Landscapes of Global Capital
tv globe icon link to home The meaning of maps

How do we make meaning from maps? Do different 'types' and 'styles' of maps depend on different forms of knowledge and different kinds of assumptions? Given our understanding of maps and the activity of mapping, what do the inclusion of map references (map images) accomplish in television ads?

There is certainly more than a touch of irony that corporate television commercials draw upon the rhetoric of maps when as Joshua Meyrowitz argued, it is television that contributes so mightily to "no sense of place" because the medium of video is predicated on abstraction from place.

So what is it that maps allude to when used as signifiers in commercials? Even though map images frequently flash past us on the screen - they do so too rapidly to inspect them in any great detail. Instead, we may simply recognize the category of "map" and attribute to it meanings on the basis of this.

By contrast with TV maps, European maps circa the 16th and 17th centuries, reveal at a glance, and with relatively little knowledge of the history of cartography, how the style of representation influences the meanings of maps.

Double-Hemisphere Map of the World, 1597 Atlas of America by Cornelius Wytfliet.Cornelius Wytfliet, Double-Hemisphere Map of the World, 1597 A reference to Greek mythology, this map shows the hemispheres supported on the shoulders of Atlas (National Archives of Canada, NMC-27673)
Orbis Terrae Compendiosa Descriptio,Circa 1580
Circa 1580, Orbis Terrae Compendiosa Descriptio, this map by unknown mapmaker was based Mercator's mapping. Of interest here is the verse at the bottom that 'frames' the map: Translated: "A large slice which depicts an aspect of the lands of the globe, a famous work drawn from the Artist: You are made able to see me, you will see an imitation of the globe duplicated in you - even you are like the world."

Abstraction & Deterritorialization
Cultural Geography
The Architecture of Capital

A market for maps emerged in the seventeenth century for "Europeans eager to learn about new explorations. Such maps often included highly decorative borders, showing miniature city plans and current fashions." This map by Claes Janszoon Visscher done in 1652 has a decorative border that consists of key signifiers of Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas situated at the four corners of the world; other images around the map include great warriors on horseback (e.g., Julius Caesar) and city/country scapes (e.g., Tunis, Mexico). This map is from the National Archives of Canada (NMC-16772).

 Claes Janszoon Visscher,1652

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Robert Goldman, Stephen Papson, Noah Kersey