‘Industrial Scars’, by J. Henry Fair

“The Cover Up” (2005).

Photographer J. Henry Fair surveys, from an bird’s-eye view, landscapes under duress in Industrial Scars. He writes:

Industrial Scars is an aesthetic look at some of our most egregious injuries to the system that sustains us in hopes that the viewer will come away with an innate understanding of her complicity and a will to make a difference.

The following description accompanies the image of hydro-seeding above:

The forested mountains, valleys and streams that once stood here are now buried beneath the overburden from mountaintop removal coal mining.  It is leveled and then sprayed with a mixture of grass seed and fertilizer.  This satisfies the EPA regulations on mitigation.

‘The Morning News’ has a gallery of photographs as well as an interview with Fair.

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NYT: “Locating the Protests in Cairo”

A timely interactive geography of the recent protests in Egypt, from the New York Times cartography department.

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Indiana in the Land Ordinance of 1785

(From Wikipedia): The Land Ordinance of 1785 was adopted by the United States Congress on May 20, 1785. Under the Articles of Confederation, Congress did not have the power to raise revenue by direct taxation of the inhabitants of the United States. Therefore, the immediate goal of the ordinance was to raise money through the sale of land in the largely unmapped territory west of the original states acquired at the 1783 Treaty of Paris after the end of the Revolutionary War. Over three-fourths of the area of the continental United States ultimately came under the rectangular survey. This was important because it provided easily recognized land descriptions, which in turn contributed enormously to the orderly and largely peaceful occupation of the land. The rectangular survey also provided the units within which economic, political, and social development took place.

Above is a map of Indiana from the land survey. More on the Land Ordinance’s impact in Indiana can be found here.

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This American Life: ‘Mapping’

From This American Life:

“Five ways of mapping the world. One story about people who make maps the traditional way — by drawing things we can see. And other stories about people who map the world using smell, sound, touch, and taste. The world redrawn by the five senses.”

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This American Life: ‘The Homesick Explorer’

From This American Life:

“This American Life contributor Sarah Vowell tells the story of a mapmaker named Charles Preuss who charted the Western Territories with two of American history’s legendary explorers—John Charles Fremont and Kit Carson. The maps Preuss made were best sellers and helped open the Western frontier to settlement. But, as he wrote in the diary he kept while in the wilderness, he hated pretty much every minute of the expedition. Actor Dermot Mulroney reads excerpts from Preuss’s diary.  (8 minutes)”

Vowell’s story is Act Three of this episode (38:41-46:20).

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Artist James Turrell

Peter Campbell reviewed James Turrell’s show at Gagosian’s Britannia Street gallery in the December 16 issue of the London Review of Books. Although Turrell isn’t making maps, his work sounds really amazing; plus, one of his works uses map-related techniques. As Campbell writes:

“The gallery pieces are a reminder that Turrell’s first degree was in perceptual psychology; the Roden Crater prints and models that he studied astronomy and had a pilot’s licence at 16. The photographs of the crater and its surroundings (the closest conurbation is Flagstaff) were taken with the kind of large-format camera used for aerial mapping (read-outs of time and other data appear in the margins). Turrell made long flights over the desert before he found what he needed – a regular cone of modest size, not too close to horizon-occluding features. The observatory has been long in the making – a website says it may be open to the public next year; photographs suggest that, like Walter De Maria’s lightning field in New Mexico and Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty, it will become one of those places of pilgrimage, which for one practical reason or another are very difficult to visit except in the imagination.”

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Mapping Progressive Infrastructure in Rural America

On their website, the Open Society Fellowship writes that they support “individuals who are developing innovative solutions to pressing open society challenges.” Marcy Westerling, a current fellow from the US, is doing so through cartography:

“For her Open Society Fellowship project, Westerling will map progressive infrastructure in rural localities in four states as a means of identifying potential allies for social change. She will use this information as the basis for an ambitious effort to link disparate issues and constituencies through what she calls ‘transformational organizing’.” (From the Open Society Fellowship website.)

Here’s an article Westerling wrote for In These Times, which includes information about her mapping work.

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NYT articles on connectomics

BrainBows: Neurons in the hippocampus, a brain area involved in memory, are labeled in different colors, with their neural projections pointing downward.
Credit: Tamily A. Weissman” (Photo and caption from ‘Technology Review’)

This week, the New York Times published two articles on connectomics– the science of mapping the brain. This article examines the work of Dr. Lichtman and his team of researchers at Harvard, who “have built some unusual contraptions that carve off slivers of mouse brains as part of a quest to understand how the mind works. Their goal is to run slice after minuscule slice under a powerful electron microscope, develop detailed pictures of the brain’s complex wiring and then stitch the images back together. In short, they want to build a full map of the mind.”

At the end of this first article, Mr. Kasthuri, a Harvard researcher, notes that “It will either be a great success story or a massive cautionary tale.” In a second article, Kenneth J. Hayworth, one of Dr. Lichtman’s colleagues, articulates one of the most grandiose ambitions for this project:

“Mr. Hayworth goes so far as to suggest that a person’s brain map could be replicated in a computer one day. In essence, someone could download their brain structure into a machine and have his or her personality live on.

‘This is a taboo topic in the scientific community,’ he said. ‘But we have a cure to death right here. Why aren’t we pursuing it?'”

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‘Mapping America

Last month, Black Dog Publishing brought out ‘Mapping America’, a collection of historic, demographic, cultural, and artistic maps of America; the book, they write, features “four centuries of maps that depict the changing landscape of North America, Mapping America charts the continent through numerous landmark events and uprisings, including the Civil War, the Civil Rights Movement, and more recent concerns, such as the environment and  terrorism. From early maps depicting the country’s colonial beginnings, through to contemporary maps depicting America today, the book presents the reader with a multi-faceted view of the North American physical and cultural landscape; from maps showing the electoral routes of Presidential campaigns, to the diminishing native communities shown in census maps, to the artistic, the imaginative and fantastic depictions of contemporary America.”

The Guardian offers this gallery, which showcases some of the maps featured in the collection.

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NYT ‘Visualizing Slavery’

This post on the New York Times‘s Civil War blog ‘Disunion’ examines two maps that drew on data from the 1860 Census, which was the last time the Federal government took count of the South’s slave population.

The post has the following description of the map pictured above: “One of the most important maps of the Civil War was also one of the most visually striking: the United States Coast Survey’s map of the slaveholding states, which clearly illustrates the varying concentrations of slaves across the South. Abraham Lincoln loved the map and consulted it often; it even appears in a famous 1864 painting of the president and his cabinet.”

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