Sauf mention contraire dans les contenus, l'ensemble de ce site relève de la législation française et internationale sur le droit d'auteur et la propriété intellectuelle.
The Map Room - A Weblog about Maps
Another profile of New World Cartography, the South Carolina firm that combines computer-generated cartography with hand colouring and custom framing, this time from local newspaper The Island Packet. [WMS]
Previously: New World Cartography.
A fascinating story from the University of Wisconsin—Madison’s Robinson Map Library, in which map and geospatial librarian Jaime Martindale used aerial photos held in the library to help a patron track down the site of a 1966 bomber crash in Sawyer County, Wisconsin. Neat stuff. [History of Cartography Project]
The fantasy maps that get the most popular and critical attention are those of Middle-earth and Westeros. That’s almost entirely due to their respective series’ popularity (and in the case of Middle-earth, the foundational nature of that map and its influence on later works). Maps of Robert Jordan’s hugely popular Wheel of Time series don’t get quite the same attention—a situation that Adam Whitehead, writing on his Atlas of Ice and Fire blog, tries to rectify. Reading his post, I suspect that the afterthought-ish nature of said maps might have something to do with it.
Apparently Robert Jordan did not originally plan to include maps in the books, and did so only at the urging of his publisher Tom Doherty because people expected maps in a fantasy novel. This may be why the earliest maps for the books were pretty bare-bones, only featuring the names of the major countries, the two big mountain ranges and not much else. It may also explain the curiously straight mountain range edges to the map border which later came in for much ribbing from reviewers.
Here again is a link to a 2009 Tor.com post by Jason Denzel on the maps of Jordan’s so-called Randland.
(Sidebar: In the talk on fantasy maps I gave at Readercon in July 2014 I noted the difference in map quality between the paperback editions of The Eye of the World and The Great Hunt; the second map is of considerably lower quality, but has the virtue of being more legible at mass-market paperback size.)
Interchange Choreography is a collection of maps of complicated highway interchanges by Chicago-based designer Nicholas Rougeux. “Applying colors to roads and using connecting roads to blend those colors adds structure and breathes new life in to areas that are often avoided for their complexity. The results resemble everything from dancers to otherworldly creatures.”
New Jersey’s interchanges look particularly complicated:Newark, New Jersey (Nicholas Rougeux) Keasbey, New Jersey (Nicholas Rougeux)
The Guardian continues to track the issue of Palestine’s absence from Google Maps. In a long essay that is definitely worth your time, Petter Hellström links the issue with the long history of colonial maps that omitted the indigenous populations that settlers would soon displace.
Because Palestine, after all, has been removed. It is there on old paper maps, of the Holy Land, of the Roman and Ottoman empires, of the British mandate. Yet in our digital age, a search on Google Maps for Israel produces a map without Palestine. It displays Israeli urban centres down to a few thousand inhabitants, and even marks Ma’ale Adumin, an Israeli settlement on the occupied West Bank. At the same time it shows no Palestinian place-names or urban centres, not even major ones like Gaza City, Khan Yunis or Nablus. The dotted, inconsistent borders of the occupied territories leave the impression that they are not claimed or administered by anyone. […]
Historians of cartography have long studied the practices and consequences of cartographic omission. In a landmark study, “New England cartography and the Native Americans”, published posthumously in 1994, the British historian of cartography J. B. Harley analysed seventeenth-century maps to follow the progressive replacement of the Native Americans with European settlers. In Harley’s analysis, the maps were something more than historical records of that process. Because they made the colonists visible at the expense of the indigenous population, they were also instruments of colonial legitimisation.
Many colonial mapmakers preferred to leave the areas of predominantly indigenous presence blank, rather than to reproduce an indigenous geography; one example is Herman Moll’s 1729 map of New England and the adjacent colonies, seen above. The traces of indigenous presence, past and present, were gradually removed from the maps as the colonists pushed west. The apparent emptiness helped to justify the settlers’ sense that they had discovered a virgin territory, promised to them by Providence. The pattern was the same in all areas of colonial activity, including Australia and Africa.
