Cartography and Geography

A Journey to Isolarion: March’s free e-book

March 2, 2011
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A Journey to Isolarion: March’s free e-book

Oxford is a city that with a rich history and receptive memory: a crossroads where the Thames changes its name to Isis; land of the ford, Tolkien, Murdoch, and Bayley; home of Pressed Steel to the east and a certain medieval University on its left-facing bank. The quintessential—yet entirely unique—university town. Or is it? You’ll want to consider this before departing on your own pilgrimage, with art publisher and writer James Attlee, in our free e-book for the month of March, Isolarion: A Different Oxford Journey. Isolarion takes its title from a type of fifteenth-century map that isolates a particular area in order to present it in detail, and that’s just what the book does for Oxford’s Cowley Road. Drawing from sources ranging from Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancholy and Cage’s 4’33” to readings of Lucretius and contemporary art, our guide engages with every aspect of Cowley Road’s eclectic culture: pornography emporiums, sensory deprivation tanks, halal shops, and car factories included. Accompanied by a notebook and a tape recorder, Attlee records the immediate details of his surroundings and revels in the allegorical depths of the everyday. The result? This eloquent hymn in praise of the invigorating, complex nature of the . . .

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Mapping race in the city

September 21, 2010
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Mapping race in the city

If you want to get our attention here at the Chicago Blog, all you need to do is combine two of our favorite things—maps and urban sociology. Our love for maps is strong, and our interest in the social dynamics of cities, especially those of our hometown, is deep. So it’s no surprise that today’s infographic of the day from Fast Company caught our eye. That post presents Eric Fischer’s finely detailed and rather beautiful maps depicting racial integration (or its lack) in many major American cities. Fischer was inspired by Bill Rankin’s map of Chicago’s racial makeup, which reveals that while the city continues to be highly segregated, some traditional ethnic enclaves are transforming. One such Chicago neighborhood—Andersonville and the area around the Argyle stop on the red line—is analyzed in detail in Japonica Brown-Saracino’s A Neighborhood that Never Changes: Gentrification, Social Preservation, and the Search for Authenticity. As Rankin notes, his map overturns the usual way of delineating areas of cities, where “neighborhoods are almost always drawn as perfectly bounded areas.” That traditional approach can undermine our understanding of what’s really happening in cities. The power of maps to change our perception of reality has been at the . . .

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Understanding World Hunger

September 14, 2010
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Understanding World Hunger

The BBC reports today that the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization has released their annual report on global hunger. There is some good news in that the number of undernourished people fell between 2009 and 2010, but, at 925 million, that number is still “unacceptably high.” In 2001 the UN designated a 50% reduction in the number of hungry people by 2015 as one of its Millennium Development Goals, but achieving this goal has proven extremely difficult and many aspects of the crisis have worsened. What makes this problem so frustrating is that the world doesn’t lack for food—we have more than enough to feed every living person on the planet. But nearly a billion people continue to suffer from food shortages, unsafe water, and malnutrition. To understand why, turn to Thomas J. Bassett and Alex Winter-Nelson’s Atlas of World Hunger. The Atlas makes unique use of maps to provide both a comprehensive overview of global hunger—its multiple causes and long-lasting effects—and to search for solutions to it. You can take a look at a PDF excerpt from the book here. . . .

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The Road to Extinction

June 17, 2010
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The Road to Extinction

A proposal from the government of Tanzania to lay a road through the Serengeti National Park—and through the lands used during the annual wildebeest migration—could, in the words of Olivia Judson, “destroy the Serengeti as we know it.” Writing for the Opinionator blog of the New York Times yesterday, Judson laid out the case that the proposed thoroughfare would be devastating to wildlife, and the reverberations of the project could affect everything from plant life to tourism. In her notes, Judson directs curious readers to the work of A. R. E. Sinclair, an expert on the region and the author of three books published by the University of Chicago Press. The most recent, Serengeti III: Human Impacts on Ecosystem Dynamics presents a timely and provocative look at the conservation status of one of earth’s most renowned ecosystems. (The previous two volumes—Serengeti: Dynamics of an Ecosystem and Serengeti II: Dynamics, Management, and Conservation of an Ecosystem are part of Sinclair’s long-term integrated research project to documents changes to this unique ecosystem every ten years.) Bringing together researchers from a wide range of disciplines—ecologists, paleontologists, economists, social scientists, mathematicians, and disease specialists—Serengeti III focuses on the interactions between the natural system and . . .

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Free e-book today: Monmonier’s No Dig, No Fly, No Go

May 3, 2010
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Free e-book today: Monmonier’s No Dig, No Fly, No Go

On Monday, May 3 only, the University of Chicago Press is pleased to offer the e-edition of Mark Monmonier’s brand new book No Dig, No Fly, No Go: How Maps Restrict and Control as a free download from our website. “Once again through his popular writing, Monmonier has made the lines of a map jump off the page and talk to us, only this time they scream and shout in a threatening voice, ‘No!'” The book examines use of the map as a source of authority across time and space: we encounter maps used to divide up property and to exclude people; maps that function as devices of colonialism and ways of divvying up the oceans; and maps that corrupt voting and regulate human behavior. Read this book, and perhaps never again will you casually ignore those cartographic lines, borders, and red zones that really do rule the world.”—Keith C. Clarke, University of California, Santa Barbara E-books from the University of Chicago Press are offered in Adobe Digital Editions format for Mac, PC, and a number of mobile devices such as the Sony Reader, IREX, BeBook, and more. Check out these links to find out more about Adobe Digital Editions . . .

