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What the tech industry thinks of printed maps.

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#1
MapMedia

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For those you follow HackerNews (http://news.ycombinator.com), a very interesting conversation regarding printed wall maps, their use, value compared to digital maps (google) and the future of printed maps.

The Greatest Paper Map of the United States You’ll Ever See

#2
David Medeiros

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Gizmodo linked the story and drew some similar, if not shorter, comments. It's disheartening to read people equate this kind of work with web maps like Google or Bing and suggest that all you'll ever need in the way of geographic information can come from an online service like that. As cartographers we know better but the general public is increasingly unaware of the benefits to a published rather than filtered map. Each serves unique and valuable functions but the mass consumption of Google-like maps has put the world on a fast food map diet and people are getting used to not having the extra attention a cartographer puts into their recipes.

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#3
James Hines

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As I have become more enlightened to the reality of our third density world technology has become so far advanced that there is the ever creeping automation of so many jobs that no longer require human labour. Cartography & GIS will never be completely automated but as we look at who's been hired it's no longer the artist but the engineer that are needed for the field. Essentially the type of people employed are changing hands which means the field moves from side of intelligence to another set of human being with a different type of intelligence. From a visually pleasing point of view the future of map making looks more accurate but less pleasing. Beauty is being replaced with efficiency.

That does not mean I support the changes occurring in the field, because I do not. Art is beauty in all forms, it shows human expression of what third density Earth should be but what it is not. Like so many jobs aut0mated once done by humans is the way cartography is going & likely the way that graphic design will also go in time. Increasingly I see the need for some kind of retraining because of the death of this once proud & mighty half scientific & half art. The human population in general has been desensitized & De-humanized to the point that there is something that I will call shades down over the eyes wanting to see what they are told to see.

"There is much beauty that we fail to see through our own eyes teeming with life forms that give us that perception of our reality.  Leaves on the trees blowing gently in the wind, or scarily, the waves pounding through high surf, or lightly on a warm summer’s day; that opportunity to sit or swim in the water on a white beach.   That comfort to shout, “The universal conscious do you hear me?  I am alive, guide me dear logos towards the path of rightnesses.”  Earned what has been kept, no longer to be absorbed into a life filled with cold damn winds and  that stubborn fog clouding  my vision with nothing but darkness."


#4
DaveB

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There are definitely some things that are better done in analog space than digital space. Geting the "big picture" is one. Few people have access to monitors in the range of 3 feet by 4 feet or more, and even if that were not the case the resolution of monitors compared to a decent quality printed item is pretty poor. When I think of doing something like browsing for books, for example, doing so on-line doesn't hold a candle to doing so in a "brick and mortar" bookstore. Sure, the on-line bookstore has advantages when you know what you want, can quickly check if it's available, and find alternatives (used vs. new, other on-line bookstores, etc.) if it's not. But for browsing through many books, being able to quickly pull books out, glance through any pages you care to, feel the heft and quality of the book, give me shelves and stacks of analog books, arranged by subject or genre, any day.

There's also the fact that printed products don't require batteries and/or a web connection. :P

Maybe some day there will be enough technological advances, but for the time being call me a luddite and let me have my analog books and maps and all (but then, I also like analog wind-up watches). :lol:
(I don't want to always be "powered up and/or connected", even if I could.)
Dave Barnes
Esri
Product Engineer
Map Geek

#5
Derek Tonn

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To me, the thing I don't understand is the significance of debating between paper and on-screen at all. Both are a "GUI" (graphical user interface), and both will be preferred (and hated) by a large segment of the population.

Wouldn't a better way to discuss these issues be to talk about how effective the various map designs function on end users' GUI of choice? Rather than chastise or bemoan people who prefer the "other" GUI? Google Maps, for example, looks like used toilet paper on a piece of paper. No offense to Google, of course! But they just aren't something you want to look at for a nano-second longer than you have to in effort to obtain whatever information you are wanting/needing to glean from it. Then racing to toss them in the recycle bin.

In contrast, how many of our "obviously superior designs" (something-something gestalt...something-something projections and subtle nuances that "you," the generic you, obviously cannot understand or appreciate...since "you" (again, the generic you) are not as educated or gifted in the enlightened ways of cartography) function terribly on-screen? Or worse, were never meant to function well on-screen to begin with...because people who want maps viewable with an LED are obviously "flawed" in their thinking...and maybe with a little counseling and several months of de-programming, they'll finally see the light that print is superior to electronic?!

