The Map is not the Territory

The following post is by blogger Andy Parkinson

I found it fascinating, how he connects the mapping and NLP theories with abstract art. I was initially reminded of René Magritte’s painting, Ceci n’est pas une pipe.

…according to John Grinder and Carmen Bostic St, Clair the territory isn’t even the territory, (Whispering in the Wind page 25). They use the term First Access (FA) for the point where we gain access to information about the world through our sensory systems. The information received at FA is already a map, though we are accustomed to think of it as the territory. The vast majority of what is out there never reaches our senses, and the information that does reach us is also transformed. FA is the product of these transforms or mappings. Grinder/St Clair use the abbreviation F1 to refer to the set of mappings that occur before FA.

Then there are the linguistic transforms that take place after FA, the mappings that we usually refer to when, with Alfred Korzybski, we say “the map is not the territory”. Grinder/St Clair use the term F2 to refer to these transforms, our linguistically mediated mental maps.

It seems to me that abstract painting is particularly well placed to explore the pre-linguistic, F1 transforms or mappings or representations, that occur between the events of the real world and our visual perceptions (It can and does also explore F2 mappings as does figurative painting).

The coloured discs you really see in this painting are not out there in the external world, they are not on the surface of the painting. Neither are the 49 bright white discs that appear in the centres of the squares (especially when you look slightly sideways). They are part of the F1 transforms, mappings or representations that take place between the world out there and FA. I suggest that whilst that’s so for everything you see including the canvas, knowing that these colour/shapes exist only in our  F1 mappings shows us something about that mapping process. I think the painting is helping us to model colour.

Something else about these subjective/colour shapes that intrigues me is that we see the discs as perfect circles. Although the drawing is inaccurate we see the discs as if they were accurately rendered… your eye is more accurate than my hand. Your representation or map is, in this respect, more accurate than the territory.