1) What do you first notice when looking at a map?

It would be no surprise, almost to anybody, in any culture, at any time, if they’re going to represent the universe as a whole or the world as a whole, and you ask, “What is in the center?” You are in the center, right? You start with, and lo and behold, this is Rand McNally, headquarters in Skokie, right, north of us, so what is in the middle? See, it’s the Western Hemisphere. And if I would have brought along some maps from say, Japan, what would be in the middle? It would be Japan, or if it was from Paris. You get the idea.

Similarly, once it’s in the center, what’s on the edges? What selection has been made? What things are represented on the map and which are not? What are the hierarchies involved—just the size of the print, for example? Are things rounded up to make them look more artistic?

This is a communication. Think of a map as the world is out here. There is an observer looking at the world who takes certain aspects of that and puts them into a graphic device to convince someone of something. He’s making an argument and you have to have the right kind of cultural understanding to take that argument and to understand it and to be convinced by it.

Then you can start looking at what’s on the map, what is not on the map. What is missing? How is it packaged? How is it framed? How is it meant to be used? We don’t know a lot of these things, by the way. It’s like any historical document that you get. That it tends to all of a sudden put things together spatially, and say, “Well, what implication does it have? What does that mean? Why is this cartographer emphasizing this dimension?”

And we might, in our minds, think about alternative ways, alternative audiences, alternative purposes. And once you start playing with the map like that, it’s a series of questions and answers and arguments, and delivery systems if you wish. I think you’re on your way to understanding the power of place and the power of the representation of place.