Final Paper: Final Draft

Tommy DiSisto

Professor Albert

December 5, 2017

FYS 149: The Power of Maps

Maps Beneath the Surface

            Entering the semester, I chose this First Year Seminar because I had a slight interest in Geography, for some reason, it never really crossed my mind that this was more of a cartography class and not a geography class, but I learned more about maps than I could ever have imagined.  One particularly interesting idea that stood out to me is that of the idea that maps can be used for many other purposes other than presenting an area, which is the common use that many of us think of when asked: “why do maps matter?”  Although many people would in fact point to the fact that maps obviously tell us where we need to go as well as showing the layout of a certain area.  In addition to this, I saw that maps can take a lot of different forms other than the traditional projection that we all think of.  Through the viewing of the Brennan map collection as well as reading both J.B. Harley and Peter Turchi’s work, I learned that maps are valuable for so much more than that, and a ton of thought and effort goes into creating them.

One of the first concepts that we covered in class during the semester was the idea of the different projections of maps.  I had never heard of the Mercator or Peters-Gall projections, but I knew what the traditional map that I had been seeing for my entire life looked like.  It turns out that this was known as the Mercator projection.  The Mercator Projection is essentially a European view of the world, cartographers call this the “Eurocentric” view.  The continent of Europe is shown directly in the middle of the map and looks to be at the forefront.  It is also shown as markedly larger in size in relation to other continents such as Africa; which, is larger than the continent of Europe.  However, you don’t ever hear people calling this projection “wrong” because it is the projection that most people know, many people don’t even know of the Peters-Gall projection, which shows the world as a much more “to scale” projection, where Africa is presented as much bigger.  Each of these different projections of maps is still considered “maps” and one is not more correct than the other, but it is interesting to see that many people don’t know that there are different ways to project the world other than the traditional Mercator projection. In addition, maps don’t even have to be images of countries or places, as we see with many of Peter Turchi’s interesting and unique maps.

Peter Turchi’s book “Maps of the Imagination” holds some very unique maps, maps that going into the semester, I wouldn’t even consider being maps.  To start, looking at the cover of the book, there is a sort of map that shows the human brain and a map of all of its functions and uses.  As I learned throughout the semester, this is considered a type of map.  There really isn’t any rigid definition as to what a map has to be.  On page 117, Turchi presents a map of the most populous countries in the world.  The thing about this map that is most interesting is that it looks like a normal map, but it’s a bit different.  The nations on the map are portrayed in size by their populations.  For example, India and China are portrayed as the largest countries on the map because they have the greatest population sizes in the world.  I found this map to be neat because it shows the point that not every single map has to look the exact same.  The little variations of each of these maps are what I find most interesting, and this reiterates my point that maps can come in all different shapes and sizes, which is one of the main things that I took away from this semester, and it’s something that I would never have thought would happen.

Another Turchi map that I found very interesting is his maps on pages 134 and 135.  The map on page 134 is a map of Warren Wilson College that specifically emphasizes construction projects going on around the campus.  The map seems to be just a normal looking map, with nothing out of the ordinary.  The buildings around the campus are labeled with colors showing the areas that were constructed more recently, as well as the areas that were constructed long ago.  On the contrast, there is a depiction of the same area on the next page created by Turchi’s son.  It shows the exact same college campus but the map is notably different.  At first glance, the map is less scientific, as it is hand drawn by Turchi’s son.  In addition, the map emphasizes a completely different subject.  Turchi’s son draws out the best areas for sledding on the campus, complete with a color-coded key and different symbols that represent different aspects of the topography such as “good route”, “bad route” and “speed bump”.  This is a great example of how the same map can take two seemingly different forms while still mapping the same area.  The first map is a much more scientific representation of the area, while the second is a much more upbeat and creative way to show the campus.  In the end, both are considered “maps”.

Also, Dennis Wood presents a map that he created when he was a kid that showed the pumpkins that the different houses in his neighborhood had on their porches during the Halloween season.  He simply had a black background with white silhouettes of jack-o-lantern faces that portrayed the houses that had Halloween pumpkins.  He then put a different map of his neighborhood on the next page.  The two maps mirrored each other.  The jack-o-lanterns lined up pretty perfectly with the other map of Turchi’s neighborhood.  Upon seeing this, I found it very interesting.  We were asked, “Is this a map?”  It’s an interesting question to think about.  Obviously, aesthetically this map doesn’t look like a traditional map that we would know of, however, I was able to see how this could be considered a map.  It certainly portrays an area, with that image, a viewer would be able to find his or her way around Turchi’s neighborhood.  It’s interesting that when you really think about it that maps can still be maps, no matter what the appearance is.  This was one of the most unique and interesting things that I was able to gather from the discussions that we had during class.

