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13 Things 2008

Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology

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Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology & the Ancient World
Brown University
Box 1837 / 60 George Street
Providence, RI 02912
Telephone: (401) 863-3188
Fax: (401) 863-9423
[email protected]

Sara Powell: Linguistic relativism didn’t really come up in class today (it is pretty tangential), but Turnbull’s quoting of Malcolm Lewis at the beginning of his book left a sour taste in my mouth as I read: ‘Unlike the “here and now” language of the other high primates […and since when do other primates have language?], human language began to bind “events in space and time within a web of logical relations governed by grammar and metaphor”. Wittgenstein’s proposition that “the limits of my language mean the limits of my world” remains valid’ (2) — except that it doesn’t (granted this quotation is 20 years old). If we are so limited by our language, then how can we think ideas that we can’t express? How can we coin new words? I don’t believe that either language or maps govern how we see the world. Every normally functioning human sees the same thing. But the two are linked in that language or maps can influence us to change our focus: if someone tells me, ‘Look at that pretty blue flower,’ I will see both the red flower and the pretty blue flower, but I will focus on the blue and perhaps not remember the existence of the red; if a map shows the natural resources of a plot of land, when I walk across that land, I will perceive its hills and buildings and butterflies, but they won’t be the focus of my survey. So: I think it’s perfectly fine to say that maps (or many – I don’t want to say ‘most’ – things) influence how we approach the world, but they won’t actually alter our perception (save deliberately altering things like hearing aids and glasses).

Also, why is this page called 'a map' rather than 'the map'?

Posted at Oct 20/2008 10:49AM:
Harrison Stark: Also, if you're interested in some bizarre/fascinating maps, check out this blog - Strange Maps - where people post maps that they find. Especially be sure to check out some of the older archives.

Posted at Oct 21/2008 08:03PM:
carly: Last week we talked very little about the relationship with place on the map maker himself. In a class today, we were discussing Thoreau's accounts of Walden. Thoreau also surveyed land and created an intricate map of Walden pond, where he spent much time in solitude to escape the ties of society. This Transcendental perspective shed light on the process of making a map and how it connects the map maker with a place. Thoreau discusses the intricacies of Walden pond and how familiar he was with the area. Because this is contrasted with the less connected and observant society, it also poses an argument against the point made in class last week that a map distances one from the subtleties of a place that they would otherwise be cognizant of.