I've been reading the British Library's curator's blog for the Magnificent Maps exhibition. There is a comment about maps not often heralding change, they usually reflect change (29 May 2010). But I think they can have a very important role in changing our perceptions of things, in the selection of networks that the map maker chooses to make visible. The way we connect things in our minds (which maps make visible) can profoundly change the way we view them and then respond, or behave. They are so powerful. The whole idea of this exhibition is fascinating, the maps reflect but perhaps played a role in the changing relationships of power and politics over the centuries.
It is a bit like language. The language we choose to use for things can profoundly change the way we view them. By carefully selecting the language you use to describe something, you can subtley change the way people understand you. So with maps and networks. What you choose to link or show, the relationships your map chooses to reveal (or leave out!) will change the nature of how you view those elements, the importance you might give one over the other and so on.
Magnificent Maps: Power, Propoganda and Art
"Maps can be works of art, propaganda pieces, expressions of local pride, and tools of indoctrination... Magnificent Maps brings together some of the most impressive wall maps ever created, many of which have never been exhibited before, and will demonstrate why maps are about far more than simply geography."