In conclusion, there is a reason why Turchi titles his book: “Maps of the Imagination: The Writer as Cartographer”.  Turchi asserts through his use of varied maps that maps can look several different ways, which is the most interesting point that I took away from this semester. In the future, I now know much more about maps than I could have ever imagine, and The Power of Maps First Year Seminar forced me to think about maps outside of the classroom.

Final Paper Draft

Tommy DiSisto

Professor Albert

December 5, 2017

FYS 149: The Power of Maps

Maps Beneath the Surface

            Entering the semester, I chose this First Year Seminar because I had a slight interest in Geography, for some reason, it never really crossed my mind that this was more of a cartography class and not a geography class, but I learned more about maps than I could ever have imagined.  One particularly interesting idea that stood out to me is that of the idea that maps can be used for many other purposes other than presenting an area, which is the common use that many of us think of when asked: “why do maps matter?”  Although many people would in fact point to the fact that maps obviously tell us where we need to go as well as showing the layout of a certain area.  In addition to this, I saw that maps can take a lot of different forms other than the traditional projection that we all think of.  Through the viewing of the Brennan map collection as well as reading both J.B. Harley and Peter Turchi’s work, I learned that maps are valuable for so much more than that, and a ton of thought and effort goes into creating them.

One of the first concepts that we covered in class during the semester was the idea of the different projections of maps.  I had never heard of the Mercator or Peters-Gall projections, but I knew what the traditional map that I had been seeing for my entire life looked like.  It turns out that this was known as the Mercator projection.  The Mercator Projection is essentially a European view of the world, cartographers call this the “Eurocentric” view.  The continent of Europe is shown directly in the middle of the map and looks to be at the forefront.  It is also shown as markedly larger in size in relation to other continents such as Africa; which, is larger than the continent of Europe.  However, you don’t ever hear people calling this projection “wrong” because it is the projection that most people know, many people don’t even know of the Peters-Gall projection, which shows the world as a much more “to scale” projection, where Africa is presented as much bigger.  Each of these different projections of maps is still considered “maps” and one is not more correct than the other, but it is interesting to see that many people don’t know that there are different ways to project the world other than the traditional Mercator projection. In addition, maps don’t even have to be images of countries or places, as we see with many of Peter Turchi’s interesting and unique maps.

Peter Turchi’s book “Maps of the Imagination” holds some very unique maps, maps that going into the semester, I wouldn’t even consider being mapped.  To start, looking at the cover of the book, there is a sort of map that shows the human brain and a map of all of its functions and uses.  As I learned throughout the semester, this actually is considered a type of map.  There really isn’t any rigid definition as to what a map has to be.  Turchi presents a map that he created when he was a kid that showed the pumpkins that the different houses in his neighborhood had on their porches during the Halloween season.  He simply had a black background with white silhouettes of jack-o-lantern faces that portrayed the houses that had Halloween pumpkins.  He then put a different map of his neighborhood on the next page.  The two maps mirrored each other.  The jack-o-lanterns lined up pretty perfectly with the other map of Turchi’s neighborhood.  Upon seeing this, I found it very interesting.  We were asked, “Is this a map?”  It’s an interesting question to think about.  Obviously, aesthetically this map doesn’t look like a traditional map that we would know of, however, I was able to see how this could be considered a map.  It certainly portrays an area, with that image, a viewer would be able to find his or her way around Turchi’s neighborhood.  It’s interesting that when you really think about it that maps can still be maps, no matter what the appearance is.  This was one of the most unique and interesting things that I was able to gather from the discussions that we had during class.

