Does 13 milliseconds sound like a lot of a little? That is the amount of time science says your brain can process information from an image. Drawing pictures to illustrate how to find important things (like water, buffalo, the best restaurant in town) helps humans navigate their way to the necessities of survival in a lot less time than reading directions.
I am a geographer, and I like maps. I do not speak for all geographers everywhere (the discipline is fairly all-encompassing), so maybe I should rephrase: I like spatial storytelling. And since the brain can process an image 60,000 times faster than text, it makes sense why we navigate our lives visually and should take that into consideration in how we communicate. Google Maps is a given, but have you ever taken a moment to think of how often you involve mapping in your everyday life?
We are a spatial species and constantly look for pattern recognition. This probably started when humans were first trying to figure out how to get dinner through mammal migrations or how a repetitive rubbing of sticks together at a certain speed gave us a cozy cave and kept the wolves away. Today, evidence of this can be seen from an airplane or satellites looking down upon repeated visualizations of how cities form and agricultural fields lay out.
So how does this bring us to being mappers? As we are constantly in pattern-recognizing states from a visual perspective, why not have some fun with it? Humans like stories and pictures, so when you put it together in space in an innovative way, you may find yourself entering the realm of creative cartography. More so than the basics of navigation, map making in the digital age has lead with an imaginative edge.
Just in case you’re still in topographical denial, check out the following ways to up your map making game and become the creative cartographer you were born to be.
So mappers of the world unite because we all are spatially-based beings. Tomorrow when you leave your house and go to wherever it is you go, think about the mental maps that are getting you there and how they look, sound, smell, etc. Your very oriented existence depends on it.
Ever participated in the age-old homo sapien activity of transmitting information through spatial storytelling in a strange and wonderful way? Do tell.
Image: World Map by TimeToTakeBack