Tuesday, 25 September 2012

How to Read a Map in Glasgow

These two maps are located at one spot in Glasgow, fixed back to back on a pole. I have never seen such a "service" anywhere in Austria. I know consumer-friendly maps from Japan and was very surprised to find them in Glasgow, too. In case you don't understand what I am talking about: take a look at both photos. Where is northwards on those maps?
When I look at the map, my face facing northwards, the map is orientated northwards, too.
And when you turn by 180° and look at the map that is fixed at the back you look southwards, and guess what: the map ... is upside down, facing southwards, too, with South on top and North at the bottom! They so to say turn the world around you.

Women are said to be inferior to men when it comes to reading a map, which is orientated northwards while you yourself are looking southwards or eastwards. Then the map-turning sets in, and voila, no problem to read the map. Only as long as the map points in the same direction, as the woman who is holding the map, looks at.

During the ski-mountaineering courses the trainers emphasized that it is absolutely fine to turn a map, as long as it helps us to keep the orientation. I was surprised they did not encourage us to train map reading. Because scientits not only found out about the female deficy when it comes to map-reading, but also that those skills can be trained and imrprove over time. A former colleague of mine had spent years reading maps that always pointd northwards and she confirmed what scientists say: the brain can be trained and you can improve your skills if you just train your brain.

Now I am wondering if female members of the city parliament had voted for these "upside-down-maps" or if it is more likely a phenomenon, that is taking over worldwide and has not arrived in Austria yet. However, those maps in Glasgow are really convenient. Not to forget you find them at every other corner and they come with walking distances. 10/10!

The Scottish tourguide who accompanied us during the hiking holiday the following week was quite shocked when he heard me speaking about women's defecits. As a woman. Well, a fact is a fact, and it does not chance just because I am a woman. Or a man, no? Or does anyone here seriously think, women and men are the same?  They are equal, no doubt. But never the same.

Stadtplan lesen in Glasgow

Diese beiden Stadtpläne befinden sich in Glasgow an exakt derselben Stelle, sie sind Rücken an Rücken auf einem Ständer angebracht. In Österreich ist mir noch nie zuvor ein derartiges "Service" untergekommen. Ich kenne diese benutzerfreundlichen Stadtpläne aus Japan und war überrascht, sie in Glasgow anzutreffen.

Für den Fall, dass ihr nicht merkt, worum es mir hier geht: schaut auf den zwei Fotos nach, wo Norden auf der Karte ist. 
Wenn man in der Straße nach Norden blickt, zeigt die Karte auch nach Norden, sprich Norden ist oben. Dreht man sich aber um 180°, ist Norden plötzlich unten auf der Karte, da wo sonst Süden ist. Die Welt wird quasi um uns herum gedreht. 

Man sagt, dass Frauen schlechter Kartenlesen können als Männer sobald frau eine genordete Karte hält und z.B. nach Süden oder Osten blickt. Dann beginnt das Kartendrehen, bis die Karte in diegleiche Richtung zeigt wie frau schaut und die Orientierung wiederhergestellt ist. Während der Skitourenkurse betonten die Trainer immer wieder, dass es total in Ordnung wäre, Karten herumzudrehen, Hauptsache es hilft uns bei der Orientierung! Ich war überrascht, dass sie uns nicht nahelegten das Kartenlesen zu trainieren. Denn die WissenschafterInnen, die herausgefunden haben, dass Frauen sich mit dem abstrahierten räumlichen Vorstellungsvermögen schwerer tun als Männer (nichts anderes wird gefordert, wenn die Karte nicht auf den Kopf gestellt wird um sie besser zu lesen), haben auch herausgefunden, dass das Gehirn trainiert werden kann und die Schwäche durch regelmäßiges Training ausgemerzt wird, Eine frühere Kollegin von mir hat Jahre damit verbracht, Karten zu lesen ohne sie zu drehen und sie bestätigte was die WissenschafterInnen behaupten: das Gehirn kann trainiert werden und die Fähigkeiten wachsen, wenn man dem Gehirn nur die Zeit gibt zu lernen. 

