Maps are persuasive arguments. They illustrate, more effectively than a text, the spatial relationships between objects or phenomena. For this purpose, it is necessary for them to have one thematic focus, because not all aspects of the earth’s surface can be brought into a single map. On the one hand, the potential of a map lies in this focussing, but, on the other hand, it is also the starting point for critical questions: What kind of data was used to produce the map? What was the intention of the map’s authors when choosing the topic and the method of presentation?
The production of a map is a complex process involving actors from various fields (cartography, publishing,
public authorities, companies, science and research, etc.). This process is also about power relations and knowledge, as map authors deliberately create, structure and select the material that is used for map production; they also decide what is to be shown on the map, and what should not be seen. The visual power of maps and the various contexts in which maps were (and are) produced and used make them a fascinating object of study with links to a wide variety of research questions and topics.
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