Month: January 2012

Google Earth and Postmodernist Cartography

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Today, I read an article that analyzed the role of Google Earth from a postmodern perspective. The article, “Mapping the digital empire: Google Earth and the process of postmodern cartography” by Jason Farman is available on the web. In the abstract, the author notes:

“I demonstrate how Google Earth, by incorporating a social network that engages users
as embodied interactors rather than disembodied voyeurs, is able to present usergenerated
content and dialog spatially on the very object that such content critiques”.

In designing a recent web mapping application, we published several maps, but also published the data on which the maps were based with the idea that if people wanted to present their own view of reality on the topic, then they were welcome to do by downloading, analyzing and mapping the data. In the above cited article, Farman is arguing that Google Earth inculcated post-modernist perspective by allowing users to post their own reality against Google Earth’s master representation. This is similar to what transpires nowadays in the electronic media, where journalists present a story and readers are invited to comment on the story, thereby providing their own take on reality right alongside the newspaper’s master representation of the issue.


Deconstructing a Map

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After reading some of the postmodern critique of cartography, one wants to be be able to look at a map and deconstruct it. So, I am putting together some practical questions that map readers can ask themselves as they try to interpret a particular map. A few of these questions are listed below. Suggestions are welcome for additional questions.

1. What is the central message of the map and do you agree with this portrayal of reality?

2. How could you have presented the data differently if you had been the cartographer?

3. Is the message of the map intentional or is it being unwittingly portrayed by the cartographer?

4. What social, political, or cultural “point of view” is the map rooted in?

5. What social relations of power are evident in the visual hierarchy on the map? Visual hierarchy is evident in the use of colors, line width, size of symbols, lettering, etc.

6. Does the purpose of the map differ from its message?

Critical Cartography

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I did a bit of reading on critical cartography today from the article “An Introduction to Critical Cartography” by Crampton and Krygier, 2006. Some memorable lines from the article are presented below. At this stage, I am looking for a few good examples of maps that have been deconstructed to illustrate their power relationships. I welcome any suggestion.

1. “A critique is not a project of finding fault, but an examination of the assumptions of a field of knowledge. Its purpose is to understand and suggest alternatives to the categories of knowledge that we use. These categories (i.e., assumptions and familiar notions) shape knowledge even as they enable it” p 13.

2. Critique is about the politics of knowledge. It examines the grounds of our decision-making knowledge, the relationship between power and knowledge from a historical perspective, and it resists, challenges, sometimes overthrows categories of thought.

3. “Critical cartography assumes that maps make reality as much as they represent it”. p 15.

4. “Maps inscribe power and support the dominant political structures. According to the authors, this idea is promoted by Denis Woods in his book, the Power of Maps.

5. “Maps are active: they actively construct knowledge, they exercise power and they can be a powerful means of promoting social change”, p 15.

6. “Brian Harley papers introduced the ideas of power, ideology and surveillance, arguing that no understanding of mapping was complete them”, p. 16.

Configuring ArcGIS User Interface

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For various reasons, it is necessary to customize ArcGIS user interface. According to the ESRI manual, the principal way to customize the user interface is to use the Customize dialog box. From the customize dialog, one can do the following:

  • Hide and show toolbars.
  • Create a custom toolbar or menu.
  • Change toolbar and menu constituents.
  • Change a command’s appearance.
  • Create and modify shortcut keys.
  1. To hide and show toolbars, click the Customize Mode to open the Customize dialog box. Opening the Customize dialog box puts you in customize mode. In customize mode, simply check or uncheck the toolbar item that you want to load or hide. Once a toolbar is checked, it will appear in the user interface, where it can be placed at any location.
  2. to create a custom toolbar, click on New in the customize dialog and follow the prompt. New buttons or tools can be added to the toolbar by clicking on Commands in the Customize dialog and dragging the relevant icons to the toolbar.
  3. to create a New Menu, open the Customize dialog and click on the Commands tab. Scroll down to “New Menu” and click on this item. Now drag the “New Menu” item that appear in the right panel to where you want the Menu item to be placed. Right click on the new menu item to edit it. The first menu item is the root menu for that group. You can continue dragging new menu item and dropping them onto the main menu item to create the secondary menu items.

Removing Unneeded Menu Items
You can remove unneeded menu items by opening the customize dialog, then right clicking on a menu item and following the prompts to delete the menu item.

Restoring the Default User Interface
The customized user interface can be restored to its original appearance by deleting the Normal.mxt file. To delete Normal.mxt, click to Start | Programs | Accessories | command prompt. When the command prompt opens, type “echo %APPData%”. Now type “cd c:\Users\yourusername\AppData\Roaming\ESRI\Desktop10.0\ArcMap\Templates”. Type “Dir” to see files in this directory. Now type “Del Normal.mxt” to delete the Normal template. When you restart ArcMap this file will be recreated with the default settings of the software.

Installing a .dll file in ArcMap

1. Open the Customize dialog, then click the “Add from file” button at the bottom of the Customize window.

2. Browse and select the .dll to be installed

3. Click OK in the Added Objects dialog box

4. Click the Commands tab in the Customize window

5. In the Categories (left side) dialog box, scroll down and select the Category header for the installed .dll.

6. Drag and drop the desired command (tool) from the Commands (right side) dialog box to any toolbar

7. Close the Customize window

10. The icon can now be used similar to any other icon on the toolbar