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Eroding Shores, Eroding Boundaries

March 26, 2010
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Eroding Shores, Eroding Boundaries

Last weekend’s New York Times magazine featured a fascinating article about the clash among property lines, public land, and the tides of the Gulf in the coastal community of Destin, Florida. The article raises some important questions. Who owns the beach? Does private property trump public good? And what happens when Mother Nature washes away property lines? In the piece, titled “A Stake in the Sand,” author Andrew Rice chronicles the legal battle seaside homeowner launched against the state of Florida; rather than pump in new sand to replenish the eroded beach, the home owners preferred to allow natural erosion to runs it course and, in so doing, keep their beachfront off limits to the tanning masses. As Rice writes: This “nourishment” program, which involves an expensive process of dredging and pumping submerged sand back onto beaches, has been around for four decades and is one of Florida’s more popular public initiatives, a lifeline for many communities in a tourism-dependent state. So it came as a great surprise when, in Destin, the prospect of restoring the shore ran into fierce opposition. The battle over the beach, featuring charges of extremism, selfishness and dirty dealing, started as a typical squabble at . . .

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Press Release: Forsberg, Great Plains

October 6, 2009
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Press Release: Forsberg, Great Plains

Spanning the area west of the Mississippi River and east of the Rocky Mountains, the Great Plains once ranked among the most magnificent grasslands on the planet, second only to the Serengeti in sheer size, grandeur, and biodiversity. But today this broad expanse of prairie and steppe is among the most endangered ecosystems in the entire world. Here award-winning photographer Michael Forsberg—a frequent contributor to such publications as National Geographic, Audubon, National Wildlife, and Natural History—reveals the lingering wild that still survives on the Plains and whose diverse natural communities, landscapes, and native flora and fauna together create one extraordinary whole. Featuring contributions from novelist and wildlife biologist Dan O’Brien, noted geographer and environmentalist David Wishart, and American poet laureate Ted Kooser, Great Plains features 150 stunning full-color images along with literary, historical, and scientific passages that bring this extraordinary part of the country into more vivid focus than ever before. Most Americans know little about the landscape, wildlife, and history of this vast part of our country. But here, the beauty and majesty of the Great Plains come alive in all their quiet glory. Read the press release. Also see a gallery of photographs from the book, or these . . .

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The world beyond—and before—MapQuest

July 23, 2009
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The world beyond—and before—MapQuest

If you are planning to travel this summer through unfamiliar territory, chances are that you’ll use MapQuest or Google Maps, if not a GPS, to guide you—at least, you will if you’re anything like Regina Robins Flynn’s travel writing students. In the current Chronicle of Higher Education, Flynn reflects on the ways that new technologies have changed how travelers look at (or don’t look at) maps and, by extension, the terrain they traverse. Talking to her students about an assignment that required them to write about a trip they had just taken, she “took an informal survey in class: ‘Who reads maps?'” The answer? “No one.” It’s not exactly news that, as Flynn puts it, “people nowadays—and not just young people—do not like to encumber themselves with Rand McNally or Michelin books of maps, displaying every state in the union. Instead, they go to their laptops, print out directions to wherever they are going, and they’re off.” But it’s easy to forget, now that map-guided journeys can evoke such powerful nostalgia—Flynn remembers “being a kid traveling in my family’s nine-passenger station wagon,” where she’d “sit in the front seat and unfold all the crinkly creases, laying the maps out along . . .

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More than four corners

May 21, 2009
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More than four corners

In his new American Boundaries: The Nation, the States, the Rectangular Survey, the first book to chart the growth of the United States using the boundary as a political and cultural focus, Bill Hubbard Jr. makes a point of recounting February 24, 1863—the day Congress created a new Arizona Territory from the western half of New Mexico Territory. “By tying the Arizona-New Mexico border directly to the southwestern corner of Colorado,” Hubbard writes, “Congress ensured our right as Americans to travel to the Four Corners National Monument and put one foot or hand into each of four different states.” But as it turns out, the many Americans who have since done so may have been a bit misguided. As the Discovery Channel’s Global Science Blog (among other sources) points out, recent reports suggest that “the Four Corners monument was built at least 1,800 feet from the technically correct spot where four states meet.” How did this happen? USA Today notes that “the area was first surveyed by the U.S. government in 1868, but it turns out that surveying errors misplaced the spot of the popular monument.” Errors aside, though, surveyors made great and often unheralded contributions to the way we . . .

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Mapping Danger

April 7, 2009
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Mapping Danger

After disasters like Monday’s earthquake in central Italy, attention often turns to the puzzle of predicting and preparing for such tragedies. Maps, Mark Monmonier points out, play an important role in this process. In Cartographies of Danger, he explains that maps can tell us a lot about where to anticipate certain hazards — but they can also be dangerously misleading. California, for example, takes earthquakes seriously, with a comprehensive program of seismic mapping. But as 1994’s Northridge earthquake demonstrated, even reliable seismic-hazard maps can deceive anyone who misinterprets “known fault-lines” as the only places vulnerable to earthquakes. How should we go about making the safest decisions? Upon the book’s publication, NBC News recommended that “no one should buy a home, rent an apartment, or even drink the local water without having read this fascinating cartographic alert on the dangers that lurk in our everyday lives.” We recommend that you start here, with Monmonier’s list of Ten Risky Places. . . .

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