Jonathan Crowe blogs about maps at The Map Room. His essays and reviews have been published by AE, Calafia, The New York Review of Science Fiction, the Ottawa Citizen, Strange Horizons and Tor.com. He lives in Shawville, Quebec.
The notion expressed in Monday’s xkcd, particularly in the alt-text—
OpenStreetMap was always pretty good but is also now really good? And Apple Maps’s new zoomed-in design in certain cities like NYC and London is just gorgeous. It’s cool how there are all these good maps now!
—is unexpectedly more on point than not.
In 2013 I wrote a screed saying that all online maps sucked: that no one map platform had a monopoly on errors. At the time Exhibit A for the suckiness of online maps was Apple Maps; since then, and particularly since 2018, Apple has been putting in the work. Not that they’re done, but still: the product is fundamentally better now than it was then. And it’s not like the other platforms have been idle in the meantime. No one platform is going to achieve Cartography’s ideal of the universal and accurate Map—that’s inherently unachievable—but better? I’ll take better.
Three updates to Google Maps were announced at Google I/O today. The big one is an immersive view mode that creates a digital model of a city from aerial imagery and Street View: it’s coming later this year to London, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Tokyo, with more cities coming later. It’s not just about 3D models of buildings—Apple’s got those—but also interiors, as Google CEO Sundar Pichai demonstrated in the keynote.
Also announced: an expansion of eco-friendly routing to Europe and making Live View available to third-party apps. More coverage: Engadget, TechCrunch, The Verge.
Plenty of cities’ subway maps have been reimagined in the style of the London Underground map. Cameron Booth, for example, has redone New York’s subway map in that style. But a map posted by a graphic designer named Sean to Reddit does the exact opposite: it reimagines the London Underground map in the style of New York’s subway map. Bringing the design language of Michael Hertz to Harry Beck’s sovereign territory is probably blasphemous in some quarters, but as a pastiche of the New York style? Cameron says: “Sean has absolutely nailed the New York Subway map style, and perhaps even improved upon it in places—I note with pleasure that all of his station labels are set horizontally, instead of the many varied angles used on the official NYC map.” His bottom line? “One of the best style mash-ups I’ve seen: technically excellent, well-researched and actually really informative. Wonderful!”
To follow-up on xkcd’s Madagascator cartoon (previously), I missed the fact that clicking on the cartoon at the xkcd website actually did something, but Keir caught it: it links to Drew Roos’s Mercator: Extreme, an online tool that allows you to have some fun with the Mercator projection’s excessive polar distortion by making any point on the planet the North Pole and which clearly served as Randall’s inspiration.
An update on the Gough Map Project from Bill Shannon. “The Gough Map Project has reached that ‘interesting’ stage where we are moving from either sitting on the fence and making no decisions, or making lots, but then rejecting them all. It is now time to reach some firm conclusions, and start writing.”
Among other things, the Gough Map appears to be a copy of, and updated from, an earlier (“ghost”) map:
And so, we now have still more questions as we turn over the possible scenarios. If the copying was done in the early years of Henry IV, when was the Predecessor made? And where? And why? And why was our copy made—and where? And, what about that shipwreck? And, especially, what about those red lines previously interpreted as “roads”: it seems quite clear that these were not on the Predecessor, which means it never was a road map. Indeed, as we have progressed, we have realised those red lines are, at best, routes. […] But one thing we feel sure of: Mr Gough’s map was never a high-quality, show-piece display object; it was a back-room, practical, work-a-day thing.
Over on Strange Maps, which like this here site is still a going concern, Frank Jacobs has a nice writeup of the history of perception maps. These are maps that provide a skewed or exaggerated view, usually of the United States, that favours their preferred part of it. The best known is Saul Steinberg’s 1976 New Yorker cover (“View of the World from 9th Avenue”) but there were antecedents. Frank covers the examples I mentioned in these previous entries: McCutcheon’s View; McCutcheon’s 1908 Cartoon. Plus a few others.
Out today from WBooks: Het Grote Kaartenboek: Vijf eeuwen cartografie [The Great Book of Maps: Five Centuries of Cartography] a book collecting 500 years of maps from the National Archives of the Netherlands. Edited by Ron Guleij, it also features eight essays by guest authors. (In Dutch, naturally.) We’ve seen other map books that focus on the holdings of a specific library or archive: I’m thinking specifically of Debbie Hall’s Treasures from the Map Room (2016), which presented maps from the Bodleian Library, and Tom Harper’s Atlas: A World of Maps from the British Library (2018). This one seems to be taking a look behind the curtain, with material on collection management (assuming Google Translate is not deceiving me).
France 24’s interactive map (right) covers both first and second rounds and shows results by region, department and commune. It is annoyingly unlabelled, which is a surprising choice for France’s English-language news service. Le Monde’s map uses a similar colour scheme—yellow/orange for Macron, grey/brown for Le Pen—but at least has mouseover labels.
Le Parisien’s maps aren’t interactive, nor are they particularly large, but they illustrate other aspects of the results, like the abstentions, voter turnout and differences vs. the 2017 vote. The Guardian’s maps are low on detail but provide similar information. Libération’s map, on the other hand, is a cluttered mess, showing each commune as a proportionally sized dot. [Maps Mania]
Justin O’Beirne notes that Apple’s new maps—which, remember, were first announced in 2018, so: for certain values of new—have arrived in Germany and Singapore. Also, he observes that Apple is adding cycling directions in roughly the same order the new maps rolled out in the United States: they were added to the Midwest in mid-April, and northeastern states at the beginning of the month.
In More or Less in Common: Environment and Justice in the Human Landscape, we take a look at how questions of social justice and injustice are essential topics to confront when trying to understand the human landscape. These questions must also be at the center of our attention as we challenge ourselves to build better, healthier environments in the future. Through maps as well as photographs, images, and data visualizations, this exhibition encourages you to confront stories about how environmental conditions have sometimes served to worsen inequalities along lines of social division. At the same time, our shared environment offers the possibility to bring people together across differences and the inspiration to forge new kinds of common action.
This is a hybrid physical/digital exhibition that can be visited in person or viewed online. It opened on March 18 and runs until December 28. See the Boston Globe’s coverage.