After three days of DUR in the books, I am officially an expert map-maker. Well, I made a map, but it’s a start! While discovering the exciting world of cartography through revising Atlas Historique de la Musique’s map on Mozart’s Travels, I connected with the lessons learned from the writings of Bodenhamer, Sinton and Nowviskie.
David Bodenhamer’s passage in History in the Digital Age comforted me by asserting that a cartographer simply cannot fit every piece of information into their maps because they will become clustered and unreadable.1 The question then arises, what information should I include? The possibilities are endless but can more easily be narrowed down to whatever serves the main purpose of the map. For mine, I wanted to expand on the places Mozart traveled to by adding musical compositions and biographical information in each place. The information on Mozart is endless, and occasionally contradicting, so it was overwhelming at first searching through the pages and pages of information about his life. However, after reading Bodenhamer’s passage, I felt much more secure with leaving out information I didn’t find served the goal of my map.
Another important lesson I learned about map-making, which translated well into my personal experience, is the concept of critical spatial thinking from Diana Sinton’s article, “Critical Spatial Thinking.”2 It’s similar to the critical thinking one would apply while reading scholarly articles, only applied to maps; information is not taken at face value, rather, it’s analyzed and considered in its historical context. When researching music history, it becomes easy to lose sight of the fact that events were happening in a place and time far removed from today. Sinton’s article pushed me to think more critically, which is useful with both creating and observing maps.
While critical spatial thinking is of utmost importance, giving yourself the freedom to find creativity and moments of inspiration are also crucial to the map-making process (Nowviskie).3 It can be easy to get caught up in the stress of finding accurate information that I forget maps are as much a form of visual art as they are representations of data. Maps, as Nowviskie claims, are not the answer, rather, “they are questions. They are invitations,” (p.114). The child-like curiosity of playing with maps is another useful takeaway I received from the readings and implemented into my own creation.
Of the several selected readings we have been assigned, all have served well for guiding me through the introductory phase of map-making. I have taken away that less is more when it comes to information, always think critically, and have fun with the process. The lessons from Bodenhamer, Sinton and Nowviskie made the experience of creating my first map a positive one. I may not be an expert, but I sure have learned a lot in the past couple of days. I look forward to seeing where the rest of the month will lead.
1 David J. Bodenhamer, “The Spatial Humanities: Space, Time, and Place in the New Digital Age,” in
History in the Digital Age, ed. Toni Weller (New York: Routledge, 2013), 23-38.
2 Diana Sinton, “Critical Spatial Thinking,” The International Encyclopedia of Geography, ed. Douglas Richardson, Noel Castree, Michael F. Goodchild, Audrey Kobayashi, Weidong Liu, and Richard A. Marston (Hoboken: Wiley & Sons, 2017), 2-9.
This is a great synthesis of our readings – thanks for your thoughtful reflection! I’m curious to know how you’ll apply Sinton’s critical spatial thinking skills to your map of Mozart’s travels. For instance, will you be able to draw any conclusions about the particular paths he took, or the time it took him to travel between certain destinations? Will it be possible to say anything about the relationship between place and the sound of his pieces? Maybe yes, maybe no – at the very least, it’s clear that you’re learning lots!