With years of classroom experience and now as a university president,* I may be considered to know a lot of things. But reading Seeing Through Maps has opened new understandings. I especially appreciate the "connections" between maps and meanings. These clearly go beyond what is typically taught and thought about, and make the book unique in its field. Highly recommended.
* School policy prohibits use of names in any endorsement.
A geography teacher says…
Aimed at adults with inquiring minds, Seeing Through Maps is specifically focused on ideas about the world as those ideas are shaped by the maps we use. Seeing Through Maps is well written, organized, and illustrated. The book leads people to appreciate the selectivity and the logical biases of maps and to advises caution about the results of that selectivity on the people who use maps.
The book is good for politicians, international business people, citizens who read world news, and journalists, among many others. Although the authors do not pitch the material at students, teachers of all grades would benefit greatly from the discussion of the powers of maps to shape our thoughts.
Seeing Through Maps is a book that I will recommend to my former colleagues of the Department of Earth Sciences and Geography of Bridgewater State College, as well as to the members of the New England - St. Lawrence Valley Geographical Society, and to the National Council for Geographic Education. Even though Seeing Through Maps is not intended for K-12 classroom use, teachers would do well to have read it and to have absorbed its lessons about hidden assumptions.
Congratulations to the authors and to ODT.
Reed F. Stewart, Ph.D.,
Professor of Geography and Anthropology emeritus,
Bridgewater State College, Bridgewater, Massachusetts
A renowned cartographer says…
Thanks for your compulsively readable Seeing Through Maps. You discussed a number of projections I had known nothing about, and even succeed in making some new points about Mercator.
Professor John H. Andrews
Department of Geography, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland
Howard Zinn (A People's History) says…
“An ingenious way of looking at the world with creative imagination.”
Teaching Tolerance says…
In Seeing Through Maps, high school students can begin to view maps through a philosophical and critical lens, adding a whole new dimension to their study of geography and world history.
Teaching Tolerance magazine of the Southern Poverty Law Center
From Cartographica, Volume 38, #1&2, Spring/Summer 2001
“Seeing Through Maps is absolutely the best introduction available on map projections, their history and importance. The appendix’s summary of 14 projections - their strengths and weaknesses - is probably worth the price of the book. The text weaves the theory and history of maps-at-large - from mental maps to amateur work to high cartography - into a seamless thematic whole.…erudite and invigorating… satisfying and illuminating…”
Tom Koch, Dept of Geography, Univ. of BC, Vancouver, BC, Canada
From The Cartographic Journal
“…a fresh and exciting popular introduction to world maps and projections in general.”
Two professional librarians say…
As librarians in Bergen County, N.J., we highly recommend Seeing Through Maps for all library collections. This a wonderfully illustrated, interestingly written book. It is especially good for the young adult collection as it is accurate, clear and attractively laid out. Young adults coming into the library find it easily understood and packed full of information. This book would be very helpful in both public and school libraries.
Ilene Fauer and Corey Fauer, Hackensack, New Jersey
A professional indexer says…
Seeing Through Maps is fascinating! Having these variations and their philosophical underpinnings collected in one volume facilitates comparison and enhances understanding.
Cher Paul, Indexing and Editing Services, Portland OR
A college teacher at DePaul University says…
I just read your wonderful book, Seeing Through Maps. I plan to use it in my course on African Diaspora in January at DePaul U. in Chicago; it's a beautiful study that prepares students to think using multiple perspectives. Thanks! Ivor Miller, African Diaspora Studies, DePaul University
Read a review from Government Training News
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My view of the world is often different from my neighbors. Sometimes it is different from my work colleagues. I guess it's the way I see things. But who is right? What is the truth? (Yes, we will answer this age-old, difficult, and perplexing question in this column).
A number of years ago I was conducting a seminar for government managers at a conference site in West Virginia. We shared the facility with a small international conference, whose participants had met the year before in Geneva, the year before that in Paris! Here they were in the lovely hills of West Virginia but already they were promoting their next year's meeting in Alice Springs, Australia. The Australian contingent had posted a map on the door of their main meeting room - McArthur's Universal Corrective Map of the World. It attempted to correct the old Mercator projection of the world that was so familiar to all of us. It showed the South on top, with Australia in the center of the map (and a flag pinned to the center of Australia, at Alice Springs). The map read, in part, "South is superior. South dominates! Long live AUSTRALIA - RULER OF THE UNIVERSE!!" Our group of managers chuckled over that, but also engaged in a spirited discussion of perceptions, world views, and the importance of - at least occasionally - seeing things differently. I left the seminar with the humbling knowledge that the discussion about McArthur's map was the-best learning of the week.
This was all brought back to me when a copy of a fascinating new book landed on my desk. It is Seeing Through Maps: The Power of Images to Shape Our World View by Ward L. Kaiser and Denis Wood (published by ODT, Inc. of Amherst, MA; 1-800- 736-1293; www.odt.org). The authors warn that the book may be dangerous to your cherished view of the world: "You will never look at a map - or at the world that maps depict - the same old way again." The book takes a hard look at truth by carefully inspecting the familiar images we experience every day. The authors challenge the popular world-view by questioning images in general, and the specific messages communicated through maps.
Seeing Through Maps is about more than cartography. By blending graphics and text in a large, landscape format, this book reshapes the act of seeing. Map projections are used as tools for understanding the world from different points of view - those of the world's countries, the world's cultures, the world's people, and the world's history.
One of the maps discussed, the Peters Projection map, shocked TV's favorite press secretary, West Wing's CJ Craig when he first saw it. The TV show is fictional; the map is real. Commonly seen in Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America, the Peters projection map is almost unheard of in North America. The countries look different from what we are used to seeing. Actually, the map shows all countries in their true size and proportion. one square inch on the map represents an equal number of square miles anywhere in the world. And so our view is changed.
One of the uses of the book, as authors Kaiser and Wood point out, is cross-training: "Many corporations, as well as a number of management consulting firms that serve them, have used some of the maps... in their training sessions. Their goal is not to turn effective executives into amateur cartographers, but to help them grapple with the realization that some of the ideas we have always held may need to be rethought. We call this cross-training; the skills you develop in understanding an using maps will carry over into many other areas of your life. In learning to question the assumptions about the maps you see, ...you'll also question assumptions hidden within other attitudes, perceptions and beliefs you hold."
So, what is the truth?
To be truthful, the authors already answered the question: "The truth is found in many places, and seen from many angles."