Weekly Writing 9: Reflecting on My Writing

This semester has been very helpful to me in terms of my progress as a writer.  Our class also provided the perfect opportunity for me to write about things that I am interested in, as well as write about things that I learned from my First Year Seminar.  In the beginning of the semester, I was nervous about how my writing would be perceived by my professors as well as my fellow peers.  But as the semester progressed, I became more comfortable sharing my writing as I knew that it was getting better each time I wrote a new piece.  I really enjoyed the weekly writing assignments, specifically the one about the Allentown Fair, and I also enjoyed writing about the different books we were reading, like Turchi and Harley, because each of those had some really cool quotes and passages that I could learn lots from, and I had a good time dissecting each of these quotes.  One place that I believe that I showed improvement in is my ability to paraphrase.  In the first instance that we were asked to paraphrase, I thought that I had a pretty decent understanding as to what I was doing with it.  However, after I wrote my first paraphrasing assignment, I realized that I needed improvement in this area.  I remember Professor Albert sharing with the class that she had noticed some of us were “summarizing” instead of paraphrasing.  I immediately laughed to myself and knew that this was me.  I knew that I improved at this because in my meeting with Michelle, we both had a look at this, and we identified my issues, and did some practice, and I was able to paraphrase much better.  One other area that I was pleased with my improvements in was the claims, evidence and ideas concept.  This is something that I really didn’t have much experience with prior to coming to Muhlenberg so at first my head was spinning.  But as we practiced in class I slowly began to get the idea of it and it showed in my writing.  As I was writing my first paper, I quickly realized that I was naturally gathering a claim, and then presenting evidence, as well as tying themes of the class into my writing.  After writing my first paper, I was so pleased with how it turned out, as I read it over, I had never read something that I wrote that sounded so concise and succinct, and I was impressed with my gains as a writer.  It was also very cool to learn about the unique ideas about maps that both Turchi and Harley presented, and I took a lot of unique pieces from each of them.  One thing that I will still look to improve is my post writing ability.  For my first paper, I received some really good feedback from my peers, but I guess I was too stubborn to throw those changes into my paper, and I think I would’ve gotten an A had I done this.  Furthermore, in the second paper, I noted to myself that I needed to do more in post writing, and I did, and I ended up getting an A on my paper, which to me is numerical proof that my writing did improve in some sense.  Looking back, I also regret not posting every single Weekly Writing assignment.  Even though I missed three of them, I think that the ones I did do were done well, and I think that they were the best way for me to improve my writing because it forces me to collect a body of work that I can go over personally and see where I need to make adjustments.  I also really thought that the Free Writes were a great exercise too, and I have a ton of those in my writing portfolio which to me can act as a place holder for my missing weekly writings.  They were great because they let me write with no parameters like I have on a paper, so I could just write what was on my mind, which gave me a good chance to develop my voice as a writer.  My FYS served as a wonderful opportunity for me to get my writing to where it needs to be in college, and I look forward to improving my abilities even more throughout my academic career at Muhlenberg.

Turchi Free Write- Plus Ultra

“But rather than pushing us violently away, the multiple frames around the map create a space between the world of the reader and the world of the novel-a space precisely the size of a boy’s imagination”

I liked this sentence because it shows that maps have a much greater purpose than we all think.   I find it interesting that even though maps are often times thought of a mundane, or boring, that they can still provide us with creativity and imagination.  Take the Brennan Map collection, for example, the map with the astronomical illustrations surrounding the map provides a much more visually appealing aspect for the map, other than just the area that is being mapped, which is a nice change of pace for the viewer.

Thanksgiving Maps

I think that the website is missing a map of which states are the most traveled to during Thanksgiving.  I don’t know if there would be any correlation between the geography of our country, and where people are traveling to, but I think that it would be pretty cool to see which states get the most visitors, and then try to explain why this is the case.  I would guess that New York and California would be the most visited states, just because of the popularity of the major cities in each state.  In addition to this map, we could map the places where there is the most traffic during Thanksgiving as the day before Thanksgiving is often times the most well-traveled day of the year, so it would also be interesting to compare that to the map of the most visited states in the country for Thanksgiving.

StepUp Mules Mental Health Talk Reaction (11/8/17)

I attended a Mental Health talk through the StepUp Mules program here at Muhlenberg.  The StepUp Mules program is something that the school sets up for our athletic teams that educate us on some issues, problems, or stigmas associated with being a student-athlete.  This particular talk was concerning mental health.  The speaker was a former student-athlete at Muhlenberg College who struggled with mental health issues throughout his collegiate career.  This was a particularly powerful message to me because although I don’t suffer from mental health issues, I know that they are a serious matter to watch out for in my teammates and potentially myself.  The speaker’s main thrust was that these sort of issues can happen to anyone.   When first introduced to the speaker, me and my teammates had absolutely no idea that he would be someone struggling with clinical depression, severe anxiety, and severe insomnia.  But throughout his talk, as we learned more and more about this individual and his story, my teammates and I began to realize that this alumnus is very much like ourselves.  This served as a real eye-opener for me personally because although I’d like to say that I understand the dangers of mental health issues, I most likely do not, as I am someone who does not go through the everyday struggles of having a mental illness.  The talk made me more aware that a person doesn’t necessarily have to have had any traumatic experiences in his or her life to develop a mental illness, and that it truly can happen to anyone, even if it seems like they have everything going for him or her.  For a talk that upon entry I was not very interested in,  I ended up learning so much about a topic that shouldn’t be taken lightly, and at the end of the day, I am very happy I attended.

