Why are maps still so powerful? BBC Radio 3 Free Thinking Festival

We were delighted to have been invited along to participate in BBC Radio 3’s Free Thinking Festival last weekend at Sage Gateshead.

Sage Gateshead is an iconic building, which opened in 2004, on the south bank of the River Tyne and hosts a range of musical education workshops, performances and conferences. It was a fitting venue to some of the country’s leading thinkers over a weekend which promised provocative debate, new ideas, music and performance.

Sage Gateshead Photo credit Mark Savag

Sage Gateshead Photo credit Mark Savag

Our Director General Vanessa Lawrence was invited to be on the panel for a session entitled ‘Why are maps still so powerful?’ along with author and academic Jerry Brotton – author of ‘A History of the World in 12 Maps’. Presented by BBC’s Rana Mitter, the radio interview was recorded in front of a live audience of around 200 map users.

Discussions are recorded for BBC Radio 3 and broadcast over the next three weeks or available to download.

Vanessa and Jerry were asked why maps were still so powerful and Vanessa gave an interesting account of how our mapping is used for so many everyday activities and explained how it had been used in the Olympics 2012 to assist in security and planning.

Jerry pondered whether people would want to be on or off the map and what the implications of that would be while the discussion led from local, detailed mapping to global issues, open data and transparency with some discussion about how accessible mapping was becoming and what the role of the state should be.

There was then a fairly heated discussion, prompted by a member of the audience, about whether modern technology was reducing our map reading skills and whether that mattered. Although the discussion went on for much longer than the 45 minutes which the programme will be edited to, I’m pretty sure it will make interesting listening.

The programme ‘Why Are Maps Still So Powerful?’ will be broadcast on Monday 11 November 2013 at 10.00pm on BBC Radio 3.

If you were in the audience at the session, we’d love to know what you thought. Did you agree with the views?

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