Blake Butler: Is there anything you think of as unmappable?
Denis Wood: To map something meaningfully, it has to have some kind of areal expression. It can’t be uniformly dispersed in space. The USGS maps everything in the United States and it doesn’t matter. There’s a famous USGS sheet—maybe there’s more than one—devoted to the Great Salt Lake. It’s completely blue. There’s not a differentiating mark whatsoever. It’s just water, right? That’s obviously preposterous. Only somebody obsessively compiling the universe would produce a map like that. If the phenomenon is differentiated spatially, then it can be mapped. And if it can be mapped, I guess the question would be: Can you find and collect the data that would differentiate the phenomenon? And is it worth making a map of? Is it something that’s interesting? To answer your question, no, I don’t think so. I think mapping things is usually good. It lets sunshine in, though I suppose there plenty of microbes that don’t like the sun.

September 29, 2014