Sunday, November 9, 2014

"A Map of the World: The World According to Illustrators and Storytellers" [Review] w/ Teaching Ideas

Maps tell stories. Sometimes those stories pretend to present objective ideas; sometimes those stories are strictly imaginative, as in maps created for novels such as "We Were Liars." 

A Map of the World: The World According to Illustrators and Storytellers conflates the worlds of traditional cartographers with imaginative storytellers and sellers of ideas to offer a collection of unique maps that help us understand and construct myriad worlds.  

Maps help us understand and navigate the world...Contemporary maps have evolved into platforms for cutting-edge illustration, experimental data visualization, and personal visual storytelling. 

It's this idea of "personal visual storytelling" that interests me most as a teacher. I first taught students to create neighborhood maps back in the 1990s, but these were generally literal rather than symbolic representations of their neighborhoods. 

Although the book is a beautiful collection, including maps created for ad campaigns, maps that guide tourists, and maps that present histories, as well as many other types of maps, it is also a subjective collection of visual interpretations. For example, on p 104 one finds maps from the Cosmographies, described as mapping "locations using personal experiences as a way to contribute to the understanding of place." The New Littles map on p 141 maps New York City's boroughs based on ethnicity. 

The landscapes cartographers create have me thinking about how mapping can promote creativity and knowledge acquisition among my students. Many of he maps offer inspiration for students mapping their school, their town, their activities, their vision for their future, their fears for their futures, their concerns about current issues that touch their lives. 

Maps function in a dimension beyond infographics. A map presents more than images and information, maps depict geography, and that geography is open to interpretation and shrouded in narrative. 

The map below depicts the ways Germans view countries from around the world. Note the dominant Facebook logo that defines the U.S.A. What meaning should we or our students construct from this image? What story about the U.S.A. does the map tell? How would our students map the world if they were to replicate the map envisioned in Germany?
"We the Bavarian and the Rest of the Earth" (132-133)
Judith Schalansky creates "atlases as works of poetry, interpretations of reality, and attempts to see the world as a whole." Schalansky's book of maps "is a book for the armchair explorer, describing places that exist in reality but only come to life in the imagination" (89) The map below is one such poetic cartographic creation: 
Isn't this true for stories as well? The reader experiences stories, and maps, and informational texts primarily through the imagination rather than in "real life." We explore our world through our senses, and, thus, map our world in our imagination.

I'm still thinking about its many implications for discussion, argument, and reading texts and plan to share more ideas as I find inspiration in the landscapes in A Map of the World.

This is a stunning collection that offers another way to bring visual literacy into the classroom. 

*Are you attending NCTE? If so, please add session A:09 to your program. I'll have more to say and share about A Map of the World: The World According to Illustrators and Storytellers as part of my panel.  In my next post, I'll preview session A:09, including my co-presenters' offerings.