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The diagrammatic nature of maps


Ljungberg, Christina (2016). The diagrammatic nature of maps. In: Krämer, Sybille; Ljungberg, Christina. Thinking with diagrams : the semiotic basis of human cognition. Boston/Berlin: De Gruyter, 139-159.

Abstract

Cognitive instruments (words, other symbols, mnemonic images, and countless other things) are, for the most part, heuristic devices deployed in experimental contexts. They are not so much means of consolidating and organizing what we already know; they are rather means of probing, of exploring yet uncharted fields (often fields opened by these very devices). Maps, too, are not simply records of terrain already charted. They are indispensable instruments of experimental thought. This potential is based on the diagrammatic nature of maps, which combines the map’s indexical functions with its iconic qualities. Diagrammatization involves both likeness and analogy, which makes the map an efficient tool not only for exploring unknown territories but also for making visible structures and new relationships that no verbal description could reveal.
But what makes the map such an immensely useful prosthesis for exploration is its inherent potential to provide the possibility to derive new information from it that is not in itself contained in it. This is also what accounts for the foremost function of the diagram, namely that it expands the field of possibilities so that even more innovative experiments can be performed and, thus, enables novel exploration. It is this capacity that makes diagrams indispensible cognitive tools as they not only reveal unsuspected relationships but also produce new knowledge. That may also explain the close link among subjectivity, writing, art practices and cartography: maps seem to inspire ventures into new realms within practices of writing and the arts, on the one hand, and the cartographic impulse, on the other. Analysing the use of maps since rock art carvings through the Antique and medieval mappae mundi up to contemporary map art, this paper looks at how writers and artists incorporate essential characteristics of maps and mapping into their works and in so doing, make full use of space as a medium of representation in order to explore new knowledge space and to develop new ways in which to articulate both its potential and limitations of representation.

Abstract

Cognitive instruments (words, other symbols, mnemonic images, and countless other things) are, for the most part, heuristic devices deployed in experimental contexts. They are not so much means of consolidating and organizing what we already know; they are rather means of probing, of exploring yet uncharted fields (often fields opened by these very devices). Maps, too, are not simply records of terrain already charted. They are indispensable instruments of experimental thought. This potential is based on the diagrammatic nature of maps, which combines the map’s indexical functions with its iconic qualities. Diagrammatization involves both likeness and analogy, which makes the map an efficient tool not only for exploring unknown territories but also for making visible structures and new relationships that no verbal description could reveal.
But what makes the map such an immensely useful prosthesis for exploration is its inherent potential to provide the possibility to derive new information from it that is not in itself contained in it. This is also what accounts for the foremost function of the diagram, namely that it expands the field of possibilities so that even more innovative experiments can be performed and, thus, enables novel exploration. It is this capacity that makes diagrams indispensible cognitive tools as they not only reveal unsuspected relationships but also produce new knowledge. That may also explain the close link among subjectivity, writing, art practices and cartography: maps seem to inspire ventures into new realms within practices of writing and the arts, on the one hand, and the cartographic impulse, on the other. Analysing the use of maps since rock art carvings through the Antique and medieval mappae mundi up to contemporary map art, this paper looks at how writers and artists incorporate essential characteristics of maps and mapping into their works and in so doing, make full use of space as a medium of representation in order to explore new knowledge space and to develop new ways in which to articulate both its potential and limitations of representation.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Book Section, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > English Department
Dewey Decimal Classification:820 English & Old English literatures
Language:English
Date:July 2016
Deposited On:24 Mar 2017 08:43
Last Modified:24 Mar 2017 09:50
Publisher:De Gruyter
Series Name:Semiotics, Communication and Cognition
Number:17
ISSN:1867-0873
ISBN:978-1-5015-1169-1
Related URLs:http://www.recherche-portal.ch/ZAD:default_scope:ebi01_prod010745786 (Library Catalogue)

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