I can relate to Andrew’s comment about Montrealers accepting a false north, which I find very interesting. In Vancouver, everyone knows that the local mountains are north, however, they aren’t actually. Despite this, it’s close enough for the purposes of traveling around the city and this is an important aspect of mental maps. By no means do I intend to flare up the ‘what is a mountain’ debate, but if a person’s mental map incorrectly associates a geographic feature with a compass reading in order to improve their navigational abilities, what does that say about the accuracy of their mental map?
Perhaps, as Tversky et al. illustrate, this notion reflects upon the nature of how we schematize, a process which accepts a loss of detail to “allow for efficient memory storage, rapid inference-making and integration from multiple media.” On the other hand, there may be more to this issue, as our ability to incorporate an individual’s cognitive map into a GIS is another problem that arises. How can we display and compare the landmarks, nodes, paths, etc. of cognitive maps when they are all, for example, represented at varying scales? To go back a step, how can we even be sure that the process of drawing a mental map isn’t completely fraught with error? These ideas relate to the varying ontologies that exist and trying to reconcile the differences between them, which – as we all know – is an extremely complicated task.
On a somewhat related note, everyone who is a map lover/artist (which I’m sure all of you are) should check out: