Sunday, February 3, 2008

Maps - 2

You can compare your response to the bolded green text below to see if you are on track.

As an example, consider a map of your state or your province. One use of that map would be to concentrate on a particular county, perhaps the one in which you reside, and to locate adjacent counties. Another would be to locate the various major cities and urban areas. Yet a third would be to find routes of transit from one location to another within the state. There are maps that show weather patterns, other maps to show the distribution of natural resources, maps to illustrate topographical features and maps that focus on roads. And don't forget Flint's map from "Treasure Island."

Let's contrast a map of a region to an aerial photograph of the same region. While both represent the same area there are clear differences between the two. The map emphasizes certain features and lets other aspects blend into the background. The photograph displays a likeness of all elements the camera can pick up, in proportion to their size in actuality.

This is a key feature of maps. While each includes information that is specific to its function, each also excludes other information that for the purpose at hand is extraneous. The act of excluding information to bring to focus that information which is retained is called abstraction. Maps are a particular type of useful abstraction of reality. Indeed, abstraction is a necessary part of the scientific method and good abstraction should conform with the principle known as Occam's Razor, which asserts that the simpler explanation should be preferred.

To see a definition of a map, follow the link below. The site also makes a nice tie between maps and mathematics. We'll see a similar tie to math with the microeconomic models
Mathematics of Maps
Occam’s Razor

Now consider specifically maps used for travel and in this case we want to contrast a map, on the one hand, to directions for taking a trip, on the other hand. Which is simpler? Are there instances where you would want to have a map even if you already had directions? What is the relationship between the two? To make this even more concrete, focus on a trip where you are driving.

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