Ob wohl die Frauen im Stadparlament in Glasgow für die gedrehten Stadtpläne gestimmt haben? Oder handelt es sich hier am Ende um ein weitreichenderes Phänomen, das Österreich noch nicht erreicht hat? Wie auch immer, diese Stadtpläne sind wirklich praktisch. Abgesehen davon, dass sie an jeder zweiten Straßenkreuzung zu finden sind und sie sogar Gehdistanzen anführen. 10/10!

Der Schottische Tourguide war gelinde gesagt entsetzt, dass ich offen über Defezite von Frauen spreche. Eine Tatsache ist eine Tatsache, wurst ob ich eine Frau oder ein Mann bin, oder? Oder glaubt hier jemand ernsthaft, dass Frauen und Männer von Geburt an gleich ticken? Gleichwertig, ja, keine Frage.


  1. I'm a little shocked too that you are openly accepting such a stereotype. My thinking is like this: a six year old is worse than a nine year old at doing sums because the four year old hasn't started studying it in school--and no adult expects a six year old to be as good as the nine-year old. In the same way, women just are not exposed to map reading like men are: we don't play video games (that have maps of mazes, race courses, etc); and women are "allowed" to be bad at maps whereas men because they're "supposed" to be good, will keep trying until they get it right.

  2. Hi Tracy! You mention an important point: games. Girls do play games, too. But those games are set in "Hello Kitty Beauty Salons" where perfums and lipsticks pop up and they would collect points by serving customers ... *arrrgh*

    In Austria we had a recent issue with exams: girls would pass the exam with a result whereas boys would fail, because the gender-mainstreaming-rule allows girls to have poor results because it has been proven they they can't perform like boys in certain fields (standard IQ tests!!). Well, to be precises, the test is not applying to girls and boys but 19, 20 year old folks who want to study medicine.
    In Vienna they until now they could not design a test that would givefemale and male applicants equal chances. It is fascinating what is going on right now. I am curious to see how they will solve the issue.
    Meanwhile I try NOT to turn maps and improve my skills! :-)

  3. PS: recent gender-brain studies:

  4. Sorry it took me so long to reply back. I'm bad at remembering and managing my comments.

    To begin, I hope I didn't sound as if I were preaching down to you. Gender identity and women's achievement are just topics that really excite me and I still am not sure how to express things of some complexity and delicacy appropriately online especially as a comment to someone else's blog. But that's a whole other topic.

    Interestingly, there's a book recently out in the States and it's quite controversial because from what I understand one of the main points of the book states that women are outperforming men in school at all levels, from kindergarten to graduate school (which is true, more women graduate from school at all levels and do better at standardized tests at all levels than men) and we/they/Americans are at the point where accommodations have to be extended to men to keep gender parity. I haven't read the book, but I must, and maybe if you do too, we can discuss it?

    Oh yes, about those games. Yes, girls play house and other games that teach interpersonal skills while boys play sports that teach mathematical/spatial skills. And the most nefarious of all are the shopping games. Actually, they're not so bad because they teach children the value of money, which I think is important considering the world is melting down because of economic reasons, but when girls play games that teach them to *want* and *desire* frivolous things... my face contorts in 50 shades of painful hateful ugly!

    Oh the book's name is 'The End of Men' by Hanna Rosin.

  5. Reading topographical maps are great way to understand the features and characteristics of a map. A person who can read such maps can read any map. It is an indispensable thing for a tourist or person who loves to travel to places unknown to him. I bought Italy Road Map just because I didn't know the way to places I wanted to go. It made my journey to Italy pretty smooth.

    1. In case you plan to visit Tyrol, you might want to know about this Atlas Tyrolensis, famous in many ways!
      Back in 1770 is was the best known map that existed in Austria, in Austria as well as abroad.

      btw: sn't it nice, that you actually "read maps", altough there are far less words on a map than rivers, roads and mountains.

      thank you for commenting!