Reflection: Counter-Mapping and the Death of Cartography

In “Counter-Mapping and the Death of Cartography,” from Rethinking the Power of Maps, Denis Wood introduces the concept of counter-mapping through multiple examples from the history of mapping that have induced its development. With the protest maps, the author describes the possible roles and messages conveyable through the maps. Instead of simply displaying the graphical data, maps can be used to express emotions such as anger. After this potential of mapping has been realized, some people start questioning the “professional’ way of making maps, which is referred to as the critical cartography by the author.

One of such examples that grabbed my attention is the indigenous mapping. The unique, authentic characteristics of the indigenous people – the victims of the imperialism – are also shown in their maps. Nevertheless, their maps are interpreted under the criteria of the states, who have the money and power. As a result, despite the variety of potential outcomes, all maps are forced to be used as tools to reflect the favor and interest of the states, the former oppressors. The author clearly states the limitation of the traditional mapping and the challenges during the process to a new phase.

My favorite section from the text is the part about the Parish Maps Project. The degree of freedom permitted to anyone in the process of making a parish map fascinates me. Just like how people in different regions produce varying styles of maps, people in different age group and skill levels also result in novel perspectives. Furthermore, since parish maps do not restrict mappers to be in a certain category, even children in primary school can participate, which is analogous to all artworks.

I remember seeing the world map hanging on the wall of my middle school history classroom. To me, maps had been mere tools for knowing the location, and I only focused on the information I cared to find out. However, Wood allowed me to realize that maps can be another form of arts that are also capable of having political meanings behind them. Expanding my perspective through an unexpected way motivates me to seek for more experiences in my journey as an artist.

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