Project Main Details
Age of Exploration
Mapmaking has been one of mankind’s most important collaborative projects. Maps formed the foundation of agriculture, trade, science, and long distance communication. They inspired myths, religions and even identities- the stories behind every society.
70,000 years ago, the age of exploration began. Our ancestors began to hunt and gather, spreading from Africa to Europe, Asia and the Pacific. Now we have GPS satellites, smart phones, and autonomous drones crisscrossing the globe, digitally mapping our world. While it might feel that every point on the grid has been documented and the age of exploration has come to an end, why are we then still getting lost going from point A to point B?
Most maps operate in two dimensions - the physical and the social. Think about how we give directions; “take the second turn, over the small bridge, and look for a two story, yellow house at the end of the road,” yet we assign places with numbers, street names. What we have gained in organizing our world has created a loss in community driven knowledge; A knowledge that people across the world only know so intimately by being on the ground.
Unlike GPS coordinates, the addresses that define our world are social constructs, and as such can be inexact. If the supermarket became a strip mall, that one address could become 10. Zoning and development can scramble the symmetry of the best-laid grids.
Despite the impressive technology we have, the loss of tribal and community knowledge is a challenge that compromises the accuracy of digital maps. It’s a problem that only people with intimate knowledge of the terrain can fix, like the travelers who drive those roads every day.
In some cases, there is no fixed address at all. In these scenarios we must think beyond physical and social mapping to remain flexible to mobile lifestyles, whether they are a nomad, a globe-trotting entrepreneur or a political refugee.
As the people of the world become more mobile, more connected, and more interdependent, it’s clear that charting the world is far from complete and the new age of exploration may be just beginning.
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