Thanksgiving Map

I think this is an interesting map because it shows that people all over our country value different things about Thanksgiving.   Part of this probably has to do with the location of the state, because for example I’m from Pennsylvania, and our state’s top Googled meal is a potato; whereas, in Wyoming, Idaho,  Colorado and Nevada, the most Googled meal is frogs.  I know for a fact that frogs will not be a part of my Thanksgiving meal at all, and I also know that many of my friends are the same way, in which case one would assume that most of my friends are from a condensed geographical area.  I like this map because it gives me a chance to explore how people view Thanksgiving all around our country, and when paired with the geographical locations, this map has a lot to tell us about Thanksgiving in America.

Formal Paper 2: Draft

Tommy DiSisto

Formal Paper 2: Mapping the Details

Professor Albert

November 9, 2017

Giving Maps Their Place in History

            Many people can look at antiquated maps and candidly point out the simple fact that they are old, and map a specific moment in history.  This is what should intrigue the viewer of the map.  Maps are far more than outlined areas placed on a canvas, they can tell a story and give meaning to the time from which they are derived.  These maps each have their own unique details that set them apart from other maps of that same time.  These unique details shed light on the cultural and historical values of the maps, giving them context and importance.

Take the map titled “A Map of the Middle British Colonies in North America” for example.  This map is a representation of the Middle British Colonies.  The map is extremely detailed and there are many ornate intricacies that make the map unique.  The detail that should most stick out to a viewer is the seemingly innumerable number of roads and travel routes that intertwine all throughout the area that is being mapped. There are so many different routes that it is almost impossible to sort through all of them, creating quite an intriguing appearance for the map.  This attention to detail concerning the routes leads the viewer to believe that this map was created for travel and trade within the Middle Colonies.  Just from this fine detail, the map can be given historical and cultural significance, as well as context.

Given that the British made this map of their colonies, we can tell that they are very concerned with this area, as it had great importance to them at the time of the creation of this map, in the year 1755.  At this point, it is still many years before the American Revolution, so the British have a very strong hold on its American colonies, which makes sense given the detail of the map, they took a lot of time to complete the map, and they did not have to be preoccupied with quelling the civil unrest and uprising that would ensue throughout the American Revolution.  Another interesting detail is that although the map was created in 1755, it says in a personal note from the cartographer to Thomas Pownall, that the map was revised in 1776, the exact year of the American Revolution. This is particularly interesting because one can only wonder why the British would choose this timing for their revision.  It could merely be coincidental, however it’s possible that the British felt that their control over the American Colonies was slipping and wanted to clarify any loose ends in their colonies.  Each of these details can be attributed to real life events that happened at the creation of the map, which shows that maps can “come to life” in a way, and are good for far more than just mapping and surveying a specific area, they can be placed to a specific time in history, giving them context, which in turn helps the viewer better understand the map itself.

Turchi Theater of the World Free Write

“Like it or not, the work that occupies most of our time also occupies our minds, and as a result, we see the people around us as an assortment of hairstyles, car owners, or various states of health” (Turchi 139)

I find this passage to be very interesting because it holds true for me personally.  Everyone has their own routine that they follow each and every day, and often times we see the exact same people on our daily journeys.  For example, when I walk into Life Sports Center for Wrestling practice every day, I see the same mix of 3 or 4 people that work the desk there, I say hello to them, there’s an older woman named Jeannette, a student who plays Lacrosse, or an older Gentleman who checks us in for the morning lifting at 6 am.   What’s most interesting is that this is how I remember these people, outside of a few niceties, I don’t know much more about them, they are simply relevant to me because of the crossing of our daily journeys, but we each go about our separate lives every day, and I remember them on a physical, yet superficial basis.

Source Presentation-My Favorite Map

The American Revolution and its Era: Maps of North America and the West Indies (1750-1789) By Ted Countryman (peer-reviewed)

  1. This source relates to my map because this atlas has thousands of maps that are of old North America and the West Indies.  These maps are all created around the same time period that my map is, so it would be nice to be able to compare these maps to each other.
  2. I found this source on the Muhlenberg library site through the search term “American Revolution Maps”, I chose to present it because of the sheer number of pertinent maps and information it has.   This source is also peer-reviewed.
  3. I learned that the actual book is relatively easy to navigate.  You can search by creator, geographical location, keyword, subject, or title.  This means I could follow these steps and I could follow these steps and I could probably find my map in the atlas.
  4. A key takeaway for me is that this is an excellent source for me to use; in addition, this source has only one version of each map, whereas the actual Library of Congress would have multiple iterations of a certain map, which allows for comparison between the versions of the map, many of these comparisons are in regards to chronological comparisons.