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'You are here: personal geographies and other maps of the imagination,' Katharine Harmon

About the author
Iain Orr is the founder of BioDiplomacy. He worked in the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) from 1968-2002.

You Are Here: Personal Geographies and Other Maps of the Imagination

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"You are here: personal geographies and other maps of the imagination"

by Katharine Harmon

Princeton Architectural Press | October 2003 | ISBN 1568984308

Recommended by Iain Orr: As Katharine Harmon says in You Are Here, "this mapping instinct, like our opposable thumbs, is part of what makes us human". Her beautifully designed exploration of personal and social imagination, expressed in maps of infinite variety, will delight even those who are all thumbs and can't read street maps.

There are some classic maps: The Earth at Night, 2002 (South Korea blazing with light and the North a black hole); The Great Bear, 1992 (Simon Patterson's transmutation of Harry Beck's 1933 London Underground map); San Serriffe hoax map of 1 April 1977; and the 1929 Surrealist Map of the World, with Canada sharing a long border with Mexico. There are also the obscure and wonderful: A Pictorial Map of Loveland (1943), A Dog's Idea of the Ideal Country Estate (John Held Jr. 1920s), and a 1931 map of the Grand Canyon with Native American motifs.

In addition to illustrations (there are over 100), Harmon's book also contains essays by six writers reflecting on how boundaries constrict or liberate. Is what cartographers choose to map part of the "real" world of local communities? Many political issues are illuminated by asking: "Who drew the maps; and why?" Geography, like memory, is associative. That is why using and designing maps can potentially lead to good ways to tackle recalcitrant problems. After making these points, Stephen S. Hall's essay ends on a Rumsfeldian note: "the most important thing a map shows, if we pause to look at it long enough, if travel upon it widely enough, if we think about it hard enough, is all the things we still do not know."

If you enjoy this, you should also look at Simon Anholt's Brand New Justice and the Worldmapper website.

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About the author: Katharine Harmon is an incurable map collector and occasional map maker. She was founding director of the Northwest Bookfest literary festival, and is currently a principal of Tributary Books, a book development company specialising in visual books about creativity in various forms.

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