US: 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, New York Times reports. 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. “Google will always show you freeway exits, but bird migration routes are harder to find,” she said.
According to the New York Times, there is no doubt that we will increasingly rely on digital mapping systems in our daily lives. They do assure, after all, that “you are never lost, you are never lonely,” as Eric Schmidt, the Chief Executive of Google, put it recently at a conference in Berlin. But for all their magical utility, there’s a risk, too, in becoming passive consumers of maps and geographic information.
“Maps are never completely neutral, and in many ways their points of view are somewhat arbitrary,” David Rumsey, the San Francisco-based collector of historical maps, has written, “even if fixed in conventions, we take for granted.”