The Conversation

A biweekly tour of the ever-expanding cartographic landscape.

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When the final season of Game of Thrones aired its first episode in April, some 17 million viewers were treated to a brand-new title sequence. The nearly two-minute-long, 3D-animated map of Westeros and beyond that kicked off the show since season one had been revamped with new locations, a spiffier aesthetic, and a sharper sense of scale. Vulturous fans swarmed to dissect the changes, piecing apart every possible piece of symbolism, foreshadowing, and Easter-eggy goodness.

Now viewers know where Game of Thrones’ many twists led. (Giphy)

No wonder. Like the map-filled pages of many great epics, the GOT opener helps flesh out a realm of total fantasy, grounding viewers and helping suspend disbelief in a world that involves dragons, zombies, and winters that can last for decades. It also rewards the repeat viewing that cultish fans are wont to do: Famously, the woodsy forms and iron gears shift with every episode, not only pinpointing locales that watchers will travel to but also previewing some of the action, including major plot points.

Created by the design studio Elastic, the cartographic tour was originally developed as a way to establish locations in between scenes. But that broke up the narrative awkwardly, according to accounts by GOT’s creative minds, so instead the conceit was pushed to the top of the show and matched to cello-heavy theme music befitting the epic journey. Based on the hundreds of articles written about that opening sequence alone, it seems that was the right choice for fans.

The opening sequence to Game of Thrones transformed in season 8 to show the fallen Wall. (Giphy)

To keep reliving those Iron Throne days, here’s some of the internet’s most inspired writing about the moving map of Westeros. And feel free to send me a raven about why you loved (or hated!) that opening sequence.

Behind the scenes

“The secrets behind the Game of Thrones title sequence” (Entertainment Weekly)

Game of Thrones: How One of TV’s Most Epic Title Sequences Was Born” (Vanity Fair)

Plot dissection

Game of Thrones’ season 8 opening credits provide a new history lesson” (Polygon)

“The Game of Thrones Season 8 intro credits foreshadowed every major death in order” (Hidden Remote)

“Every new change in the 'Game of Thrones' opening credits you might have missed” (Insider)

Forget plot lines. Why not map fault lines, as two Australian researchers did on this existing fan-map of the biomes of the Game of Thrones universe? “The geology and tectonics of Westeros and Essos at present-day. Red sawtooth lines represent ‘subduction zones’ where tectonic plates are converging, leading to mountain building and volcanism (like the Andes).” (The Conversation)

Fan cartography  

“Why the south of Westeros is the north of Ireland” (Big Think)

“We made a moving tectonic map of the Game of Thrones landscape” (The Conversation)

Personal essay

”Here at the End of Things: On losing oneself in the geography of fantasy worlds, from Middle Earth to Westeros” (Longreads)


A map for no seasons

A CityLab classic is making the internet rounds this week, just in time for Memorial Day: a map of a 13,000-plus-mile U.S. road trip designed for 70-degree weather every day.

It’ll just take a year! (Courtesy of Brian Brettschneider)

The map was conceived by Brian Brettschneider, a meteorologist based in Alaska (who actually loves living in snowy climes), and was written up by former staffer John Metcalfe in 2015. If you’re the type of person who despises the cold and wilts in hot weather, you’ll appreciate it, Metcalfe wrote.

Where would you have to run to in the U.S. to avoid disagreeable temperatures … all year round? All over the dang place, it turns out … Brettschneider mapped the route that’s likely to keep a body exposed to daily high temperatures of 70 degrees, and it meanders for 13,000-plus miles from the southern tip of Texas up to Alaska and down again to San Diego.

Read more here. Happy road tripping!


Mappy links

Where superstar cities risk becoming supernovas: Richard Florida maps the toll of high housing costs. (CityLab) ♦ Faulty FCC data is leading to spotty internet service, so Texans are taking on broadband mapping themselves. (Texas Standard) ♦ I’ll find you in court: Google Maps data is becoming more common in litigation. (New York Law Journal) ♦ Speaking of which: Google Maps has an incognito mode now. (TechCrunch) ♦ Where the U.S. measles outbreak is hitting hardest. (Washington Post)


If you love MapLab, share it with a friend. They can sign up here. Happy unofficial start of summer!

Laura Bliss

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