Another Geolocation Horror Show, This Time from South Africa

Remember the farm in Kansas that, thanks to an error in MaxMind’s geolocation database, became the default physical location for any IP address in the United States that couldn’t be resolved? It’s happened again, this time to a couple in Pretoria, South Africa, who received online and physical threats and visits from the police because IP addresses that were from Pretoria, but whose precise location couldn’t be resolved any further, defaulted to their front yard. Kashmir Hill, who covered the Kansas incident, has the story for Gizmodo. It’s a fascinating long read that burrows into the sources of geolocation data and the problematic ways in which it’s used.

In this case the problem was traced to the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, which assigned the lat/long coordinates for Pretoria to this family’s front yard. The end result: one home becomes the location for one million IP addresses in Pretoria. (The NGA has since changed it.)

The problem here is twofold. First, a failure to account for accuracy radius: a city or a country is represented by a single, precise point at its centre. That’s a real problem when the data point being geotagged can’t be more specific than “Pretoria” or “United States,” because the geotagging is made artificially precise: it’s not “somewhere in Pretoria,” it’s this specific address. Second is the misuse of IP location data. It’s one thing to use a web visitor’s IP address to serve them local ads or to enforce geographical restrictions on content, quite another to use that data for official or vigilante justice. The data, Hill points out, isn’t good enough for that. [MetaFilter]

Previously: A Geolocation Glitch Creates a ‘Technological Horror Story’.

More on Stanfords’s Move and Paper Maps’ Comeback

Another article on the comeback of paper maps that is really about the move of the venerable map and travel bookstore Stanfords’s London store to new digs, this time from Nicholas Crane in the Financial Times. He maunders a bit, as do many map aficionados when we get started, and ends up becoming a paean to Stanfords’s old paper maps as much as anything else. [Gilles Palsky]

Previously: Stanfords Cartographer: ‘Paper Is Going to Make a Comeback’; Stanfords Is Moving.

The Washington Post Maps the U.S.-Mexico Border

The print edition of today’s Washington Post maps the fences and walls along the U.S.-Mexico border. The online version, which I seem to have missed when it was posted in October, offers a much more detailed look: it’s an interactive, scrollable map that offers a flyover view of the border, fenced and unfenced, as it passes through farms, ranches, towns and impossibly rugged terrain between the Pacific and the Gulf of Mexico.

Jake Berman’s Modern Maps of Old Transit Networks

Jake Berman

Among artist Jake Berman’s many map-related projects are a series of retro transit maps—modern maps, in a modern style, of transit networks as they were in the past. Above is one example: Los Angeles’s long-defunct Pacific Electric streetcar network as it was in 1926. Other maps include San Francisco’s cable car network circa 1892, the Chicago L in 1921, the New York subway in 1939, and more. Posters, naturally, are available for sale. [Atlas Obscura]

BNSF’s Map Archives

BNSF is one of the largest railways in North America. It’s the end product of a series of rail mergers, and as such it has records for all its antecedent railroads. Including, as an item posted to its website this month reveals, maps, which BNSF is now in the process of digitizing.

Some of the most historically significant maps that BNSF has are maps filed by our predecessor railroads. These maps depicted the beginning of the railroad as we know it, and were often the first official survey of some of the more remote areas of the developing West.

Many of our vital maps were found in boxes or stashed in file cabinets or storage rooms. “We went to 200-plus locations going through thousands, if not tens of thousands of boxes,” said Obermiller of the conversion. “Now we are preserving the most vital maps to ensure we are retaining our vital records and are good stewards of our heritage.”

No word in the piece as to whether those records are available to researchers or the public.

DuckDuckGo Now Uses Apple Maps in Search Results

Google integrates its maps into its search results: synergy! What, then, is scrappy upstart search engine DuckDuckGo, which makes a point of not tracking its users,1 to do in response? Answer: use Apple Maps. “We’re excited to announce that map and address-related searches on DuckDuckGo for mobile and desktop are now powered by Apple’s MapKit JS framework, giving you a valuable combination of mapping and privacy.”

Satellite Image Guide for Journalists and Media

Pierre Markuse’s Satellite Image Guide for Journalists and Media:

So you would like to use a satellite image in your article and you would like to explain it to your viewers? Here is a short guide covering some of the most frequently asked questions and giving some general explanations on satellite images. It by no means covers all aspects, as there are far too many types of satellite images, but should give you a good start to find out more on your own and maybe motivate you to create your own images, which has become quite easy and quick even with no prior knowledge of it.

Complete with examples of imagery, examples of how to use it properly, and links to resources.

16th-Century Hand-Drawn Maps Imitate the Style of Printed Maps

Seven maps from late 16th-century Mexico are the focus of a 2018 study by University of Seville researcher Manuel Morato-Moreno (Cartographica article, press release). Part of a series of maps sent back to Spain by local administrators, the maps are hand-drawn, but imitate the style of printed maps: the hatching deliberately evokes woodcuts, while the animals are reminiscent of cartouches, sea monsters and other illustrative elements. But the maps also incorporate Indigenous design elements.