Previously: Google, Palestine, and the Unbiased Map.
Never mind research that suggests that a single map adding bus lines to an already complicated subway map is cognitively overwhelming. Anthony Denaro has created a map of the New York City transit system that shows bus as well as subway routes—basically, a map of every means of transportation accessible by Unlimited MetroCard. Complex? You bet. Difficult to produce? Unquestionably: Anthony takes us through all the design choices he had to make. Difficult to use? Impossible for me to say (I haven’t even visited New York), but as Anthony points out, this map isn’t for tourists; it’s for frequent users. And no doubt it’ll be yet another engagement in the ongoing New York Subway Map War. [CityLab]
Bloomberg Businessweek looks at Niantic, the company that developed Pokémon Go, and its CEO, John Hanke, both of whom have a long history in mapping technology (Hanke was the founder and CEO of Keyhole, which became the foundation for Google Earth; Niantic started as a Google startup and focused on location-based apps—including, among other things, the game Ingress—before being spun off).
Hanke says Niantic’s focus has always been its underlying technology, not any one game, and the success of Pokémon Go has already attracted partners interested in using his mapping software for projects of their own. “Maybe you want to build a real-world vampire game where you control a clan of vampires and battle with other clans of vampires,” he says. “You could invest in re-creating our core technology and all of our data, which would require a fairly large team of very sophisticated Ph.D.s, or use our platform.”
Previously: Pokémon Go.
CBC News reports on the Canadian Coast Guard’s project to map the continental shelf under the Arctic Ocean, now in its third and final year. This is part of Canada’s attempt to stake a claim to the continental shelf (and seas above it) beyond the 200-mile nautical limit, which other Arctic countries (hello, Russia) are also trying to do.
Previously: Arctic Maritime Jurisdiction Map.
In the Los Angeles Review of Books, Miriam Kingsberg reviews Cartographic Japan: A History in Maps (University of Chicago Press, March 2016), a collection of essays on the history of Japanese mapmaking edited by Kären Wigen, Sugimoto Fumiko and Cary Karacas (see previous entry). “Cartographic Japan constitutes a significant addition to the academic literature on the history of Japanese mapping. Much like the works it describes, the volume may also be treasured as a piece of art and collector’s item in its own right.” Amazon, iBooks. [WMS]
Iowa and the Midwest: An Exhibition of Antique Maps, an exhibition of maps of Iowa from four private collections, runs from 12 August to 23 October at Simpson College’s Willis Gallery. (Simpson College is situated in Indianola, Iowa, just south of Des Moines.) “The maps, which date from 1715 to 1902, chart the region’s Euro-American development from unexplored colonial territories to what is now America’s Heartland.” [WMS]
“The OpenStreetMap Community is at a crossroads, with some important choices on where it might choose to head next,” wrote Michal Migurski last month. Identifying three types of map contributors—robot mappers using third party data, crisis mappers responding to a disaster like the Haiti earthquake, and so-called “local craft mappers” (i.e., the original OSM userbase that edits the map at the community level, using GPS tracks and local knowledge), Michal ruffled many feathers by saying that “[t]he first two represent an exciting future for OSM, while the third could doom it to irrelevance.” That’s largely because, in his view, the craft mappers’ passivity and complacency, and their entrenched position in the OSM hierarchy, are impeding the efforts of the other two groups.
I heard much frustration from crisis mappers about the craft-style focus of the international State Of The Map conference in Brussels later this year, while the hostility of the public OSM-Talk mailing list to newcomers of any kind has been a running joke for a decade. The robot mappers show up for conferences but engage in a limited way dictated by the demands of their jobs. Craft mapping remains the heart of the project, potentially due to a passive Foundation board who’ve let outdated behaviors go unexamined.
Naturally such pot-stirring did not go unnoticed (see the comments in Michal’s post).
It’s probably not helpful to pit one group of users against another. Each group is contributing to the map for their own purposes (some of which, it must be said, are commercial and self-interested), but they all have the same goal in mind: a good, usable map. It’s how they get there—and why they want to get there—that’s at issue.
