Map Accuracy

While reading over the excerpts from Foys’s book, especially Ch 4, I kept thinking of our attempts to map the medieval map onto a modern map while using ArcGIS.

I know that we all spent much time connecting green x to blue x in order to align the edges of the maps (April takes the cake with her 100+ alignments).  Regardless of the time spent, though, we could never make the maps fit exactly — “To modern eyes, these medieval worlds never seem quite right” (Foys 111).

We were trying to use a modern political map and precise GPS points from google maps to locate positions on a medieval map… which was NOT the purpose of that map.  Foys writes, “As maps become more and more accurate in their schematized signification, then, they become further and further divorced from ‘real’ perception of the space they reproduce” (117); we should read medieval maps therefore NOT as “an accurate indicator of physical space” (120) but as “datascapes” (120).

In adapting the medieval map to modern standards, as we did in our use of ArcGIS, we really just emphasized the ‘accuracy’ flaws without profiting from the rich information that’s within.

I look forward to hearing Foys’s opinion of ArcGIS and its applicability to medieval maps!

  • Annette

    I found this quote from Foys interesting and applicable to your post

    “But as a database of meaning the mappamundi also relates an impression of the physical reality of the world outside the familiar limits of the viewer’s localized knowledge/experience. In doing so, maps disclose efforts to organize space through linear structures very similar to those of virtual reality.” (pg 128). I think that the GPS points you mention Katie, introduce a temporal and spatial familiarity when used to reference the medieval map because we map the unfamiliar onto our contemporary, familiar world…fascinating.