Although all the maps were done in the European style, they also show some characteristics that suggest the influence of indigenous cartography, like footprints on the routes and eddies in the rivers, in which fish can also be seen on the surface of the water. Having these indigenous conventions in coexistence with European cartographic characteristics suggests an effort to adapt the two cartographic styles to each other. “The authors of these maps might have unconsciously mixed European and native conventions,” the researcher adds.

In addition, the experts have identified the influence of another renaissance practice which originated in the portolan charts: drawings of figurative scenes of indigenous people and animals of the region, like deer, rabbits, vultures and armadillos. “Possibly the disproportionate representation of these animals is a way of emphasising the animal species that were characteristic of the region, or, as in the case of the armadillo, highlighting those exotic species that were unknown in Spain.”

More at, and via, Atlas Obscura.

The Indigenous Peoples Atlas of Canada’s Giant Floor Map

Indigenous Peoples Atlas of Canada Giant Floor Map
Canadian Geographic

As I mentioned in my post about the Indigenous People’s Atlas of Canada, the atlas project includes the four-volume physical atlas, an online version, and teaching resources that include a giant floor map from Canadian Geographic. CBC News has more about that giant floor map, which at 11 × 8 metres is so big that it has to be displayed in the gym when it’s taken on tours of schools. See also this video.

Previously: Map of Indigenous Canada Accompanies People’s Atlas; The Indigenous Peoples Atlas of Canada.

Map Digitization Updates from the Library of Congress

Bird's eye view of the city of Jamestown, Chautauqua County, New York
Bird’s eye view of the city of Jamestown, Chautauqua County, New York, 1871. Map, 50 × 71 cm. Library of Congress Geography and Map Division.

In a year-in-review post earlier this month, the Library of Congress’s map blog took a look at some of the maps that had been digitized for the first time in 2018. (Here’s the equivalent post for 2017.) For more frequent updates, the Library’s Geography and Map Division provides monthly lists of maps that have been scanned and added to their online collections, but they’re PDF documents and not very readable.

Another Book Roundup

Thomas Reinertsen Berg’s Theater of the World is reviewed in the Washington Post by Lorraine Berry. See previous entry. [WMS]

The Huffington Post excerpts some maps from The Golden Atlas: The Greatest Explorations, Quests and Discoveries on Maps, and talks a bit with the book’s author, Edward Brooke-Hitching. [WMS]

The British newspaper i looks at a recent rush of coffee-table map books, starting with DK’s History of the World Map by Map: they interview retired journalist Peter Snow, who wrote the introduction to that book. [WMS]

We’ve seen a flurry of pieces about the future of paper maps lately; that’s the jumping-off point for PBS News Hour’s interview with Betsy Mason, one of the co-authors of All Over the Map: A Cartographic Odyssey, which I reviewed last month. [NYPL]

Providence, Provenance and an 1841 Map of Lafayette

Colby Bartlett “took a chance” on a water-stained 1841 map of Lafayette, Indiana he found at a pawn shop, where the asking price was $80. But his research into the map’s origins took a completely unexpected turn. The Lafayette Journal and Courier has the story about how Bartlett inadvertently discovered the Tippecanoe County Public Library’s missing copy of the map before the library realized it had gone missing. Believe me, you want to read this. [Tony Campbell]

The London Medieval Murder Map

London Medieval Murder Map
Screenshot

A project of Cambridge’s Violence Research Centre, the London Medieval Murder Map is an interactive map that plots 142 murders from the first half of the 14th century onto one of two maps of London: a 1572 map from Braun and Hogenberg’s Civitates Orbis Terrarum or a map of London circa 1270 published by the Historic Towns Trust in 1989. The interactive map is powered by Google Maps, but the Braun and Hogenberg is not georectified, so the pushpins shift as you toggle between the base maps. [Ars Technica]

Giant 1940 Model of San Francisco Digitally Assembled

WPA model of San Francisco (David Rumsey Map Collection)

A massive wooden model of the city of San Francisco that has not been on display, at least in one piece, since 1942 has been re-assembled as a virtual model by the David Rumsey Map Collection. Built by the WPA, the model was assembled from 158 individual pieces to form a massive, 42×38-foot (12.8×11.6m) model at a scale of 1:1,200, and represented a snapshot of the city as it was in 1940. It’s available as a single composite image, as well as images of individual pieces; a Google Earth layer enables the model to be viewed at an oblique angle and superimposed on modern satellite imagery. Sections of the model itself will be on display at various branches of the San Francisco Public Library as part of Bik Van der Pol’s Take Part project; the exhibits will take place between 25 January and 25 March 2019. [Boing Boing]

Previously: Urbano Monte’s 1587 World Map, Digitally Assembled.