Sunday, February 18, 2007

mappa mundi - topographics of meaning

so it seems to me that there is some sort of principle of conservation of obscurity with maps - looking over the map room in any good museum, you find what appears at first sight to be increasing knowledge about the world - the accuracy of the outlines of coasts, rivers and so on, improves visibly over the centuries, no matter what culture and history you survey.

however, this is at a cost - it takes people to survey areas and logistical support, and a reason to want to survey an area - typically, this means that a population is growing into an area (or a culture is invading it), and the complexity of views of what the area is for must necessarily grow exponentially with each consciousness that forms a view on what "this land is for". Indeed, this works equally well in cyberspace - as we map the Internet better and better, we add more compute resources, and they hold ever more data with ever more logical interactions, so that, no matter how accurate a physical model we form of the net (or the planet) is, the logical, virtual, social, economic, political, and other human maps will more and more dominate.

This explains, for example, why drawing lines on maps to solve political problems (viz Ireland, Israel, Palestine, Serbia, CIS etc etc) is a pointless excercise - a line is the shortest distance between two mistakes.

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