The Earth’s surface or any territory is a coherent whole or subwhole, in which the notion of “far more small things than large ones” recurs at different levels of scale ranging from the smallest of a couple of meters to the largest of the Earth’s surface or that of the territory. The coherent whole has the underlying character called wholeness or living structure, which is a physical phenomenon pervasively existing in our environment and can be defined mathematically under the new third view of space conceived and advocated by Christopher Alexander: space is neither lifeless nor neutral, but a living structure capable of being more alive or less alive. This paper argues that both the map and the territory are a living structure, and that it is the inherent hierarchy of “far more smalls than larges” that constitutes the foundation of maps and mapping. It is the underlying living structure of geographic space or geographic features that makes maps or mapping possible, i.e., larges to be retained, while smalls to be omitted in a recursive manner (Note: larges and smalls should be understood broadly and wisely, in terms of not only sizes, but also topological connectivity and semantic meaning). Thus, map making is largely an objective undertaking governed by the underlying living structure, and maps portray the truth of the living structure. Based on the notion of living structure, a map can be considered to be an iterative system, which means that the map is the map of the map of the map, and so on endlessly. The word endlessly means continuous map scales between two discrete ones, just as there are endless real numbers between 1 and 2. The iterated map system implies that each of the subsequent small-scale maps is a subset of the single large-scale map, not a simple subset but with various constraints to make all geographic features topologically correct.
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