Both craft and crisis mapping can fail to see the forest for the trees: both depend on the efforts of a motivated cadre of mappers, whether they’re local hobbyists trying to improve the map of their own community, or mappers trying to help disaster relief efforts. But relying on those efforts can lead to a map of wildly uneven quality. As I wrote in “All Online Maps Suck,” my 2013 piece on online map quality,
The problem with OSM is also its strength: it’s entirely dependent on the attention of volunteers. Where there are a lot of volunteers, the map is invariably excellent. But where there aren’t any volunteers, the map is empty.
Automated edits are the opposite of the above. When based on existing databases (CanVec in Canada, TIGER in the United States), they represent top-down mapping rather than from the bottom up, which goes against the original sensibilities of OSM. But they can cover a lot of ground that would otherwise go unmapped, or mapped in only the most cursory way.
The problem is when the different mapping methods come into conflict. It’s extremely easy to step on one another’s toes. Local mapping efforts can be discouraged by armchair mapping (which I have to confess I’ve done rather a lot of—even crisis mapping can privilege foreign computer users over on-the-ground mapping) and automated edits that can overwrite individuals’ work if not handled carefully.
Responding to Michal’s post, Tom Lee identifies another constituency that Michal missed: “passive users of OpenStreetMap data. Naturally I am thinking of Mapbox customers, but also people using MapQuest and Mapzen and Carto and Maps.me and countless other businesses.” Note the words customers and businesses—not just map users. Regardless of its original ethos, OSM data supports a lot of for-profit businesses. Tom puts his finger on it: there’s a dichotomy between mapping as a hobby and mapping as part of the job.
For end users, the politics of OpenStreetMap ought to be so much inside baseball. My own concern, as a heavy OSM contributor over the years (which is to say, a “local craft mapper”), has been less about how the map was made than whether the end result was a good map. I worried a lot that my edits would get someone else into trouble, or that the incomplete map would be put to use—by those “passive users” of OSM data—before it was ready, for political or economic reasons. The voracious hunger for open mapping data was what worried me—and it’s what’s driving the conflict in this case.
(Comments are open, because I expect I’m wrong in some of the particulars.)
Out this month from University of Oklahoma Press: Mapping the Four Corners: Narrating the Hayden Survey of 1875 by Robert S. McPherson and Susan Rhoades Neel. From the publisher: “By skillfully weaving the surveyors’ diary entries, field notes, and correspondence with newspaper accounts, historians Robert S. McPherson and Susan Rhoades Neel bring the Hayden Survey to life. Mapping the Four Corners provides an entertaining, engaging narrative of the team’s experiences, contextualized with a thoughtful introduction and conclusion.” Buy at Amazon. [WMS]
See also: Map Books of 2016.
Dissatisfied with the maps of the EU referendum results he encontered, Bob Taylor crunched the numbers and produced some interesting maps of his own, including choropleth maps, cartograms, and maps identifying clusters of support for leave and remain. [Yanko Tsvetkov]
In response to the news that Australia has to correct its GPS coordinates to account for continental drift, the Ordnance Survey blog examines whether Great Britain will have to do the same. “The situation for us (and most of Europe) is not so bad. Europe’s GPS compatible datum, ETRS89, is fixed to the European tectonic plate at the time 1 January 1989 and moves by around 2.5 cm each year. In theory, GPS-derived coordinates are now about 70 cm away from where they should be in the ETRS89 system.”
NASA Earth Observatory: “Days of intense rainfall in August 2016 led to widespread flooding in southern Louisiana, as rivers swelled high above their banks and many crested at record-high levels. […] The animation above shows satellite-based measurements of the rainfall as it accumulated over the southern United States. Specifically, it shows rainfall totals every three hours over the span of 72 hours from August 12-14, 2016. These rainfall totals are regional, remotely sensed estimates, and local amounts can be significantly higher when measured from the ground.”
