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Fall 2013

We tend to understand mapping as objective spatial representation:  that is, a map represents size and concrete features in a form that is more-or-less just as it really exists.  However, maps "construct" spaces in particular ways that make sense depending on who makes the map, why they make it, when it is made, and who it is meant to be its audience:  if you were to make a map of your neighborhood or hometown it would likely differ significantly from the maps fashioned by the Chamber of Commerce, farmers, local school districts, the police department, politicians, and a host of other folks who try to use maps to represent material space in a particular way.  Maps are "authored" in the same way as any textbook, speech, or newspaper editorial, and maps are equally subject to intentional and unintentional distortions, misrepresentations, and plain ignorance.  Space is itself a piece of material culture that has no self-evident meaning, and maps attempt to impose some meaning on those spaces in the same way that archaeological texts aspire to interpret arrowheads or cave art.

In this exercise you will prepare a map of a space you have all experienced:  the IUPUI campus.  You all likely have seen one of the many campus maps distributed by various departments, programs, and arms of the university, and many more maps include the campus among other features over a wide area.  Most of these maps are pretty straightforward roughly scaled renditions of the campus, but they render the buildings and grounds in all sorts of colors, highlight certain features, use a whole range of different symbols to represent various features, and often ignore many structures or prominent features.  For instance, some maps of campus represent its environmental features and physical topography, others highlight the built environment, and some include city landmarks that the mapmakers considered important, such as the Downtown Canal, Military Park, or Monument Circle.  Almost all campus maps are rendered in a two-dimensional plane, in a panoramic "bird's eye" view of campus, but nobody really can see the campus in this way:  even birds flying overhead see the campus as a three-dimensional volume.  A map must of necessity make a three-dimensional world fit flat paper (or a video screen), and to render a complex space every map is compelled to offer a selective view of reality, distort spatial geometry, and sometimes weave willingly misleading representations into small two-dimensional planes.

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There are some basic guidelines to how you should prepare your campus map.  If you are not nurturing an inner Picasso, you can still fashion a creative and reflective map of the campus.  You can use whatever medium you prefer: pen or pencil drawings are best, but if your drawing really needs color you can break out the Crayolas.  The drawing should be on standard 8" by 11" paper: please do not use grossly oversized pages.

Your map's subject is the IUPUI campus.  You should define the campus space--that is, its limits and what is included in campus space--in whatever way makes sense to you.  Every map has some scale that indicates how much space is represented on the map, but for the purposes of this map, you can use whatever scale you want to use: spatial accuracy isn't a particularly important issue in this exercise.  However, your map should indicate rough magnetic directions (i.e., north, south, east, and west).

Your map must have some consistent graphic symbols that explain the features depicted on the map: these can include words, arrows, circles, shading, or whatever graphic conventions you would like to use.  Your symbols should show a reader what is relevant:  on various maps this can include geographic variation (e.g., topography, bodies of water, vegetation, etc), buildings, structural features (e.g., kiosks), social institutions (e.g., churches), streets, railways, parks, historical features, and so on.  You cannot hope to identify and label everything on campus, so you will need to be selective about what you represent or what you actually identify on the map.  Think of your map as a representation of a complex piece of material culture:  you are compelled to select particular features, experiment with the area of coverage, and establish a set of symbols that make sense to you and the people who look at your map.   Think first about the features on campus that seem most significant to you:  those first places that come to mind should be central to your map.

Your map must be accompanied by a paper that answers the following questions.  You can answer the questions point-by-point.  Your paper must be typed, double-spaced, and securely stapled to the drawing: no paper clipped or loose papers.  You should expect the answers to take a full page:  short exercises without clear and thorough explanations will lose points.  I will deduct points from any exercises that do not follow these guidelines (for example, I will automatically deduct one point for any exercises that are not typed) or clearly address these questions.

  1. What are the central features in your drawing?  Clearly indicate the features that you thought were most significant:  why did you represent these features?
  2. Did you use words on your map?  Why or why not?  What sort of symbols did you use to represent features on the map?  What direction was placed at the top of your map (i.e., south, north, east, or west), and why?
  3. How does your map differ from the conventional university maps?  Why do the maps differ?
  4. What could somebody infer about you from this map?  How would they know things about your social identity?
  5. Is this map useful?  If so, to whom and why? If not, why not?

The paper is due on or before August 29th.  Late papers will be penalized one point for each day they are late.  The exercise is worth 5% of your course grade.  Please email any questions or bring them to class.

For examples of historic maps, visit the Library of Congress' Panoramic Maps, 1847-1929 or Maps of Liberia, 1830-1870.  The Library's Panoramic Maps page includes an essay on "bird's eye" Panoramic Mapping views, one of the most common map styles in the late-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  The Library's Map Collections: 1500-1999 includes a vast range of maps ranging across the globe.  

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Last updated August 5th, 2013