Mapping society: an ingenious but today outdated map


  • Edoardo Boria Department of Political Sciences, Sapienza University of Rome, Rome, Italy


Today the scientific world shows great interest in visual culture. This is a transversal phenomenon tonational disciplines and contexts, given that the same tendency to reorient knowledge and organize itaround visual paradigms is to be found in different areas of contemporary western thought.In this reevaluation of the visual culture is collocated the present rediscovery of the heuristic value of thegeographical map, the use of which today has undoubtedly crossed the narrow ambit of geographicalstudies to find growing use with specialists of other disciplines too, attracted by the capacity of maps tosynthetically highlight significant spatial correlations of the phenomena being studied.Nonetheless, like every scientific instrument it comes up with processes of adaptation to the changingscientific contexts, just as the traditional Cartesian configuration of the map needs to be updated in order tobe in line with the new post-modern scientific paradigms and with the reality of the contemporary world.The analysis of these dynamics of contemporary cartography is here traced back to the case of a specificcartographic method: the choropleth map, or mosaic diagram. This represents one of the most fortunateintuitions in the history of cartography, introduced by Charles Dupin in 1826 and is an exemplaryapplication of positivist scientific thought. Even though the introduction of the choropleth map was the startof a fruitful period for the subject with the ceaseless development of statistical cartography, today it seemsinadequate for the understanding of the multi-faceted contemporary reality.After highlighting the reasons for the success of the choropleth map, this paper makes a number ofconsiderations on its present limitations and the need, as far as cartographical studies are concerned, topress on beyond the frontier of innovation. In particular, stimulating starting points to reason on the futureof the geographical map are offered by the recent success of the anamorphic maps.






Mapping societies (edited by Edoardo Boria)