Digital Maps Don’t Always Tell the Whole Story

October 16, 2010 The New York Times/The Bay Citizen

Thanks to Google Earth and MapQuest and GPS and all the other digital mapping products, an image of where we are, or where we are headed, is always just a click away. These geographical services are so omnipresent, in fact, it would be easy to assume that there’s nothing left to map.

 But the blanket of digital geographic information doesn’t contain the whole story about the physical world we live in, nor does it necessarily offer an objective, value-neutral view. Bay Area map aficionados are pushing the boundaries of mainstream mapping conventions, and their work is both beautiful to behold and fascinating in the questions they raise about how knowledge is defined.

Rebecca Solnit, author of a new atlas of San Francisco called “Infinite City,” sees Google Maps and services like it, with their emphasis on retail outlets and driving data, as painting “a middle-class, consumer version” of a place.... (more)


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