Everything Sings

It has recently been brought to my attention that a documentary of the life and work of the irrepressible Denis Wood is in production. Details are on the short side, but Diane Hodson, one of the co-directors, assured me that there should be some taster clips online soon.

A facebook page has now gone up for those wanting regular updates on the documentary. I look forward to its completion. Ira Glass’ introduction to Everything Sings (Siglio) is available to read over at the Huffington Post.

Designs on Signs / Myth and Meaning in Maps (1986)

“Never mind drought, Autumn, and acid rain, and never mind the cubic miles of eroded silt that choke our rivers. In the map, our forests glow with the robust verdure of a perpetual Spring afternoon and even the Mississippi shines with a pristine Caribbean blue.”

A great quote I had to share from Denis Wood and John Fels’ ‘Designs on Signs / Myths and Meaning in Maps’ in Cartographica from way back in 1986. You haven’t read about maps if you haven’t read Denis’ work. This is a typically engrossing article that begins with a look at the ‘North Carolina Official Highway Map / 1978-79’ and ends with a discussion of the ‘intrasignificant’ codes of maps (iconic, linguistic, tectonic, temporal, presentational) as well as ‘sign functions’ (the relationships maps’ create). You might have guessed from the terminology (icons, codes, signs etc.) as well as the title (‘myth and meaning’), that it is heavily indebted to Roland Barthes.  You can download the paper from Wood’s website here.

A recent reflective piece by Wood and Fels on that paper was printed in the Martin Dodge edited book Classics in Cartography (2011). Again, you can download it from Wood’s homepage here.



Denis Wood‘s dissertation might just be my next project. It was completed in 1972, and titled I Don’t Want To, But I Will. It’s all to download from his website here. If you don’t fancy wading through the whole 685 pages, at least read the acknowledgements, where there is a quite wonderful attack on his supervisors – in true Wood style! Here’s a section from his preface describing it:

This dissertation makes no pretense at being objective, whatever that ever was. I tell you as much as I can. I tell you as many of my beliefs as you could want to know. This is my Introduction. I tell you about this project in value-loaded terms. You will not need to ferret these out. They will hit you over the head and sock you in the stomach. Such terms, such opinions run throughout the dissertation. Then I tell you the story of this project, sort of as if you were in my-and not somebody else’s -mind. This is part II of the dissertation. You may believe me if you wish. you may doubt every word. But I’m not conning you. Aside from the value-loaded vocabulary-when I think live done something wonderful, or stupid, I don’t mind giving myself a pat on the back, or a kick in the pants. parts I and III are what sloppy users of the English language might call “objective.” I don’t know about that. They’re conscientious, honest, rigorous, fair, ethical, responsible-to the extent, of course, that I am these things, no farther. (P.12 Introduction)

Also, I’ve never come across the word ‘rodomontade’ before reading it in Wood’s introduction!