Weekend Reading

Post November 8, 2013 2:11 pm

This weekend is the HASTS 25th anniversary.  But just in case, you have time, some interesting links to browse through on the weekend.

Historian David A. Bell asks if global history can be done better, without over-using the “network” metaphor.

Susan Faludi on “Facebook feminism” and the Lean In movement.

Annette Markham writes about what it means to do ethnography online.

An interesting article, with results from a group of MIT neuro-scientists about how we perceive subway maps.

Post in the comments if you love/hate any of them.

2 Comments

  • ozden@mit.edu' Canay Ozden

    Re: the subway map article. I wonder if there’s a social scientist or historian who studies how/when the speed of cognition that a particular design elicits became the prevailing metric of its success. For instance, in the case of the failed New York subway map which otherwise is suggested to be superior, the criterion of good design must have been clearly different. For one thing, New Yorkers take massive pride in knowing their way around and paying a lot of attention to the lay of the land (hope you forgive my pop sociology here), which could easily explain why the complex yet hard to process map might have been desirable over the Vignelli design. (One of the linked articles suggests that the Vignelli map lives on: sure, but the current New York map, which I’m a big fan of btw, also has a pretty extensive line of merchandise.) It just seems to me that the consumer expectation of ease and speed in information processing is totally being taken granted nowadays.

    Very interesting stuff. Along the same lines, I also recommend Janet Vertesi’s “Mind the gap: the London Underground map and users’ representations of urban space.”

  • Good point, Canay. I usually put on my engineer or designer hat when I read about maps and not my STS hat. But you’re right, ideas about what makes a good map are always changing and it might be very interesting to trace the origin (with apologies to Foucault) of the idea that the goodness of a map is about the speed with which it is processed (in the brain).

    Thanks for the Vertesi pointer. I read another article on the London Underground by David Turnbull in this book. He also has a whole book called Maps are territories: Science is an atlas.

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