“The map is not the territory.”Alfred Korzybski
One of the oldest surviving maps (the Babylonian Map of the World) is “about the size and shape of an early iPhone.” But it too was full of artifice and spin.
“The map is not the territory, said Polish-American scientist Alfred Korzybski. Maps are deceiving representations of reality. To quote the author Mark Monmonier of How to Lie With Map, “No map entirely tells the truth. There’s always some distortion, some point of view.”
Maps drive conquest, gentrification, taxes, and voting polls. Google Maps, as Google does, gives us the turn-by-turn directions to a final destination. But we trust GPS a little too much yet remain frustrated and bewildered when the software leads us into the middle of the Atlantic Ocean on the way to Rhode Island.
And we thought Google had all the answers! Blame the humans, not the machines.
Faulty computer intelligence reminds humans that our devices are imperfect just like us and that perhaps, we should continue to leverage our internal compass.
image via giphy
Why orange? I’m not entirely sure, perhaps because green, blue, gray, and white are already taken — reserved for representations of water, grass, housing, and roads respectively. The patches also seem to indicate a real-life geographic divide between commercial and poorer neighborhoods as seen in the image below.
In any case, all this went through my head as I captured the image above just outside the Farragut West stop on the orange line in DC. But unlike Google maps, there appeared to be nothing to see or do (at least at that moment) in this orange space.
The use of colors, as it’s used in visualizations online and off, appear arbitrary but may contain subtle intention. After all, the map is not the territory; not to mention, orange paint was once more popular than the color blue.
Polish-American scientist Alfred Korzybski once said that “the map is not the territory.” In other words, a map is an abstraction of land, a mere model of reality just as skeuomorphism makes an icon for trash look like a garbage can. Similarly, the medium is the message.