 24). Wood discusses the authors’ influences on maps here, and I can’t help but wonder: how do these influences affect the reliability of maps as artifacts of reality?
Harley, Brian J. “Text and Contexts in the Interpretation of Early Maps.” From Sea Charts to Satellite Images: Interpreting North American History Through Maps, edited by David Buisseret, U of Chicago P, 1990, pp. 3-4.
Mueller, Derek, et al. “Emplaced Disciplinary Networks from Middle Altitude.” Cross-Border Networks in Writing Studies, Inkshed and Parlor Press, 2017, pp. 20-45.