Old Maps and Future Worlds

In the modern world, map makers are able to employ all sorts of technological wizardry. It is tempting to think that this technology helps them create maps that are more accurate and objective. But however advanced the technology, cartographers still need to make decisions about position and scale, as well as selecting parameters for excluding or including detail.

Contemporary Maps

Compare two contemporary World Maps such as the Gerardus Mercator's Projection (1569) and the Arno Peters' Projection (1974) - you can look these up on Google. Discuss how they represent the place you live. How does this affect the way you feel about your position in the world? Does your world view change if you turn the maps upside down?

Fake and Future Worlds

The following maps may be helpful for this exercise: Hampstead Garden Suburb (1905), O'Connerville Chartist Utopia, Jigsaw Puzzle (1766), Booth's London Poverty Map

Many contemporary artists such as Simon Patterson, Emma Kay and Layla Curtis are interested in mapping, and have explored the potential for making meaning with maps. In different ways, these artists use the methods and strategies of mapping to ask questions about how representations of the world influence our sense of identity and place. Do you think mapping can change the way we think about ourselves and each other?

Try to create your own and alternative representations of the world as it is or as it could be. Experiment! Cut up photocopies of old and new maps, change the scale of some parts and put the map back together 'incorrectly'. You can emphasise parts of the world and leave others out entirely?

Present your worlds. How do they compare to current representations? Are they an improvement or simply an alternative version? Do they present the potential for a better future? Discuss how maps, and mapping, can make us think differently? How useful are old maps, new maps and mapping itself, in providing directions towards a better world?