Neocartographers and the Ego-Centric Map

When was the last time you actually unfolded a map? Odds are you just pull up Google Maps/Mapquest/Hopstop or check your GPS-enabled phone/car for the right path. These new technologies and tools are changing our relationship with the world around us, putting us at the center. “We no longer go to maps to find out […]

When was the last time you actually unfolded a map? Odds are you just pull up Google Maps/Mapquest/Hopstop or check your GPS-enabled phone/car for the right path. These new technologies and tools are changing our relationship with the world around us, putting us at the center.

“We no longer go to maps to find out where we are. Instead, we tell maps where we are and they form around us on the fly,” says Jessica Clark in an In These Times article. The ubiquity of technologies such as GPS, mobile directional devices, interactive mapping tools and social networks is feeding a mapping boom, she says. Thanks mostly to Google Earth mashups, maps are being democratized, generating possibilities for self-expression and social action. Some examples:

  • Greenmap Systems engages local teams to chart their communities’ natural and green living landmarks, including farmers markets and fair trade shops.
  • “Locative artists” are attaching virtual installations to specific locales, generating imaginary landscapes. This also brings to mind Virtual Worlds like Second Life and Chipuya Town, a mobile social network that mimics Tokyo’s shopping and entertainment Shibuya district.
  • DIY mappers are walking or cycling routes while carrying a GPS tracker, and then uploading the results online. These amateur geographers often organize “mapping parties.” (Perhaps Stavros, Nokia’s “Position Art Genius” should join!)

A few more interesting initiatives include Who Is Sick?, We Feel Fine, OpenStreetMap, Doctors of the World, Visual Complexity, and Linkfluence’s Presidential Watch 08 Map. There are hundreds of these “neocartographers.” Make that thousands: any one of us can map our “ego network” thanks to a simple Facebook App.

All of the new information being added to maps may eventually create an “augmented reality” in which “layers” of information are available to us as we walk down the street. Indeed, maps are no longer just practical, they are personal, expressive, social, artistic, and– some would say–Big Brother spooky.

[via In These Times]

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