Friday, December 2, 2011

The Physical World

During the months I was looking for an apartment (it is not easy to find an apartment in Toronto for one person unless you have money to burn or are willing to live in a basement), I was on GoogleMaps almost constantly. The incredible power of this resource, available to anyone with an internet connection, got me thinking about the extent to which we have mapped the physical world. Mapping, in this sense, is not just an act of cartography but also a cognitive investment. I have been spending a great deal of time creating new cognitive and psychological maps of Toronto, which are "located" by their relationship to existing maps I already possess. Sometimes, this means walking just to see what is where. Other times it means reading about the city or just looking at maps. The point is, I have enormous resources (books, internet, satellite imaging) the Romans did not possess. This changes my understanding of the world I inhabit in essential ways. I could, for example, travel from here to Shanghai without ever asking directions. My world is known, even if it is vague in large areas.
I have been thinking about how this difference effects my understanding of Rome. Unfortunately, it is too complex for me to fire off the top of my mouth. But I'm working on it.

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