Obviously laying the sarcasm on pretty thick in that last paragraph. But it's true. Just like in politics, it's not about serving our constituents anymore. It's about being right, and the people disagreeing with you (the generic you) being wrong. Personally, I'm tired of the whole "print vs. electronic" debate. The correct answer is that if we try and be all things to all people, we'll fail on all fronts. And if we are convinced there is only one "right" way to view maps, process information, navigate space...then we're completely oblivious to the needs of about 50% of our planet's population.

I do find it ironic, however, that many people who haven't physically and personally drawn their own base map in years (starting on a white piece of paper or screen) complain about coders building maps instead of creating them as some type of time-honored, artistic exercise. Cartographers complaining about non-cartographers creating maps is about as unproductive an argument as graphic designers and web developers complaining about cartographers building interactive maps/tours...or lecturing them on color, iconography/symbology and typography. Unpopular to say, I know. However, instead of complaining about the specks in other people's eyes, I've always believed that we need to each work on the planks in our own eyes first. :)
Derek Tonn
Founder and CEO
mapformation, LLC

datonn@mapformation.com
http://www.mapformation.com

#6
David Medeiros

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Not sure who you are responding to Derek but for my part I have always found map makers comments on this topic to be more inclusive of all technologies where as the general public (as evidenced by the comments on Slate and Gizmodo) seem to be completely dismissive of publication cartography and paper maps in particular. I see in their comments a significant reduction in appreciation for geography overall rather than just geographic information. I don't worry about the loss of "art" in map making but the loss of the geographer as map maker. I rarely see map makers suggest that all maps should be printed.

I think if you read deeper into the "print vs electronic" debates you may find there is something to discuss there. You also have to see it as a discussion of "publication" or "designed" map production compared "automated" or "filtered" map production instead of paper vs web. To say that there is no loss in abandoning human directed cartography is IMO not true and that's the root of these arguments, it may just not be well expressed by some. As professionals in this industry we have a stake in directing the debate on this topic and it is in our best interests to extoll the virtues of what we do. Not to show people how one version is better than the other but how they work together or where each excels in particular uses. As more and more map users begin to tune out publication cartography (digital and printed) our opportunities as map makers will shrink. Being an educator on why we "hand" design maps, or what the value of a large printed map is, or why design matters to automated map creation or GIS is a role we need to take on if cartography is going to flourish in what is arguably the most map intensive period in human history.

GIS Reference and Instruction Specialist, Stanford Geospatial Center.

 

www.mapbliss.com

 


#7
Jacques Gélinas

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I agree with Derek on the fact that it is not about print vs screen.

I tend to think that print is only one medium among many others.

We tend to forget about the relationship between the purpose of the map, the targeted audience and the chosen medium to convey the map.

Google map tries to embrace the segment of the population that needs a quick reference for directions on various electronic devices. That would probably include everybody on a regular basis. I would have to say they have succeeded at doing what they aimed to do.

It is not for me to say but I assume the new Imus map of the USA targets a different audience and the purpose of the map is different. Note that Imus does not compare his work to Google but to other similar products.

IMO it is about good design on the CHOSEN medium that can satisfy the targeted audience efficiently.


my two cents,

Jacques Gélinas
cartographer
www.cartesgeo.ca


#8
Charles Syrett

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I like the way this thread is going. Good points being made all round! No time to add a lot right now (too busy making maps for print!), but it occurred to me that the print vs. screen debate is analogous to a (hypothetical) debate on houses vs. camper trailers. It's obviously silly, because the two do different things. Somebody who uses campers all the time doesn't understand houses (they don't go anywhere!), and someone who stays at home doesn't understand campers (too cramped and uncomfortable!). But of course each is appropriate in its own way.

I see the online map champions (the ones who shake their heads at paper) as being a little like the camper users. The fact is, there's plenty of need for print maps, and will be for some time. To deny this is just as ignorant as a blanket put-down of online maps.

