Verbal Expressions of Geographical Information
Verbal Expressions of Geographical Information
Publication type
Øyvind Eide 
Affiliation: University of Cologne
Address: Germany, Köln
In this paper author explores in detail the different media that make up maps and verbal texts, and how these differences have consequences not only for how things are said, but also for what can be said. It is easy to find sequences in texts that are difficult to express on a map. But it is also the case that arguments are often formulated in ways which make mapping difficult. This is common in most if not all narrative texts, and it relates to problems that have been discussed ever since Herodotus. What does it mean to make a map based on a text, to put a text on a map, or to map travel? And why are these problems being discussed now in the twenty-first century? The short answer is that the humanities are experiencing a spatial turn, in part perhaps due to the new digital medium. A divine intellect may see the world as a perfect map, including everything a text can express. The vertical axis presents the cosmic perspective, which complements the human horizontal one. As human beings we have to choose between the precision and overview of a map and the ambiguity and under-specification of a text. This is not about objectivity; maps do not represent objective alternatives to the faulty vision of a character in the text. Maps and texts relate differently to their contexts. A map is a continuous area, as opposed to the discrete tokens of a text. The solution is not to express information as maps only, but rather to create systems combining the strengths of texts and maps. Cartography must form an alliance with other media, including narrative form as well as topology and network analysis. maps must be used as parts of larger systems, in order to give full stories, if such stories can ever be given.
verbal expressions of geographical information, spatial turn, digital turn, GIS, Herodotus
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