How Google and Apple's digital mapping is mapping us

Oliver Burkeman, writing for The Guardian:

“I honestly think we’re seeing a more profound change, for mapmaking, than the switch from manuscript to print in the Renaissance,” says the University of London cartographic historian Jerry Brotton. “That was huge. But this is bigger.”

If you have any experience with geography or cartography, you know we live in a truly remarkable era. Digital maps of everything make it easier to “go” anywhere. They reduce what economists call “friction”. Touring a street in Tokyo used to require spending hours on a plane. Now all it takes is firing up your web browser. Reducing friction causes disruptions, which can be both good and bad. On balance, I think it’s a good thing.

But, as Burkeman points out, we should always be aware of who is making our maps:

“Every map,” the cartography curator Lucy Fellowes once said, “is someone’s way of getting you to look at the world his or her way.” What happens when we come to see the world, to a significant extent, through the eyes of a handful of big companies based in California?

(Via Jon Christensen.)

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