OK, back to work. B)

Charles Syrett
Map Graphics
http://www.mapgraphics.com

#9
Derek Tonn

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Not sure who you are responding to Derek but for my part I have always found map makers comments on this topic to be more inclusive of all technologies where as the general public (as evidenced by the comments on Slate and Gizmodo) seem to be completely dismissive of publication cartography and paper maps in particular. I see in their comments a significant reduction in appreciation for geography overall rather than just geographic information. I don't worry about the loss of "art" in map making but the loss of the geographer as map maker. I rarely see map makers suggest that all maps should be printed.


I'm more making a general observation to things I've seen/heard and even participated in the past 8-10 years in mapping circles. Whether folks will admit it or not, so much of what people talk about comes off as being very defensive and feeling threatened. Or a bit of anger/frustration at how the "industry" (Cartography, Inc.) has shifted...and some of the feelings and worries related to self-preservation that accompany change. Some shifts for the better, some shifts for the worse!

Although folks going to Slate or Gizmodo to see how the general public feels about print vs. on-screen is about like going to a Tea Party rally and asking what people think about Barack Obama and the Democrats. ;)

I think if you read deeper into the "print vs electronic" debates you may find there is something to discuss there. You also have to see it as a discussion of "publication" or "designed" map production compared "automated" or "filtered" map production instead of paper vs web. To say that there is no loss in abandoning human directed cartography is IMO not true and that's the root of these arguments, it may just not be well expressed by some. As professionals in this industry we have a stake in directing the debate on this topic and it is in our best interests to extoll the virtues of what we do. Not to show people how one version is better than the other but how they work together or where each excels in particular uses. As more and more map users begin to tune out publication cartography (digital and printed) our opportunities as map makers will shrink. Being an educator on why we "hand" design maps, or what the value of a large printed map is, or why design matters to automated map creation or GIS is a role we need to take on if cartography is going to flourish in what is arguably the most map intensive period in human history.


I agree completely! A large part of the quality and history of mapping dies if cartographers and other map illustrators aren't playing a primary role in shaping the future of maps. That said, I think many cartographers/shops have dug their own hole they now find themselves in. Choosing to either ignore or belittle/bemoan change (for many moving to digital/on-screen) rather than embrace it.

It's like what Eastman Kodak is facing in a lot of ways, it seems. They would probably still be the "Microsoft" of photography if they wouldn't have scoffed at digital photography back when the technology and tools/resources were emerging. They chose to ignore it until it was practically too late...and the world moved past them. Now they are teetering on the edge of bankruptcy (depending upon whether or not the sale of a few of their patents goes through), when they could have still been a multi-billion dollar behemoth in the world of photography. It's a lesson I've tried to remind myself of (weekly) since the late 1990s. Watching for those tsunami waves off in the distance (and "investing" in some early-warning equipment) instead of happily living life the way I've always lived it...until the morning when I'm wondering why the sea shore is temporarily hundreds of yards further away from the beach than it normally is.

One of the "tsunami waves" for our own company is what CampusTours has been doing to try and compete with us related to realism in their wayfinding and mapping depictions, i.e.: http://www.campustou...dine/index.html That crashed on to our company's shore a few years ago. Fortunately, they're still adding enormous mark-ups to those projects and/or haven't figured out how to reduce the billable hours to the point of competing more directly with our firm's services (their projects are still roughly three-times more expensive than ours). But people are hiring them, despite the substantial costs...and for every Pepperdine or FIT (CUNY) who does, that's less potential revenue in our pockets.
Derek Tonn
Founder and CEO
mapformation, LLC

datonn@mapformation.com
http://www.mapformation.com

#10
MapMedia

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Imus' map is making national news as well, beyond Slate.

Best Map of the US

Very impressive map and media coverage.

#11
Jacques Gélinas

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Super!
A bit of recognition for cartographers.

Jacques Gélinas
cartographer
www.cartesgeo.ca


#12
MapMedia

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In the article "almost every map we use is made by a corporation and outsourced abroad for fine-tuning"
Are they inferring that American cartographers outsource fine-tuning to Canadians? ;)

Joking aside, Charles and others have made excellent points. I strongly recommend jumping into the conversations on those sites - Looks like a little education from our corner is needed.
Glad Imus' work is bringing the spotlight on the craft, which is very much alive and kicking.

#13
ravells

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What a fantastic thread. Thank you all for contributing to it.

Create beautiful fantasy maps at the Cartographers' Guild
 

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#14
Holly B

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"Fast food map diet": I love it.




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