Sarah Warren

Cartographer's Notebook #5: Swing Sets

Blog Post created by Sarah Warren on May 18, 2020

Before we get started today, please watch this video:

Saving the Art of Mapmaking

If you were wondering, I was born in 1996. This makes me a young Millennial according to Tim Elmore's analysis of generations. I remember playing "Snake" on my mom's first Nokia cellphone when I was in second grade. I knew a time when cellphones existed but they were only good for making phone calls and playing rudimentary games, and my mom was still years away from using a GPS. My earliest road trip memories? Printing out directions from MapQuest and having to read the next turn to the driver. We had a computer that looked like this (and our dial-up internet took at least an hour to complete the request):

I'm sure many of you can trace similar stories back through your memories - a time before MapQuest even. It's overwhelming to think of the technological advances we've made in the last several decades. But one thing hasn't changed: we still need to navigate our way through life in healthy, productive ways. There's a crucial connection that this video has to our journey: "GPS and Google have put traditional mapmakers out of business." The need and relevancy of maps has not changed, but the ways we create them, interpret them, and apply them have. Fascinated by the professor in the video, I looked him up. Here's what he lists as his interests on the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Geography website

"I'm interested in cartographic aesthetics. As insensate machines take over more and more mapmaking tasks, how can we restore the human, emotional, artistic touch to our representations of space? Maps are still read by humans, even if they are not 100% human-produced, and we will be more successful if we do not alienate our audience with soulless productions." - Daniel Huffman


I don't know about you, but I think Daniel Huffman and Tim Elmore are really onto something here. Elmore uses the analogy of a swing set to show us how we need to look back at the beneficial components of the past and use them to gain momentum as we are launched forward into the unknown, ever-changing future. 


"He knew the best forward swing includes wise reflection on the past and fresh resolve to go take new land. We utilize both to make progress." p. 105, Marching Off the Map


Discussion Questions: 
1) What can we learn from the past, in terms of agricultural education (or education in general)? 


2) How can we use what we know of the past, to leverage our classrooms to teach students for an unknown future?

2) Review your response from Map Maker #1: Antique Maps. What can you learn from the antiquated practices you wrote down? (Suggestion: Make a pro/con or plus/delta list about the practice)