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#1
gotbisco

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I tried to post the below in response to the nascent discussion on my introduction thread here: http://goo.gl/aMECB


"Hello all...Thank you for the welcome, I'm glad to have found this great forum. I'm sorry I missed the chat unfolding here. I was on deadline for the final edit of a big piece from my previous project and had to step away from cartography. Now I'm back though and excited to jump in.

I recently came across a cartographer in an article who said that no map is made apolitically, or without an agenda. That is to say, even if the cartographer is simply acting as an agent working for a commission, the motivations behind that commission (from the client) are geared towards an agenda of some kind. This idea intrigues me, that even the most basic and rudimentary maps--of the kinds Hans van der Maarel mentioned--are created w/ some particular ambition. As I'm sure many of you know, maps have been integral parts of disputes throughout history, often within land disputes, but also within disputes over what a comprises a space, and who or what lives there.

An argument can be made against this idea that all maps exist b/c of an agenda, but it's fascinating to think that it might be true. Especially since so many people now use maps, and are as dependent as they've ever been on maps to sort out all this data we have, as you guys mentioned already.

Maybe i should bring this discussion over to the general topic threads, but I wonder what some of you think about Google's agenda w/ their maps. Do you detect agendas from the design of Gmaps? Of course they want their maps to be used by the biggest # of people--more users means bigger ad revenue. But do you think there are additional motivations behind their cartographic decisions? Is it in their interest to not indulge in the craft of robust map making? I think I saw someone here refer to Gmaps as cartographic fast food. That fascinates me--that so many people lean heavily on a fast food map diet to navigate their worlds.)"


I wanted to put that here and ask the board, what do you think Google's agenda is w/ map making? And has that impacted the field as a whole?

#2
Dennis McClendon

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I think their agenda is the same as most other reference map creators: to provide a useful tool. In the case of the Times atlas or National Geographic, the tool itself is sold. In the case of Google, the tool brings eyeballs to the screen where ads appear.

To say that every map has an agenda is no different than saying every book written has an agenda, or every thought spoken aloud has an agenda. The agenda may simply be to enrich the knowledge of the world, but it is still shaped by the culture and world view of the author.
Dennis McClendon, Chicago CartoGraphics
chicagocarto.com

#3
gotbisco

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I think their agenda is the same as most other reference map creators: to provide a useful tool. In the case of the Times atlas or National Geographic, the tool itself is sold. In the case of Google, the tool brings eyeballs to the screen where ads appear.



That seems like too much of a simplification of the Google Map agenda, to just be useful. It's useful to a particular kind of user, isn't it? For someone who wants to get a car from point a to point b as quickly as possible. Or walk the shortest distance b/w two points. Or find a coffee shop. That's not going to a useful tool for someone who wants to know the least densely populated portion of a city, for example.

#4
frax

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I disagree with the thought of Google's cartography as 'fast food' - I think the cartography is very solid and a fine craft. It is general though, and one model for the whole world (more or less) so it may not work for all (thematic) uses.

Oh, and I think you are loading the discussion with just using the word 'agenda' - it might make more sense to talk about 'business plan'.
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#5
Dennis McClendon

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That seems like too much of a simplification of the Google Map agenda, to just be useful. It's useful to a particular kind of user, isn't it? For someone who wants to get a car from point a to point b as quickly as possible. Or walk the shortest distance b/w two points. Or find a coffee shop. That's not going to a useful tool for someone who wants to know the least densely populated portion of a city, for example.

Creating "a useful tool" is not the same thing as "creating the only possible tool." My can opener is useful for several tasks—but not for opening corked bottles of wine. Does that mean the creator of my can opener "had an agenda?" Or simply created an object he thought might sell? Does owning a can opener prevent me from also owning a corkscrew?
Dennis McClendon, Chicago CartoGraphics
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#6
gotbisco

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That seems like too much of a simplification of the Google Map agenda, to just be useful. It's useful to a particular kind of user, isn't it? For someone who wants to get a car from point a to point b as quickly as possible. Or walk the shortest distance b/w two points. Or find a coffee shop. That's not going to a useful tool for someone who wants to know the least densely populated portion of a city, for example.

Creating "a useful tool" is not the same thing as "creating the only possible tool." My can opener is useful for several tasks—but not for opening corked bottles of wine. Does that mean the creator of my can opener "had an agenda?" Or simply created an object he thought might sell? Does owning a can opener prevent me from also owning a corkscrew?



Before we veer into a debate of semantics, maybe I should simply ask, how do cartographers see Google Maps impacting their profession? A broad question I know, but w/ so many people using the Google Maps service, and thus maps in general, I'd image the impact on the field of cartography is significant. I'd also imagine that there are many illustrations of this impact...perhaps along the lines of clients who want their maps more Google-like. I don't know, really, but that's what I'm curious about. Moreover, I'd imagine that aspiring cartographers--young highly-computer literate map makers--see the web-based Google-like or Google Maps as a potential outlet for their professional work. That's what I meant by Google's agenda...how their work has affected the field and profession of cartography, on a very particular in-the-cartographer's-studio level.

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Dennis McClendon

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how do cartographers see Google Maps impacting their profession?


There are several aspects to that topic. Google Maps is not the only widespread and heavily used worldwide online map, so I'm not clear if you mean Google specifically or the general category that includes Bing, Nokia, Open Street Map, Michelin, and other web map services.
  • The ubiquity and omnipresence means that younger people in first-world countries now have an expectation that they always have a mapping service in their pockets. So the folded paper map business has suffered badly, even for foreign travel where the user must pay a premium for smartphone access. GPS/satnav in cars is also a big part of this.
  • The free, easy-to-use nature of Google and other map services mean that clients who once might have commissioned a custom map now find it easy to incorporate a Google map window or put a screen capture into a proposal.
  • The user experience of "slippy," multiscale tiled maps has become the norm, and those of us who had developed other approaches to putting maps on the web sometimes are pushed by clients to create a service that works the same way as Google.
  • There used to be a pretty clear design difference between American street and road maps, generally single-line roads using line weight to signify arterials, and European/Australian maps, with double-line roads using yellow to signify arterials. The decision by Google and others to use the European look worldwide has probably changed mapping tastes somewhat, though I've not been asked to change the look of any maps.
  • I think we're only at the beginning of a huge transformation in the way we see and use maps. For hundreds of years, we've been restricted by the two-dimensional nature of paper, so the information you could give about a feature on the map was restricted by space and readability. But the map as hyperlink opens an entirely new world, in which an object's location can give way to attributes of the object, and those attributes can in turn lead to very deep information about the object.

Dennis McClendon, Chicago CartoGraphics
chicagocarto.com




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