Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Map-making: A Lesson for Public Diplomats?

Food for thought -- for those perhaps interested in comparing/contrasting public diplomacy in theory* to public diplomacy in practice**?

image from
[A]s the centuries wore on, the accretion of detail in maps -- the Hereford mappamundi contains more than 1,100 illustration and inscriptions  -- was not matched by an increase in accuracy of position or shape. Trapped in their self-referential loop of exclusively textual sources, the scribes who created them lacked any source of fresh data that could improve their visual precision -- and in all likelihood, they lacked the motivation to do so. Those who did have the motivation were sailors, and comparing the portolan charts [see] they created to the mappamundi being made in monasteries is like opening a window in a stuffy room. Just as bookies often make a more accurate prediction of an election result than opinion polls in which voters hoodwick even themselves, so sailors had far more realistic understanding of the shape of coastlines than monks who had never set foot on a ship and had a vested interest in maintaining their strictly regulated Weltanschauung.
--Jonathan Dore, "Knowing our place: Two impressive histories of map-making," The Times Literary Supplement (May 27, 2016), p. 11.

* or, defining a concept
**or, carrying out an activity (mission?)

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