Thursday, November 16, 2006

Aerial View Maps

It used to be that I would not know a city until I had been almost everywhere in it. It could literally take months. You see, I've never been able to learn by sectioning off the map and then proceeding in an orderly fashion. Each city has its own logic, and this logic is whimsical. In order to really get to know a city, you have to follow its twists and turns. Given that I did not have time to make this a full-time job, you can see why the last city that I lived in remained difficult for me to navigate almost until the day I moved.

All of that has changed with aerial view maps. This probably seems counterintuitive. For many people, a satellite map is the very worst way to look at a city. Instead of the orderly structure of streets and boulevards, they get to view the seeming randomness of seeing the city artificially placed on top of a dynamic and chaotic landscape. Why, my wife cannot even navigate using an aerial view map!

For me, however, the aerial view map is the very best way to look at things. You see, there was a logic to the city that I was looking for by wandering through it. I can get that logic all at a glance from the aerial view map. I guess that my mind works differently than many people's minds do. Most people like to perceive the logical structure. When they see a map, they get to understand the ordered, arranged part of the city. They can then safely ignore the chaos underlying it.

For me, however, things are different. When I look at an aerial view map, I can see the reasoning behind the city. Looking at the design abstracted from matters of elevation, climate, and local flora just simply confuses me. There seems to be no reason why this street is here and that street is there. It is all haphazard and random.

But looking at an aerial view map, everything is different. I can see the way it all flows together. The city seems to be a compromise struck between the design impulses of the city's creators, and the realities of the landscape. It all fits together so nicely that I can't help feel overjoyed. It is the same feeling that I used to get by wandering through the city. Now, however, it takes much less time.