For millennia, maps have held talismanic powers, helping to form spatial concepts and advance exploration. They have shaped geopolitical ideas, triggered international disputes and created pictures of the world both large and detailed.
Chelsea Nestel, a PhD student specializing in cartography at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, thinks of modern map-making in similar terms.
“The first rule of geography is that everything is related to everything else,” she said in a phone interview. “Today’s cartography reflects exactly that: It combines design, geography, anthropology, human impressions and ideas within spatial contexts. It’s a connector, an aggregator. And, increasingly, it’s a way of telling stories.”