This American Life Features Mapmaking

by Matt Ball on October 22, 2007

I tuned into one of my favorite radio programs over the weekend, This American Life by Ira Glass, and was delighted that the whole program was devoted to mapping!

There are five separate acts to this episode with mapping by sight, hearing, smell, touch and taste. The observation that, “mapmaking means ignoring everything in the world but the one thing being mapped,” struck me as somewhat antiquated.

There was excellent coverage of cartography topics, with a profoundly interesting piece from Denis Wood, author of The Power of Maps. The segments on mapping for the different senses was also intriguing.

What was missing was any discussion of the evolution of maps to their digital form. Wood states that, “we live in the Age of Maps, with more than 99.9 percent of all the maps that have ever existed have been made in this century.” But there’s not much explanation that digital data can make anyone a mapmaker, and how the input of sensor data can make maps live and breath.

The entire episode is definitely worth a listen, and can be streamed in its entirety here.

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