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The Power of Maps

3.50  ·  Rating details ·  88 ratings  ·  11 reviews
This volume ventures into terrain where even the most sophisticated map fails to lead--through the mapmaker's bias. Denis Wood shows how maps are not impartial reference objects, but rather instruments of communication, persuasion, and power. Like paintings, they express a point of view. By connecting us to a reality that could not exist in the absence of maps--a world of ...more
Paperback, 248 pages
Published October 16th 1992 by The Guilford Press
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3.50  · 
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 ·  88 ratings  ·  11 reviews

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Apr 29, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mapping philosophy with a twist of curmudgeonliness, parsing cartography from the top down: the power structure, the agendas, the symbology, the unstated. You get a healthy dose of mapmaking semiotics, which is not necessarily a bad thing unless you never want to see the words "signified" and "signifier" again as long as you live. But I like Denis Wood's take on things, and the chapter where he recreates a child's cognitive evolution of hillsign making, including unpacking the way landmasses are ...more
I'm still not sure how I felt about this book. Part of the problem is that it was far more philosophically oriented than I was expecting. There were a few pages and one whole chapter toward the end that I skimmed enough to know that I wasn't interested in reading, and just skipped. I was expecting a much more practical book on how to make maps that work well, and how to balance what a map needs to show vs. what would make it too cluttered to be useful. Instead what I got was a treatise on the fa ...more
Carlos Ortiz
Dec 03, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I found Wood’s literary style somewhat cumbersome. However, this book is essential for the philosophical and earnest cartographer. It discusses not only the history of maps but their social meaning. For example, what is the significance and intent of a county map that runs borders through Indian reservations? Denis Wood goes deep into the social contribution made by cartographers.
Chris J
Jul 25, 2011 rated it it was ok
I was excited to read this book but became incredibly annoyed with his voice. Someone stop him before he breaks his arm patting himself on the back!
Feb 04, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: human-studies
Not the easiest read, and didn't really have much that was new to me. But I'm in favor of people reading this because it illustrates the dangers of blindly trusting experts, the fact that maps are always political and the necessity of taking EVERYTHING you read in the newspapers with a grain of salt.
Nov 10, 2007 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this--the sociology and semiotics of maps was not something I every really thought about before.
The guy's writing style is kind of entertaining--he has this habit of using a lot of ellipses and. . .italics. Which gives you the impression that he is deeply. . .stoned.
Jan 24, 2008 marked it as to-read
Someone buy this for me!
Dec 13, 2013 added it
must read, terrific!
Oct 30, 2007 marked it as to-read
Heard him speak on This American Life about this book...sounds fascinating. Can't wait to get to it. I love the idea of mapping pumpkin faces or graffitti...sounds like poetry to me.
Jun 18, 2007 added it
Shelves: 2007books
This one is taking me a while...who knew you could say so much about maps!!
Aug 12, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
Curmudgeonly rant on how maps ALWAYS have an agenda. I probably would have been more impressed if I hadn't already read/heard/been immersed in similar discussions about bias in science.
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