1st Edition

Rethinking the Power of Maps

By Denis Wood Copyright 2010

    A contemporary follow-up to the groundbreaking Power of Maps, this book takes a fresh look at what maps do, whose interests they serve, and how they can be used in surprising, creative, and radical ways. Denis Wood describes how cartography facilitated the rise of the modern state and how maps continue to embody and project the interests of their creators. He demystifies the hidden assumptions of mapmaking and explores the promises and limitations of diverse counter-mapping practices today. Thought-provoking illustrations include U.S. Geological Survey maps; electoral and transportation maps; and numerous examples of critical cartography, participatory GIS, and map art.

    Introduction: Maps Work

    I. Mapping

    1. Maps Blossom in the Springtime of the State

    2. Unleashing the Power of the Map

    3. Signs in the Service of the State

    4. Making Signs Talk to Each Other

    II. Counter-Mapping

    5. Counter-Mapping and the Death of Cartography

    6. Talking Back to the Map

    7. Map Art: Stripping the Mask from the Map

    8. Mapmaking, Counter-Mapping, and Map Art in the Mapping of Palestine


    Denis Wood, PhD, is an independent scholar living in Raleigh, North Carolina. He lectures widely and is the author of a dozen books and over 150 papers. From 1974 to 1996, he taught in the School of Design at North Carolina State University. In 1992, he curated the Power of Maps exhibition for the Cooper-Hewitt National Museum of Design (remounted at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC, in 1994), for which he wrote the book The Power of Maps. His other books include Rethinking the Power of Maps; Making Maps, Third Edition (coauthored with John Krygier); and Weaponizing Maps (coauthored with Joe Bryan).

    John Fels, PhD, until his death in 2014, was Adjunct Associate Professor in the Graduate GIS Faculty at North Carolina State University. He worked as a professional cartographer with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and as a freelance cartographic designer and consultant, and developed and taught the core design curriculum in the Cartography Program at Sir Sandford Fleming College in Ontario. Dr. Fels was the author of the North Carolina Watersheds map and also coauthor (with Denis Wood) of The Natures of Maps.

    John Krygier, PhD, teaches in the Department of Geology and Geography at Ohio Wesleyan University, with teaching and research specializations in cartography, geographic information systems (GIS), and environmental and human geography. He has published on map design, educational technology, cultural geography, multimedia in cartography, planning, the history of cartography, and participatory GIS.

    A captivating contribution to our understanding of maps and mapping practice. Wood offers a broad canvas of maps, map makers, and map users, linking traditional cartographies to exciting new experiments. He explores the ways in which, as maps make propositions about the world, they shape how we understand and live in it. This is a book you cannot put down and one that demands to be read in one or two sittings. It may be the best book on maps and mapping I have read.--John Pickles, Earl N. Phillips Distinguished Professor of International Studies and Chair, Department of Geography, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

    In an age when mapping is sexy again, Wood explains why it should matter to everyone, how maps came to be deployed by states, and how the authority of the image is now being used by many different voices. This is a passionate humanist argument for a critical approach to mapping, strongly academic but reassuringly accessible. Wood’s work always challenges; the style and panache of his scholarship carry the reader along and persuade us to listen to his original ideas. Mapping and counter-mapping are brought together for the first time. Researchers and students across the social sciences, and indeed from all disciplines, should read this book and take its lessons to heart!--Chris Perkins, Senior Lecturer, Geography, University of Manchester, United Kingdom
    Rethinking the Power of Maps sharpens the argument of Wood's earlier work and focuses its attention on the construction of power. Every student of cartography should take notice.--Nicholas Chrisman, Department of Geomatic Sciences, Université Laval, Québec, Canada
    It is hard to dispute the quality of the writing and comprehensiveness of this volume. Readers will struggle to put the book down as they are led through Wood's wide-ranging critique of maps and mapmaking. It is sufficiently detailed for specialists, whilst remaining accessible to enthusiasts....Provides one of the most interesting histories of cartography and mapping that I have read....An important contribution; the arguments Wood presents are compelling, and made more so by his writing style. In an era when maps are ubiquitous, disposable, and can be created by more people than ever, Wood's insights are of increasing importance. I therefore highly recommend this book to anyone with a personal or professional interest in maps or mapmaking.
    --Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design, 4/18/2010ƒƒ
    Besides chronicling [the] power and agency of maps with numerous historical and contemporary accounts, Rethinking the Power of Maps contains a brilliantly written, major case study, the mapping and counter-mapping and counter-over-mapping of Palestine.
    --Diversophy.com, 4/18/2010