Mapping (Geo-)Autobiography: My Mental Map of the World

We usually have to stress to students in introductory geography classes that, despite the insistence of their high school football coach, er…. social studies teacher, that geography is not the memorization of maps.  I usually have an exercise to stress this on the first day of class, in which I have the students each draw mental maps of the world, using nothing but as many blank sheets as they like.  I wrote about this a couple weeks back, with examples of what they submitted.  It usually serves as an eye-opening experience for them, and they usually let out a big sigh of relief when I tell them it’s the last time they’ll be drawing maps for me.  Of course, I use it as a nice segue into what geography is really looking at, analyzing a selection of the maps on the overhead.

But, keeping in mind what the larger perception of our field is, that is either memorizing maps or reading National Geographic, I wondered something last night: though I have my students draw a map of the world to show that memorizing isn’t everything, I don’t know that I’ve ever done the exercise myself, and certainly not after admitting to myself that I was indeed a geographer in 2002.

I figure I should know a thing or two about the world, and maps, being that I’m trained as a cartographer and that I’ve got a frickin’ PhD in geography — see?  Even I fall into that trap — and even beyond that I was the MVP of the World Geography Bowl in 2008 and runner-up a few other years (which is just as unbelievably nerdy as it sounds, but I got a plaque!)

So, last night, I sat down for a few minutes and drew a map.  What I came up with was, well, pretty messy and it took up parts of four sheets, but I scanned it and used Photoshop to put it together and… voila!   (click on it for a larger size)

Obviously, in looking at it, I’ve already noticed some factual problems, omissions and other issues.  But, I’m going to leave it as it is, a snapshot of what my brain was thinking on December 18, 2010 at 11:50 pm.

And just like my other geo-autobiographical pieces, I’m leaving it 100% up to your interpretation.

Author: Andrew Shears

Andrew Shears is an Assistant Professor of Geography at Mansfield University in Mansfield, Pennsylvania. His research interests lie at an intersection of the human-environmental nexus, and includes branches of mapping, technological, memorialization and urban geographies. He lives in Wellsboro, Pennsylvania with his wife Amy, a professional photographer.

1 thought on “Mapping (Geo-)Autobiography: My Mental Map of the World”

Comments are closed.