Cartographers Against Google Maps

from the holding-back-the-tide dept

Apparently, the head of the British Cartographic Society is no fan of Google Maps. She’s complaining that Google Maps doesn’t include the additional geographic information that makes maps so great, claiming:

“We’re in real danger of losing what makes maps so unique, giving us a feel for a place even if we’ve never been there.”

Except, that’s not quite true. After all, Google Maps allows all sorts of overlays and additional info. With Google Maps you can also get the satellite view, which is likely to give you a much greater feel for a place than a map. And, of course, many areas have the “Street View” feature as well — again, providing a much greater feel for a place you’ve never been. As for certain landmarks and such not being added to Google Maps, more seem to be added every day, and with Google letting people add their own information to maps as well, it’s only going to get better and better.

If anything, it seems like this guy is complaining not because Google Maps isn’t useful, but because she’s afraid that the need for traditional cartographers may not be as strong (which I doubt will actually be the case). Besides, if she’s so worried that certain information isn’t included on Google Maps, why not create a mashup overlaying all the info she feels has been left out — because that’s rather easy to do with Google Maps.

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Comments on “Cartographers Against Google Maps”

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So It's Come To This: (profile) says:

I have to agree with the cartographer on this one.

I’m usually one to side with Mike on these types of observations; technology doesn’t ruin anything… it mostly changes it for the better. But as an avid hiker and outdoors person, I feel that holding a map – partially for the details that are missing from Google Maps (with no mashups yet created) and partially because sometimes I’m not in an area to get or use Google Maps – enhances the adventure. Maps, when properly drawn/printed, are great tools and the intangible aspect (the feeling of properly navigating with them in the world) is something that Google Maps & Mapquest can’t give me.

That’s not to say I use traditional maps often or feel Google is ruining their business… its changing it – like all technology. And technology’s effect on the map is no different than other forms of distribution like audio/visual entertainment. The British Cartographic Society will have to evolve like all the others. But if they enhanced, or promoted, the experience of using a map in situations where the use of technology isn’t right or out of reach; they might be able to share the feeling of what makes maps unique – and probably promote other industries as well.

Lawrence D'Oliveiro says:

Re: I have to disagree with the cartographer on this one.

So It’s Come To This came to this:

But as an avid hiker and outdoors person, I feel that holding a map …

I fail to see what your point is. The existence of Google Maps isn’t in any way interfering with your Gods-given right to continue holding paper maps in your hot little hands.

Anonymous Coward says:

It can’t really put maps out of business. At least not yet. The technology isn’t there. For instance, I have a dog eared copy of a US road atlas I’ve had since I was 17. Its out of date by now, but most roads are there. But thats not really the important part. The important aspect of that book of maps is the literally hundreds of notes I have jotted in the margins. Everything from routes I’ve setup in highlighter, really good places to eat, things I simply found interesting, doodles, and of course the all important time tables(best time I’ve made going from point A to point B).

It may not sound that important, but it is. I need the ability to just randomly jot things down on a map. Its one reason I hate sat-navs in cars for anything other than going from place to place. I want to add liner notes. I want to circles and arrows and lines. And I want it to be as easy as picking up a pen and drawing on a screen. Without 2 minute windows vista bootup process.

Phoebe K says:

I’m a cartographer (retired). When I started we were making paper maps, at the end we were populating databases. Both require cartographers. Someone has to analyze sources to put in databases, control the aerial photography, and add features. The average person cannot analyze imagery and decide what all the features are. For a paper map you need to decide what to print, determine symbology, scale, and many other things before you print it. Google isn’t putting cartographers out of business, but rather using their skills in different ways.

crystalattice (profile) says:

What happens when your batteries die?

You can’t take Google Maps with you when hiking in the backwoods. And trying to read a topographic map on an iPhone just isn’t going to happen anytime soon.

Google Maps and other systems are not going to put traditional maps out of business. They will supplement it. And, as Phoebe said, cartographers are still going to be needed for making the underlying maps of Google or whoever.

Karl says:

Wiki Syndrome

The real problem with user contributions on Google Maps isn’t the lack of specific items, but the inaccurate inclusion of some items.

For example, I was looking for a hotel in Liverpool – which had been added to the map three times, by three different users in three different places – streets away!

So – rather than the information getting “better and better” as time goes on, it can only get less reliable. Unless an effective moderation system is imposed.

Anonymous Coward says:

I always said that Digital can’t put Film out of business – the quality just isn’t there, there is less richness of color, all its got going for it is convenience. It’s also not something tangible you can hold and rather than appreciating and learning from every shot, people would just waste hundreds of pictures without honing their skills a bit.

Yet we all saw what happened to the film SLR. a heartbeat away from completely dead.

I don’t see why how traditional cartographers are supposed to survive in the presence of web-based satellite-based networked maps. Their business will fall and will attract only a certain niche, like film, and in that process many of the best will disappear in favor of one or two overpriced companies with many of the features cut. much like film

Anonymous Coward says:

Hahah. I’ll take street views, near correct 3D terrain deformation, and high quality satellite imagery, and superb ease of use from the web over a cartographer’s illustration on paper when I want a fast map view of an area (and always when I’m looking for city/suburb information).

A ‘real map’ is still good to have for the sake of teaching your children how to fold it and of course how to read it, and it is nice to occasionally use a map and have one in case global information warfare burns out all our electronics one of these days…

But there is no way a typical paper map gives me more useful information than Google Maps does.

Hyrulio says:

Maps and the uh, suchlike.

Personally, I use GMaps to plan a journey (long, not local).. it’s just easier
It finds me Google’s easiest route, then I tweak the route so as to, say, avoid the M25, or make it more of a straight line.. whatev.

Then I have a map book in the car with me, in case of traffic, closed roads, a wrong turn, or just to know where I am on my journey.

Don’t even get me started on SavNavs… All I’m going to say is “Make the next available U-turn”

sedatedkitty says:

RE: i think she has a point

Where do we draw the line on technology!
We are using it more now then letters in the mail.
We are giving it more and inventing new tools so that we dont require the skill to source out information. What was once a task of hours of skilled paint work is now minutes in photoshop. though unintentional these new directives for the better are the weaker, it makes us from not having to think about it, to not having to plan it, put the work into it, sure we will still need cartographers. But for how long what about newspapers how long will it be before they become obselete. retail self serve lanes. more and more until its us working for it. “long live mankind”

If you require more information “Google IT”

dustin says:

Re: RE: i think she has a point

“long live mankind”…..what the hell? newspapers should be obsolete, i see 100’s each week lining the streets with no-one to ever pick them up. The same people that type a story into the computer ……will…….still type a story into the computer it just wont cause as much waste when its printed online. Minutes in photoshop? what about the years it takes to even understand everything it can do. And I hate when i go to pay at target and the cashier is coughing all over u and the money that she hands you. Self serve lanes are safer. Paper maps are dangerous while driving.:)
If you do not move with technology…… you don’t move.

Cranky Silicon Valley kvetch says:

Google Maps lacks detail

If you are ever needing the name of a lake or river or canal in Google Maps, good luck. There are many nature and unnatural features that are missing from Google Maps. I think they do a decent job with the maps and road locations in urban areas, but once you leave pavement Google Maps is worthless.
Their map details in many non-US locations are notorious for being inaccurate. They need to do more than just these crappy inaccurate overlays, they aren’t that useful since it’s a pile of steamy stuff or nothing.

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