Map, Metaphor and the Database: Toward a Methodology for Evaluating a Culture in History

By Lauren Beck.

Published by The Social Sciences Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The study of cultural systems benefit from complex analysis for the purpose of understanding how culture works, why aspects of it form or disintegrate, and which factors contribute to these manifestations. Current attempts to adapt complexity theory for cultural studies have splintered into specific fields, such as metaphor theory (Fauconnier and Taylor, Gineste and Scart-Lhomme, Mignonneau and Sommerer), corpus linguistics within and without a database (T. Oakley, C. Vogel), social networks (D. Byrne, P. Cilliers), and even literature (F. Moretti, J.L. Suárez, K. Hayles, J. von Lieshout). These studies need to be specialised because in theory ‘culture’ cannot be studied as such—being perhaps too expansive, too elusive, too transitory—, but also because each of these fields contributes to the understanding of that larger whole. At the same time, we can integrate all these aspects to answer a commonly related concept or question with multiple variables managed according to properties of scale. This paper will perform a complex analysis of 16th Century Spanish culture while attempting to produce a model that manages several variables and mediums according to the overarching constant of scale—or the local and universal properties that beget scale. Specifically, we will look at transatlantic religious interpretation (the heretic and the orthodox), the development of which is traceable in culture by various mediums (map, text and word), so that even within 16th Century Spain, we can approximate how (and where)a religious framework informed exploration and knowledge of the New World by framing the question within a multi-scale methodology that depends upon the local and universal properties for the mediums through which the transatlantic religious rhetoric is revealed to have existed.
Thus, instead of relying soley on literature (the letter, the treatise, the poem), for example, to reveal the location of a religious community or representation, we will rather evaluate how precisely the culture was aware of that representation's existence, location and classification as orthodox or heterodox. In this sense, a model becomes an expression of this culture, even while a model becomes an expression of the methodology employed to understand this culture. This reflects a key principle of Compleity Theory, for which the nature of study and analysis must reflect both the nature and the composition of the system itself.

Keywords: Map, Metaphor, Database, Adaptations of Complexity Theory, Evaluating Culture in History, Religion and Culture, Religion and Cartography, Culture as an Expression of its Output

The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Volume 2, Issue 1, pp.43-48. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 512.274KB).

Lauren Beck

PhD Candidate, Hispanic Studies (Dept. of Modern Languages), University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada

Current research examines religious signs on 16th Century maps of Spain, Europe, North Africa and the Americas as an expression of how Spaniards (specifically)and Europeans (generally) managed geographical, religious and political information on the map. Complexity Theory informs my approach, and thus the project will be one of the first to adapt a multiple scaled model that reflects the culture (through its output, ie publications), and this will most definately lead to further studies, as I plan to test this model in future works.


There are currently no reviews of this product.

Write a Review