“[M]ap-obsessed, to a degree quite uncharacteristic of middle America”

A while back, I read an exchange about a book (and review) that really stuck with me. The article, in the journal Cartographica, was a “Review Article of Denis Wood’s The Power of Maps and the Author’s Reply” by Barbara Belyea, with a response from Denis Wood.

It’s kind of an amazing exchange (as in, I am left amazed by it), and interested folks can go read it in Cartographica (volume 29, numbers 3 & 4, 1992, pages 94-99), if you have institutional access to the journal. So much happens in there, but for now I’ll just focus on Wood’s “call for an ethnography of map use among contemporary Americans.”

In the spirit of attending to “map immersion,” I’ve been collecting maps that I notice in passing on websites, road signs, license plates, product labels, t-shirts, and other sources. Someone (TM) was surprised to learn about some of the places where I found maps, so I thought I’d share some URL / address bar maps to offer a nod to the pervasive (dare I use the phrase?) nature of maps.

alabama VT


 (This one’s on the page, rather than in the browser address bar.)

url mi

tx wisc





 (Images link to more maps!)

Granted, the process of collecting ALL of the maps that I come across has become a bit tedious to friends and family members (“PULL OVER I HAVE TO TAKE A PICTURE OF THE STICKER ON THAT TRUCK!” “No! We are on the highway! Close the door! What is wrong with you?! I thought grad students were supposed to be smart!”), but it has been interesting to attend to the banal and persistence presence of maps.


Are there maps everywhere? (Decoration in my aunt and uncle’s condo.) What are the implications of representation for understanding environmental history, colonialism, and contemporary geospatially-rooted identity politics? Also, where did they get that, it is cool.

Are maps reminders of place, signals of identity, signals of colonialism, or just pretty decorations? Stay tuned for the stunning conclusion. (Spoiler: probably all four and more, depending on the context!)


In case you thought I forgot about Canada (and, really, how could you think that?), here’s your Canadian content in the form of a URL map-as-logo / icon:


(Unlike the address bars above, this doesn’t link to any additional images right now because I’m password protecting / hoarding all of my dissertation research until The Thing is DONE.)



Keep coming across more of these…

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