On Last Week Tonight’s 17 February episode, host John Oliver took a moment to look at how New Zealand keeps getting left off world maps—the case of IKEA’s map poster being the most recent example. They are nothing if not helpful: as a solution, the show’s Twitter account has posted a cutout map of New Zealand to print and paste on any map that has left it off.
IKEA’s going to need extra security.
Here’s a silly Google Maps origin story about how “Satellite” was almost named “Bird Mode” pic.twitter.com/wj7CRJUEyx
— Bret Taylor (@btaylor) February 23, 2019
A lot of what we refer to on online maps as “satellite imagery” actually isn’t: the high-resolution stuff is usually taken from airplanes. This can be a point of confusion for some—and, according to this Twitter thread from Google Maps co-creator Bret Taylor, also a point of contention for the Google Maps team before it launched. Some engineers felt that calling the layer “Satellite” was factually incorrect—because of that aerial imagery—and therefore shouldn’t be used; others argued for “Satellite” based on label size and usability studies. It nearly got called “Bird Mode” as a compromise. [Boing Boing]
The Festival of Personal Geographies explores the use of art in creating personalized maps. Running until March 19 at several venues in Ames, Iowa, the Festival consists of an exhibition (“‘Index to a Place,’ an exhibition of prints, drawings and paintings that use the graphical languages of maps as a starting point in their creation”) and four workshops on personalized mapmaking. The event is organized by local artist Tibi Chelcea and hosted by ISU’s Design on Main Gallery. Free admission, free registration.
Our friend Alejandro Polanco’s latest project is The Minimal Geography Atlas, a collection of 40 thematic maps.
In my work as a map designer and science writer, I have collected over the past two decades hundreds of curious stories related to cartography or geography. These stories have seen the light of day in the form of hundreds of articles in magazines and blogs, as well as in posters or maps of very diverse types. Now, I’ve decided to compile my best maps and lesser-known but interesting curiosities from all that material I’ve collected over the years. The result is this book, an atlas designed to awaken your curiosity. The thematic maps that I have selected are part of the ones that I have created in the last years, improving them and adapting them for this book.
Alejandro is currently running a Kickstarter for the book. €18 gets you the digital edition, €65 the print edition (in softcover).
Don’t miss the New York Times’s scrollable map of the path of the Opportunity rover on Mars. (From a technical standpoint it functions much like their map of the U.S.-Mexico border.)
IKEA is apologizing after it was discovered that one of its BJÖRKSTA world map posters left off New Zealand. (Yes, that again.) IKEA says the product will be phased out; it’s still available in my country, for the moment. Note that there are three other world maps in the BJÖRKSTA series (which consists of framed pictures, including art, photos and maps); the other three do include New Zealand.
IKEA had better hope no one finds out about the map art that uses the Mercator projection.
The flurry of articles defending paper maps continues, and it can be tricky to separate them from one another: some are in the context of the Standfords store move; others are reprints of Meredith Broussard’s Conversation piece. But Sidney Stevens’s essay for Mother Nature Network is its own thing. It acknowledges both the downsides of paper maps (they get damaged and outdated) and the advantages of digital maps (“GPS”) before looking at the advantages of paper maps. It’s well-researched and well-considered.
By law, I am required to share every xkcd comic about maps. Today’s makes great fun of pop versus soda maps—the maps showing where in the U.S. carbonated beverages are referred to as pop versus where they’re referred to as soda. Randall takes things to their ludicrous extremes, as he is, by law, required to do.
On Sunday Tom Patterson announced that the Equal Earth Physical Map is now available for download in JPEG, Illustrator and GeoTIF formats. Unlike its political counterpart, no territorial boundaries appear on this map (though cities do). Not having borders doesn’t mean that Tom and his collaborators won’t get into trouble with the names of natural features, though: I note they use Sea of Japan rather than East Sea, for example (see above). But, importantly, they’ve released the map into the public domain: if you don’t like their labels, or their choice of cities or colours or textures, you can make changes to the map and put out your own version.
Previously: Equal Earth Gets a Wall Map.
Paper maps continue to find their defenders. The latest is Meredith Broussard, author of Artificial Unintelligence. In a piece for The Conversation, she applies her argument against what she calls “technochauvinism”—the idea that the digital and the technological are always better—to mapmaking. “Technochauvinists may believe that all digital maps are good,” she writes, “but just as in the paper world, the accuracy of digital maps depends entirely on the level of detail and fact-checking invested by the company making the map.” Errors on paper maps are more forgivable because, she argues, we recognize that paper maps fall out of date.
She also distinguishes between surface and deep knowledge, and associates digital maps with the former and paper maps with the latter, but there’s a risk of getting cause and effect spun around. “A 2013 study showed that, as a person’s geographic skill increases, so does their preference for paper maps,” she writes; but it doesn’t follow that paper maps lead to geographic skill. Those with poor map-reading abilities may do the bare minimum required to navigate, and nowadays that means using your phone. [WMS]