Thursday, 6 September 2012

What would Harry have thought of it all?

Today sees yet another bastardization of H. C. Beck's London Underground map. londonist.com report on a new tube map showing Olympic medal winners.


Rarely a day goes by these days without someone or other taking their own dataset, failing to have a single ounce of their own imagination and slapping it on one of the most famous maps in the world. The data often have no connectivity, no relationship with transport or journey planning and absolutely no need to be displayed as a schematic diagram. But hey, if you want to get people interested...imitation is the sincerest form of plagiarism right?

Now even TfL have got in on the act with an "if you can't beat them, join them" attitude for this latest version is an 'official product', available as a limited edition through their online shop. As those who know me will already know...I am an avid fan of Beck's map. I am also a fan of some of the original uses of it as a vehicle for other, re-engineered purposes (e.g. The Great Bear, 1992) but the time has come to say enough is enough. It's also the last straw and I am hereby announcing a forthcoming paper penned by myself and William Cartwright on this very issue...

PS...did I buy it? yes of course...I'm a map addict. Dammit.

2 comments:

  1. Your complaints about the tube map have merit, but probably warrant some moderation. I do appreciate that that might not align with "marauding".

    I just want to point out that for many people, the London Tube Map is their conception of London. The tube map is a useful, ubiquitous abstraction. Many places in London are just names on the tube map, as London is unknowlably large and complex. Indeed, in your dailly life the tube map is actually much more relevant than an actual map, as real distances and positions are less important than your primary means of transportation.

    If you want to show me where the Olympic medal winners come from you might do well to use the tube map. Indeed this is what I'm using in my head when someone at a house party says they live in Acton Town.

    I think this is an example of visual presentation that is theoretically bad in many ways, but useful because of its ubiquity and familiarity within its audience.

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