Alex Wright

Memory maps

October 7, 2006

Earlier this week, I dropped in on a discussion about physical and digital spaces (blogged elsewhere by Peter and Mike K.) that ranged pretty widely over topics related to geography and location-based data. At one point, Jeff showed us Flickr's geotagged map of Route 66, which put me in mind of an exhibit I saw at the Library of Congress last year that featured a few nineteenth century postal memory maps.

These maps were drawn by postal carriers to help them remember their way around the western territories, and often bore only a cursory relationship to physical geography. They served more as mental maps that invoked the memories of people, historical markers and points of interest as a way of navigating an unfamiliar landscape.

This seems like a good historical examplar for the kinds of things people are doing with social mapping these days: overlaying personal experience onto geographical maps, and in the process transforming the maps from static reference tools into living social documents.

> More about postal memory maps

File under: Informatics

« Dirk | Roshi's room »


Glut: Mastering Information Through the Ages

Mastering Information Through the Ages

New Paperback Edition

“A penetrating and highly entertaining meditation on the information age and its historical roots.”
—Los Angeles Times     

Buy from