Where You Are, like most of Visual Editions’ titles, isn’t a book in the traditional sense of the word. It has no pages and chapters; rather, the publishing house’s newest offering is a box full of artwork and essays that tell the story of artists, writers and thinkers in map form. “We asked 16 writers, what is your personal idea of a map? recalls Iversen. “And we got 16 different expressions of that.” The resulting book is meant to be opened, spread out on a table and delved into like you would an atlas before a road trip. In other words, Where You Are is a distinctly Visual Editions experience.
Great maps were everywhere in 2013. Some seemed destined to go viral. Some were stunning to see. Others had noble intentions and interesting stories to tell. Lots were made by people who aren’t professional mappers.
Click here to see some our favorites - and let us know what we missed!
Above: The million-plus amateur cartographers who volunteer their time to plot roads, streets, and even shrubbery for Open Street Map were busier than ever this year. The beautiful map above, created by MapBox, shows how the database has grown since its inception in 2004. Hot pink areas are newly mapped, blue and green areas are older. (There’s a zoomable version on Mapbox’s website). OSM’s database of more than 21 million miles of roads and 78 million buildings, keeps finding new uses, such as helping first responders to disasters like this year’s typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. Image: MapBox/OpenStreetMap contributors
One of the most convincing roles of William Shatner’s career is also one of his least celebrated. It’s not listed on his IMDB page or in his Wikipedia entry, but in 1987, in between starring in T.J. Hooker and directing Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Shatner lent his talents to a surprising but worthy cause: Geography.
Shatner takes this promotional video for an open-source digital mapping software suite, rescues it from being another dull info-pitch for something you didn’t think you cared about, and turns it into an exciting voyage to explore a strange new world. Of maps.
Backed by a perfectly dramatic soundtrack, Shatner begins his narration, ”It’s no news that we all use maps to do our jobs. There are often problems using them in the traditional paper form, particularly when we can’t get the right information in the right format when we need it. There should be a better way.”
Maps can direct us from here to there, show where one thing is in relation to another, or add layers information to our surroundings. Whatever its form, a map’s main purpose is to make the complex world we live in more comprehensible.
But there are also maps that describe the world as it never came to be.
Those are the maps that interest Andrew Lynch, who runs a Tumblr called Hyperreal Cartography & The Unrealized City that’s full of city maps collected from libraries, municipal archives, and dark corners of the internet.
In postmodernist philosophy, “hyperreality” is the point where fiction and reality become indistinguishable. In Lynch’s collection we see familiar cities like New York and Los Angeles, but it’s as if we are viewing them along a different timeline. What if a web of highways criss-crossed downtown San Francisco? What if the orderly grid of Manhattan were organized like the wheel spokes of Washington D.C.? The maps in this gallery illustrate these alternate realities.
In his day job as staff cartographer at UC Berkeley, Darin Jensen makes maps for other people. When professors need a map for teaching a class or submitting a research paper to a journal, he’s their man. But his real passion is fostering what he calls guerrilla cartography.
If traditional cartography is slow, methodical, and ethically bound to be free of bias, guerrilla cartography is a rapid and loosely coordinated effort to draw attention to social issues. It’s ”the act of making a map in the interest of the change that it can inspire or induce,” Jensen said.