In a June 2015 piece for Al Jazeera America, history Ph.D. candidate Nick Danforth offered a contrarian opinion piece in defence of the Mercator projection. The usual (i.e. Peters) critique of the Mercator is that it emphasizes northern countries at the expense of equatorial countries. Danforth questions the premise behind that critique:
I first sided with the Mercator against its critics when, on one of the rare occasions I thought about Greenland, I realized just how rarely I thought about Greenland. Despite seeing it hanging there like a giant icy sword of Damocles atop every wall map, we just don’t seem to care about it. Antarctica, too, is massively inflated on the Mercator, to the point that it’s as big around as the entire earth. But few would argue that mapmakers intended to depict it as a superpower. Meanwhile, if maps lead us to ignore Africa, they should also lead us to treat cartographically bloated Canada as one of the most important countries in the world. We don’t.
He goes on to argue that if the Mercator projection was a reflection of European power, Africa would have been emphasized, not minimized.
Of all the problems with criticizing the way our maps depict Africa, the most ironic is that it ignores the continent’s history of colonialism. Consider the motives of a colonial-era British cartographer—perhaps the kind of guy who made this bold, colorful propaganda map […] showing off the queen’s dominions.
His incentive, if anything, would have been to make Africa appear as large as possible, since Britain then ruled a large share of it. With India along the same latitude, expanding the size of the earth’s equatorial region would have been a perfect way to color more of the map imperial pink.
Previously: How the Mercator Projection Won the Internet.
Further reading: Rhumb Lines and Map Wars: A Social History of the Mercator Projection by Mark Monmonier (my review).
As the Disputed Territories site, which catalogues how Google manages various contested borders, points out, “Google’s maps of disputed territories differ depending on who’s looking at them.” As we’ve seen recently with regard to Crimea, that doesn’t always keep Google out of trouble. An online petition asking Google to label Palestine on Google Maps has garnered more than 300,000 signatures since March. The petitioners accuse Google of removing Palestine at Israel’s insistence; but, as the Guardian reports, “the truth is, it was never labelled by Google in the first place.” (The West Bank and Gaza Strip had their labels removed by a bug; Google’s restoring them.)
In a follow-up piece for the Guardian, Leigh Alexander writes:
The swiftness of the backlash, though, is not just about the wish for justice on behalf of an occupied people, but about the belief—now punctured—that our technology is neutral, that it presents an unbiased, infallible version of the world. […]
While it might seem imperialistic for Google to decide how the US should see the rest of the world, perhaps it would be equally troubling to see the company wade into global verdicts on the righteousness of every international occupation. That it allows its sketch of the geopolitical climate to reflect the perspective of who is viewing it, rather than impose the prevailing popular opinion in the west, may not be neutral or unbiased, but it is probably the most fair.
Fiasco Design’s Rio 2016 Interactive Map (screencap above) is a cheeky game-style enviroment that mixes Olympic venues with local controversies.
What3words, a company that assigns a three-word mapcode to every location in the world—useful in places like favelas that have no formal addresses—has partnered with an official Olympics app, Rio Go (iOS, Android) to provide locations for Rio visitors. More: Reuters, the Telegraph.
Not a map in the strict sense, AirTravelGenius’s metro map of Olympic cities (above) is clever in how it manages cities that have hosted the Games more than once.
Hand-made globes are increasingly a thing, apparently. As Atlas Obscura reports this week, Michael Plichta’s company, Planetenkugel-Manufaktur, is producing a hand-crafted globe of Mars with a twist: it’s based on Percival Lowell’s maps, which (erroneously) showed the Martian surface covered in canals. It’s delightfully retro and I love it. Here’s a video:
Nowhere on the website is a price mentioned, which tells me that I won’t be able to afford one, damn it.
Illustrator Cally Lathey has produced a second edition (I hadn’t seen the first edition before now) of her Illustrated Map of London. This extraordinarily detailed and whimsical hand-drawn map is the result of five months’ effort; this short video chronicles the process.
It’s available as a limited edition print in two sizes, prices ranging from £110 to £140. Maps of central, north, west, southwest, southeast and east London are also available. More about the map at Londonist and Time Out London. [WMS]