When the invasion of Ukraine started, these images started popping up on social media and in the news so often that it seems like most of us have access to advanced satellite imagery intelligence in real time. […] But the role of commercial providers in acquiring and sharing so many images with such regularity is unprecedented. Their rise has made military-grade intelligence available to pretty much everyone who wishes to look into it.
What’s notable is that because the satellites are commercial, the images aren’t classified.
Apple Maps in iOS 16 will gain multi-stop routing, which I thought was a long-established feature on other platforms, as well as transit fare/card/pass integration. Apple’s new maps will also expand to more countries, and its detailed city maps will expand to more cities in the U.S., Australia and Canada. 9to5Mac has a summary.
Yesterday, reports that Google Maps had stopped obscuring satellite imagery of sensitive Russian military facilities spread like wildfire across Twitter. Only there was no official announcement from Google saying they’d done so, and while Ukrainian Twitter was seriously running with it, I wanted to see some confirmation from the mapping side. In the event, an update to Ars Technica’s story says that Google hadn’t stopped blurring the imagery—the imagery hadn’t been blurred in the first place. “A Google spokesperson told Ars that the company hasn’t changed anything with regard to blurring out sensitive sites in Russia, so perhaps none of us were looking closely until now.”
In Geographical magazine, Doug Specht and Alexander Kent examine some of the design choices made by media organizations mapping the Russian invasion of Ukraine. “Cartographic design choices over colour, layout, lettering and symbology, for example, all influence our attitudes and feelings towards the war in Ukraine. […] [B]y understanding how these choices (e.g., regarding the selection and classification of features as well as their colour and symbology) mask the nuances of reality, we can be better at reading the stories they are trying to tell.”
Relatedly, in a Twitter thread, Le Monde’s cartographic team explores the decisions behind one of their print maps (in French).
Bellingcat has launched a map showing civilian harm in Ukraine. “Included in the map are instances where civilian areas and infrastructure have been damaged or destroyed, where the presence of civilian injuries are visible and/or there is the presence of immobile civilian bodies. […] We intend this to be a living project that will continue to be updated as long as the conflict persists.”
In a Twitter thread, Levi Westerfeld explores how the New York Times graphics department changed its map symbology as the Russian invasion progressed.
In another Twitter thread, Nathan Ruser (see roundups passim) shares a variety of maps showing different ways of looking at the invasion, from momentum to front lines to territory held.
Writing in Foreign Policy, Mateusz Fafinski looks at maps of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, their disconnect with facts on the ground, and their use in propaganda. “Numerous news outlets and analysts produce maps of the war in Ukraine. These maps tend to follow a similar pattern. Areas of Russian advances get colored in red, sometimes augmented with arrows signifying the direction of Russian movements. Those areas are variously described as ‘areas occupied’ or ‘areas taken.’ At face value, these maps tell a story of significant Russian progress and control. But reports from the ground tell a more nuanced story.”
I got lost in the map of an imaginary country.
The Baedeker told me to look for the palace of government
and I found my great-grandmother
renouncing the head of a state that was never hers.
This is how “The Direction of Escape,” a poem by Sonya Taaffe published at online zine Not One of Us, begins. It is a poem very much about the current moment. Taaffe says, “The title is a line of Le Guin’s. The stories it contains are real.”
Where hot spots are literally hot spots. In a Twitter thread, Sotris Valkaniotis shows how military operations in Ukraine show up in Landsat spectral imagery: weapons fire turns up as hot spots showing “very high temperature in short-wave infrared band.”
Where the trains are still running. Ukraine’s rail operator Ukrzaliznytsia has posted a map (above) showing which stations are still operating—at least at that particular moment. [Christopher Miller/ТРУХА]
AppleInsider looks at how online maps (Apple Maps, Google Maps), especially their traffic layer, inadvertently revealed Russian troop movements at the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The sheer volume of mapping data now available at our fingertips means it was possible for civilians half a world away to see when Russian forces began moving. Specifically, that data pinpointed a traffic jam starting on the Russian side of the border, actively moving into Ukraine in the first few minutes of the Russian and Ukraine conflict.
Just as with any cartography, this information required interpreting. Google Maps did not specifically say that it was troop movements, nor was its satellite imagery up to the minute. During the process of researching this story, we’ve confirmed that Apple Maps presented similar inbound troop movement information—but it wasn’t setting out to do that either.
What these services did, though, was register all of the smartphone users whose driving was slowed or halted by unusual traffic conditions. Wherever the majority of the data came from, it was possible to determine what was happening when coupled with known details of Russian troop locations.
The Russia-Ukraine Monitor Map “is a crowdsourced effort to map, document and verify information in order to provide reliable information for policymakers and journalists of the on-the-ground and online situation in and around Ukraine. […] The pins on this map represents open source material such as videos, photos and imagery that have been cross-referenced with satellite imagery to determine precise locations of military activity.” It’s produced by the Centre for Information Resilience. [Boing Boing]
The digital globes will be available to view on the British Library website—www.bl.uk/collection-items—from 26 March, via a viewing platform which includes an augmented reality function (available on phone or tablet via the Sketchfab app). This online access will allow unprecedented up-close interaction with the globes from anywhere in the world and means that for the first time, a variety of previously illegible surface features on the globes can be read.
A total of 30 globes are being scanned this way. [The Guardian]