A Commonplace Book

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I have a map of the United States... Actual size. It says, "Scale: 1 mile = 1 mile." I spent last summer folding it. I also have a full-size map of the world. I hardly ever unroll it. People ask me where I live, and I say, "E6".
-- Steven Wright

In that empire, the art of cartography attained such perfection that the map of a single province occupied the entirety of a city, and the map of the empire, the entirety of a province. In time, those unconscionable maps no longer satisfied, and the cartographers guilds struck a map of the empire whose size was that of the empire, and which coincided point for point with it. The following generations, who were not so fond of the study of cartography as their forebears had been, saw that that vast map was useless, and not without some pitilessness was it, that they delivered it up to the inclemencies of sun and winters. In the deserts of the west, there are tattered ruins of that map, inhabited by animals and beggars, in all the land there is no other relic of the disciplines of geography.
-- Jorge Luis Borges "On Exactitude in Science." (1954?), in Collected Fictions (New York: Viking Penguin, 1998), p. 325. Translated by Andrew Hurley. "J. A. Su rez Miranda, Viajes de varones prudentes, Libro IV, Cap. XLV, L rida, 1658"

And then came the grandest idea of all! We actually made a map of the country, on the scale of a mile to the mile!"

"Have you used it much?" I enquired.

"It has never been spread out, yet," said Mein Herr: "the farmers objected: they said it would cover the whole country, and shut out the sunlight! So we now use the country itself, as its own map, and I assure you it does nearly as well.

-- Lewis Carroll, Sylvie and Bruno Concluded (1893).

We say the map is different from the territory. But what is the territory? Operationally, somebody went out with a retina or a measuring stick and made representations which were then put on paper. What is on the paper map is a representation of what was in the retinal representation of the man who made the map; and as you push the question back, what you find is an infinite regress, an infinite series of maps. The territory never gets in at all. [...] Always, the process of representation will filter it out so that the mental world is only maps of maps, ad infinitum."
-- Gregory Bateson, "Form, Substance and Difference," (1970) in Steps to an Ecology of Mind (1972).

One kind [of depression] is low-grade and sometimes gets called anhedonia or simple melancholy. It's a kind of spiritual torpor in which one loses the ability to feel pleasure or attachment to things formerly important.... Kate Gompert's always thought of this anhedonic state as a kind of radical abstracting of everything, a hollowing out of stuff that used to have affective content.... Everything becomes an outline of the thing. Objects become schemata. The world becomes a map of the world. An anhedonic can navigate, but has no location.
-- David Foster Wallace. Infinite Jest (1996) p.692-693

Cambridge, UK. An old dream of cartographers has finally been realized through flat-panel displays and small, portable computational devices. For centuries, cartographers have dreamed of full-scale maps, that is, a map with a scale of 1:1, so that 1 Km. of the map would represent 1 Km. of the world. Implementation difficulties made such a map impractical. But now, scientists at Cambridge University have been able to display the full-scale map on a flat-panel screen, scrolling the map as necessary to cover the territory.

The new technique has already revealed important results: errors in the existing geographical databases. These errors were revealed when geographers in Cambridge compared the full scale map with the terrain and discovered that they didn't fit precisely: Several structures, including a college building and several roads were determined to be in the incorrect location. "Rather interesting," said Lewis Carroll, spokesperson for the university, "several college buildings are quite off their correct location." Unfortunately, initial estimates for moving the buildings and roads to correct these discrepancies are too expensive, so, as Carroll puts it, "we will have to put up with these problems, but we will annotate the map to show where these placement errors occur."

An unexpected positive finding is that the map serves both types of map-users well: those who like to orient the maps so that North is always up, regardless of their direction of travel, and those who like to orient the map so that it corresponds to the positions of objects in the world. Now, either type of map user can be accommodated, something which was not possible when full-scale maps were implemented only on paper.

When asked what new developments might be expected from the college, Mr. Carroll stated that they were working on full-scale biographies, providing a much more realistic depiction of a person's life. This would allow a biography, for example, to take place in the same time-scale as the person's life, increasing the realism dramatically. Full scale renditions of other phenomena are in the works, but Carroll said that confidentiality restrictions prevented discussion until they were fully realized.

-- Don Norman, "Cartography dream realized", Risks Digest, Saturday 1 April 2006. http://catless.ncl.ac.uk/Risks/24.22.html#subj4

Since the universe itself is built on quantum systems such as atoms, and since all quantum systems are continually exchanging information, Lloyd concludes that the universe must be a giant quantum computer. And what does this machine compute? "It computes itself. The universe computes its own behavior."
Throughout history, humans have interpreted the world in terms of things they know. The ancient creator gods behaved like super-humans, coupling and breeding and giving birth to the cosmos, or fashioning its elements from familiar technologies such as weaving or molding clay. Modern scientific accounts also have drawn heavily on familiar contemporary tropes: In the 17th century, the universe was seen as a vast clockwork system. By the 19th, when the study of magnetic and electrical phenomena was hot, it was reconceived as a network of invisible force fields. At the dawn of the age of digital computers, scientists speculated that it was one of these machines.

Inevitably, we see the whole through the lens of the particular.

-- Margaret Wertheim reviewing Programming the Universe: A Quantum Computer Scientist Takes on the Cosmos by Seth Lloyd, Los Angeles Times, Book Review, April 2, 2006.

And -- the map is closed, but the autonomous zone is open. Metaphorically it unfolds within the fractal dimensions invisible to the cartography of Control. And here we should introduce the concept of psychotopology (and -topography) as an alternative "science" to that of the State's surveying and mapmaking and "psychic imperialism." Only psychotopography can draw 1:1 maps of reality because only the human mind provides sufficient complexity to model the real. But a 1:1 map cannot "control" its territory because it is virtually identical with its territory. It can only be used to suggest, in a sense gesture towards, certain features. We are looking for "spaces" (geographic, social, cultural, imaginal) with potential to flower as autonomous zones -- and we are looking for times in which these spaces are relatively open, either through neglect on the part of the State or because they have somehow escaped notice by the mapmakers, or for whatever reason. Psychotopology is the art of dowsing for potential TAZs.
-- Hakim Bey, "The Temorary Autonomous Zone" (1990)

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