TPDR

Cartography – topography – topology – mapping

Posted in Theory by tpdr on December 19, 2009

While working on my first mapping project 2 years ago I tried to find an explanation to clarify why I preferred the term ‘mapping’ to the word ‘cartography’.

I finally decided that I preferred ‘mapping’ to ‘cartography’ as ‘mapping’ refers more to a process and therefore seemed more appropriate in today’s modern, dynamic, … society. As society and our environment in general is constantly in flux, we also need maps that can keep up with the pace and are kept up to date constantly/in realtime if possible.

Topography and topology never really were part of this discussion. However while I am working on a new project, I felt the need to investigate these two concepts as well, in order to try and re-determine my field of research.

First of all I would like to stress the fact that this mail is just the first in a series, as defining and comparing these four terms. I will start with a modest attempt to define topography and topology first.

Topography: Is a word with a Greek background composed of ‘topos’ and ‘grafein’, which would mean that it can be translated as ‘the act of describing a place’. It is the study of terrain features (not the process of how these features/the terrain/the landscape were/was created) of a region and the representation of the landform on a map. However when studying a place one can also focus on all details that distinguish a place, without just taking into account the physical shape of the surface.

Even though this might still be a very very brief definition, topography to me seems to much occupied with the surface and has no attention for processes (of the landscape). Therefore I wouldn’t really want to use this term and it actually reminds me of why I didn’t really feel much for using the term cartography (as it also seemed to neglect the ‘processes’ constantly going on in our environment). Even though ‘describing’ a place can also be interesting, but I think it would have to mean that it would have to allow it to be a subjective description(being interested in subjective/personal cartography and mapping this doesn’t come as a surprise). Subjective topography would therefore be more interesting to me as it reveals already more of a place/space then a mere ‘so-called’ objective description.

Topology: Is again originally a Greek word combining ‘topos'(place) and ‘logos'(study), so literally the study of a place. In this way it suggests a deeper notion of a place. Based on this ‘analysis’ one wouldn’t maybe suspect that this term is actually a mathematical term concerned with the features of space that are preserved even when under continuous distortion/transformation(the objects may not be torn nor pasted). It doesn’t make use of describing points nor distances, it is interested in describing the way in which a space is constructed, taking into account orientation and coherence.

Even though this definition would need to be more sophisticated, more detailed, it becomes already clear that my tutor was right to point me into the direction of topology. This term really grabs my attention because it suggests processes and a continuous distortion or transformation without breaking the ‘object’. Putting it like this it almost reminds me of how you could see life, but this would take us too far into spiritual or philosophical directions.

Reading a bit about topology, my attention was drawn by the term ‘homeomorphism'(or topological isomorphism or bicontinuous function (from the Greek words homoios = similar and morphe = shape, form. It is a continuous function between two topological spaces that has a continuous inverse function). Next post I will write on this subject I would like to continue on the subject starting from this term as it feels like an interesting subject to think about while working on my project which involves some ‘mirroring’/’transformation’/’distortion’.

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