Monday, October 23, 2017

Between the Map and the Territory

So, as you know, I've been putting together programs for the New York Society for General Semantics over the past year, and this is one from last spring that I am particularly proud of. It also was the first one where, apart from introducing the program, I was not a participant, and got to sit back and enjoy the panel discussion.

You see, my friend Matt Baker is a professional tour guide, and a past president of the Guides Association of New York City. And given that the Korzybski quote, "the map is not the territory," is fundamental for general semantics, it seemed to me to be a match made in heaven, to have Matt invite a group of his colleagues to talk about their profession.

So, now, here is the write-up from the blog entry I created for the event over on the NYSGS site, Available for Viewing: Between Map and Territory: The Art of the Tour Guide:

On April 26th, we hosted a fascinating program featuring a conversation with New York City tour guides. The panel discussion featured the following participants:

Matthew Baker, owner of Beautiful New York Tours, past president of the Guides Association of New York City, and newsletter editor for the National Federation of Tourist Guide Associations.

Ibrahima Diallo, owner of All New York Fun, chairman of the GANYC Multilingual Guides Committee, and leader of the organization's delegation to Iran in a bid to host the 2019 convention for the World Federation of Tourist Guide Associations.

Robin Garr, owner of R. Garr Tours, specializing in Equestrian New York, and tours that focus on sports history, racing history, and natural history, in addition to other more mainstream topics, and a member of the GANYC Awards Committee and Public Relations Committee.

Lee Gelber, dubbed "the Dean of Guides" by the New York Times, a past-president of GANYC, and owner of Here Is New York Tours, and, after 23 years of guiding, recipient of the inaugural Guiding Spirit Award at the annual Apple Awards gala.

Kristin Singleton-Ferrari, the owner of Kristin's Tours and A Brooklyn Experience, giving tours in English and Italian, and a member of the GANYC Awards Committee and Public Relations Committee.

Matt Baker served as the moderator of the panel, following a brief introduction by NYSGS president Lance Strate. And here is the program description:

Between Map and Territory

The Art of the Tour Guide

Alfred Korzybski, founder of the discipline of general semantics, famously insisted that the map is not the territory. This saying serves to remind us that words are not the things they represent, symbols are not the reality they stand for, and our perceptions of objects in our environment are not the same as the events that actually occur in the world.

The map is not the territory, but any given map may be a more or less accurate representation of any given territory, and may be more or less useful and effective in helping us to understand, experience, and navigate through that territory. Maps are visual representations, mediating the territory by way of hand drawn illustration, printed document, or electronic display.

Maps are guides that take us through a territory, and it seems only fitting to feature the human maps known as tour guides in a program that allows them to discuss their art, craft and trade. More than a living map, a tour guide is a performer, a storyteller and raconteur, a fusion of navigator and narrator.

It was an all-star panel of tour guides talking about the ways in which they present and represent that unique terrain we call New York City.

And now for the recording of the program, which you can also find over on YouTube:

It was a great way to wrap up the first year of NYSGS programming under my stewardship, if I do say so myself (and I do)!  And our new season is already underway, but I'll get to that in another post, before too long, if I can find my way...

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