Maps, museums and census: Google earth community

June 28, 2007

“Censorship is only one part of a broader issue: Who controls the maps we use, and how much can we trust them? “Mapping has always been a tool of dominance,” says Michael Goodchild, the UC Santa Barbara geographer. “There is no such thing as an objective map.” It’s no coincidence, he says, that the last golden age of mapmaking was the colonial era, when cartographers were dispatched to catalog western Europe’s conquests around the world. James Rennell’s maps weren’t just an effort to understand India; they were a means to show, as he once said, “the advantages that may be derived from our territorial acquisitions.”

“Today the power still lies in the hands of the map makers. The only difference is that we’re all mapmakers now, which means geography has entered the complex free-for-all of the information age, where ever-more-sophisticated technology is better able to reflect the world’s rich, chaotic complexity. “Once you express location in human terms, you get multiple places with the same name, or political issues over where boundaries are, or local differences,” says David Weinberger. “As soon as you leave the latitude/ longitude substrate, you get lost in the ambiguous jumble of meaning. It’s as close to Babel as we get.””

Ratliff, Evan. 2007. “Google Maps Is Changing the Way We See the World.” Uploaded June 26, 2007. Accessed June 26, 2007.

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