Deep map

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Deep map refers to an emerging practical method of intensive topographical exploration, popularised by author William Least Heat-Moon with his book PrairyErth: A Deep Map. (1991).

A deep map work most often takes the form of engaged documentary writing of literary quality; although it can equally well be done in long-form on radio. It does not preclude the combination of writing with photography and illustration. Its subject is a particular place, usually quite small and limited, and usually rural.

Some[who?] call the approach 'vertical travel writing', while archeologist Michael Shanks compares it to the eclectic approaches of 18th and early 19th century antiquarian topographers or to the psychogeographic excursions of the early Situationist International.[1][2]

A deep map goes beyond simple landscape/history-based topographical writing – to include and interweave autobiography, archeology, stories, memories, folklore, traces, reportage, weather, interviews, natural history, science, and intuition. In its best form, the resulting work arrives at a subtle, multi-layered and "deep" map of a small area of the earth.

In North America, it is a method claimed by those interested in bioregionalism. The best known U.S. examples are Wallace Stegner's Wolf Willow (1962) and Heat-Moon's PrairyErth (1991).

In Great Britain, the method is used by those who use the terms "spirit of place" and "local distinctiveness". BBC Radio 4 has recently undertaken several series of radio documentaries that are deep maps. These are inspired by the "sense of place" work of the Common Ground organisation.

See also[edit]