Maps are a representation of reality that are intense in information. You can see where and even when (?) things were and are.
When connecting two maps one observes the differences on the them. Often, the emphasis on a maps can range from detailed buildings to depiction of nature – water and topography, which allows you to understand:
1. About the aim of the map
2. Evaluate the accuracy of the map
3. Learn about the long term changes (in UAE’s case the changing coast) and so about the ecological impact of the development.
There is another way to use mapping out: in cases where you have addresses and information about the place. For example in NYUAD’s Akkasah Archive there is a large collection of photos with dates, locations and names – metadata – of photos of the Middle East: Egyptian, Emirati (possibly),Turkish Photo Studios and sometimes personal cameras. When you locate visually, in space the information from these pictures you can learn:
1. The locations are connected with the types of neighbourhoods.
2. Learn about people’s life: clothing, style, likes,
3. [A personal favourite] Individuals. Pictures paint a frame of a life and sometimes they can tell great stories. If it be a very open Egyptian lady on many photos or tourists who had pictures of the Olympics in 1963 and Hitler.
So developing maps of information that corresponds to actual space is another dimension of certain data. And I find it quite useful. For two reasons – it requires easy interactions with maps (which you learn) and allows me to understand the underlying conditions when making a map and using it to interpret information as it is what is depicted on the map that will be of importance.
In the mean time, I found myself having kept a number of maps of similar kind – tourist maps. As I travel around I realised that the only people who would possibly make any use of a paper map are the tourists. Because I know that I wouldn’t use one in my own city, although we also have these tourist maps, I know that there is something fundamentally wrong with these maps when it’s your own town. You care more about banks, about street names and numbers, and none of these cutely drawn cafes doesn’t have what you need.
However, I have found myself a tourist many times and each time those tiny, cute maps have been somehow useful because they have allowed me to study the interesting parts of the area so I can easily recall it and imagine it. When I come back to a city I just recognise the tourist attractions and destinations, and am able to estimate my location and orient around. For this I admire the people who choose which things to depict for doing it so well that I learned from it. This is the art of making maps; they are accurate representations of where we are or were that contain much more information. Showing information in the context that is desired by their use, which helps to then read it. Maps can show real scale of places and people.
In a Ted Talk Danny Dorling uses maps and the data which they represented to show a bigger picture, which we often lose from sight behind all of the bad news. Everything is going well for the Earth, a balance is being established in the population, governments are controlling pollution (especially in more dirty areas – Japan, USA), more and more people are getting educated and caring about Nature. We have enough income of food for everyone [I don’t know his views on diets] if we decrease the amount of meat we eat.
Maps represent more than we can actively see so they seem authoritative pieces of big truth [about big things “out there”]. But maps are someone’s interpretation of spacial information and the truth is arbitrary to the purpose of the map. They are not necessarily real as in “out there”; if Abu Dhabi was as big as shown on an map for a local bank had showed, nothing of such scale would be possible for the city. But they represent the things that are “out there” through a certain prism of need. And depending on the needs can be used for different marketing and targeting strategies, instead of spacial orientation. They are institutionally or personally motivated.