Advice From a Geographer: Put Away the Map

Our lives are saturated with maps. We see them in cars, subways, and airplanes. We access them with our phones, computers, and GPS devices. There are maps of deep space and of the topography of the deepest ocean floors. Then there are the maps of us — of our genomes, of the cognitive landscape of our brains, of the web of neural connections that allow us to see and think and act. Our faith in the map as a true representation of reality, and a reliable metaphor for experience and the concepts of modern life, is exercised every day, largely without question.

Into this cartographic zeitgeist comes a new book by the British geographer Alastair Bonnett that urges us to question whether maps are really up to the task of representing our world. Bonnett presents compelling evidence that this is a time of disruption in how we inhabit, conceptualize, and move across spaces, and that we can no longer rely on the map as a central metaphor and tool. Instead, he urges us — as the title states — to go beyond the map.

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