Sunday, September 07, 2008

Internet Mapping: Bad or Good?

The President of the British Cartographic Society Mary Spence states that internet maps are ruining cartography and dumbing people down. Her main point is that while Google Maps et al are good for driving they do not label cultural sites that maps give. These cultural sites are what give knowledge to maps and drive people to inquire further into the area's culture and history.

The internet response is wide. Map Room blog sums up much of the reaction while GIS Lounge has a good rebuttal as well.

Since no one has asked Catholicgauze his opinion let me offer it. The first online interactive map tools were just driving directions. However, things changed as the online map companies realized people have a natural geographic interest in the world. Google Earth first was used as a tool to look at one's house but quickly became a free GIS program for the people. Almost all Google Earth users now use it for geographical information like the War in Georgia. Wikimapia users add geographical information to online maps to include everything from missile sites, Indian mounds, museums, and historical locations. 3D buildings, niche sites, and much more are being uploaded everyday by regular people turned online cartographers.

The truth is online maps are tools. Like all tools they have a good and bad use to them. Overuse of Google may be dumbing down are research skills but that is our fault. Educators need to teach that a library is still valuable, not that Google and Wikipedia are evil.

Fortunately online maps have democratized map making and are allowing for much more information to be viewed than a regular paper map to a much bigger audience. Geographers should embrace online mapping while giving helpful advice and information to the new legions of online cartographers and map readers. This is Geography's time to shine, let us not blow it.

1 comment:

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