Barton and Barton on Ideology and the Map

In this chapter, Barton and Barton seek to explain the rhetorical purposes of a map and how human experiences influence how they are perceived. They begin with two examples, one from Huckleberry Fin and the other from Borgés about a mythical empire. In Huckleberry Fin, Huck states that they must be in Illinois because everything around them is green and that they cannot possibly be in Indiana because he does not see any pink around him. His assumption comes from the fact that he has seen a map many times with each state being a different color and took the ideology of the colors as facts of the real world. In the mythical empire example, the cartographers of the empire could make perfect maps but found that small maps were somehow missing something. To remedy this, they constructed a map that was the same size as the empire and were able to match every structure point for point. The map created by the cartographers fails the purpose of being a map because it covers the entire empire and cannot be used to find your way around. The authors continue on to explain that map sales frequently increased during times of war by those with military forces in other countries. These areas gained a stigma because the maps became known for being used by war efforts. The authors also discuss that maps have been criticized for being oversimplified to show tourist destinations and attractions.

The image below is of a fairly simplified treasure map. We can easily see that this map would serve a purpose, to find hidden treasure, but does not do so very effectively. The map is far too simple to be interpreted convincingly and does not show enough detail to direct the viewer to the correct spot. A few spots on the map also try to convince the viewer of different things. The skull rock, monster in the upper right corner, ship, and blowing cloud all try to convince the viewer (whether convincingly or unconvincingly) that the area they are in is a dangerous place. Modern viewers can also look at this map and see those same visual cues and immediately associate this map as one that is used by pirates from our experiences with movies and television shows.

Question: Are physical maps still relevant with our vast access to maps on the internet? Google maps has multiple styles of map that can be accessed, should we criticize these different forms of map for being too simple or complex?


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