Esri has agreed to pay $2.3 million in back wages and will review its compensation system and provide training as part of a conciliation agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor, the department announced yesterday. The case dates to 2017, when, in the course of a federal compliance evaluation, the department alleged that Esri engaged in systemic pay discrimination, paying 176 female employees less than their male counterparts. Esri entered into the conciliation agreement voluntarily.
Benjamin Tran Dinh (previously) has built an interactive isochrone map of Europe that shows you how far you can go by train from a given station in five hours (assuming a connection time of 20 minutes, which is an approximation: generous if same-station, less so if you have to cross the city). The map updates as you move the pointer across it, which is a lot of fun.
The isochrones are generated from data from the direct.bahn.guru site, a site that is worth looking at in and of itself: it shows all the direct connections from a given station, i.e., everywhere you can get to on a single train. That site, in turn, gets its data from the Deutsche Bahn via a legacy API that is necessarily incomplete and only covers destinations reachable from Germany. But there are no complete datasets of European transport routes, so this’ll do. [Maps Mania]
Transit is an entirely different paradigm, and transit systems and their data are more complex and less standardized: these are among the reasons, Reece argues in today’s RMTransit video, why using your phone’s mapping app to navigate while using transit is a less satisfying experience than it is when driving, or even walking or cycling.
Rebecca Solnit points to a 2020 study that attempts to measure the impact of using GPS navigation devices on our spatial memory. After assessing 50 drivers, researchers found that drivers with more GPS experience had worse spatial memory when navigating without GPS. But more significantly, it’s a longitudinal study: 13 of the participants (admittedly a small sample) were retested three years later, and greater GPS use correlated with a steeper decline in spatial memory.
This is a single study, and a small sample, so I’m hesitant to draw firm conclusions. And in any case it’s not necessarily a surprising conclusion: the more you rely on a tool, the less able you are to do without it. Well, yes. When we talk about how GPS is destroying our ability to navigate or read a map, there is a presumption that this is an objectively bad thing. Except that I’ve encountered too many people who couldn’t navigate their way out of a bag before GPS. A lot of people who let their GPS receivers get them lost were, I think, pretty good at getting themselves lost without it.
The question isn’t whether GPS use atrophies an individual’s ability to navigate: that’s like worrying that a calculator reduces your ability to do sums in your head, or that a word processor excuses you from knowing how to spell. Of course it does. Those of us who are good at navigation (or sums, or spelling) and think an important skill is being lost will clutch our pearls, but making something easier also makes it more accessible. The question is whether people are, on balance, at a societal level, getting lost less often. That’s not a question neuroscience can solve, nor something you can test with an fMRI. I’m not sure how to measure it, or even if it can be measured. But I’d love to find out.
Vacationland: Mapping History in Maine, the Osher Map Library and Smith Center for Cartographic Education’s latest exhibition, “looks at tourism through the lens of travel and transportation, quite literally the mapping of tourism in Maine from the mid-19th century to the mid-20th century. This exhibition invites you to think about the changing landscape interventions created by and for tourists, as well as the impact such changes had on people living in Maine year round, and upon the environment.” This exhibition opened on 15 June and runs until 11 October; reservations required for social distancing reasons to visit the gallery in person. It’s not yet online; the Osher usually gets an online version up a little later on.
I bet you’ve been wondering what I thought about Peng Shepherd’s novel The Cartographers (William Morrow/Orion, March 2022). After all, it’s a literary fantasy about maps: is it even possible for a book to be more relevant to my interests? Well, wonder no longer, because I’ve reviewed it for Strange Horizons.
This piece is a little bit different from the usual review, in that it examines The Cartographers in the context of mysteries and fantasy that deploy similar map tropes, as well as the idées fixes our culture has about maps. As I write in the review, there’s an awful lot for me to unpack:
I have been writing about maps for nearly two decades, and in that time I have encountered many works of fiction that incorporate maps and map tropes into their storytelling, whether as paratexts or as plot elements, and I have never encountered a story, at any length, as thoroughly encompassed by maps as The Cartographers. It’s not just that almost every character in the book works with maps in some fashion, whether as a cartographer, artist, librarian, map dealer, or technician. Nor are maps just a plot point—they are the point. The Cartographers is a Stations of the Map: its pilgrimage follows a path that touches on so many aspects of maps and mapmaking, from academic cartography to fire insurance maps. It spends time on the purpose and meaning of maps: it aspires to an almost Socratic dialogue. It deploys familiar fantasy genre tropes about maps. But it’s structured as a mystery novel, and opens with a murder.
This exhibition presents many of the most historically significant manuscript maps from the late medieval and early modern period from the Beinecke Library’s vast collection of maps. It is focused on portolan charts—large, colorful charts that showed the shoreline of the Mediterranean, and were used by sailors to navigate from port to port. These maps were crucial to the expansion of European trade in the fiftieth and sixteenth century. Yale University Library has one of the most significant map collections of this period and owns some unique items not found in any other collection. […]
This exhibition presents maps from several different historical groups and demonstrates how maps functioned to place people within a larger world context. While primarily focusing on European maps, it also includes Middle Eastern and Asian world maps to illustrate common elements and also highlight significant differences. In addition, the exhibition presents some map forgeries and how they were determined to be fakes using scientific and historic analysis.
On that last point, yes, the Vinland Map will be a highlight of the exhibition, as will the Aguiar and Beccari portolan charts, the Martellus world map, and the Abenzara map.
The exhibition runs until 8 January 2023. Lectures will be taking place in the fall.
The production of Dillwyn’s allegorical map was unusual for Friends who disdained the visual arts as worldly and pernicious. Quaker abhorrence of art makes this image singular at the same time it demonstrates their adaptability to a new mode of educational instruction. Yet Quaker plainness was retained. Dillwyn’s map made use of little color, had few illustrations, contained no human figures, and relied heavily on the written word to convey meaning.
A couple months back, I floated an idea for making some fun trading cards based on map projections. I’m very happy to report that several dozen of you responded and contributed designs to help make the set happen. I’ve been spending several weeks on managing everyone and working through logistics, and I’m pleased to now be able to offer a pre-order of The Projection Collection.
The cards can be pre-ordered here, with delivery later this year (or pickup at NACIS). Each pack has 16 cards, with complete sets not available by design—these are meant to be trading cards in the classic sense. Pre-orders will close on July 6, so you have until then.
Bloomberg has the story on the Climate Shift Index, which maps the impact of climate change on daily temperatures in the U.S. It doesn’t quite work the way you’d expect at first glance: the index, ranging from -5 to +5, measures the calculated impact of climate change on the current temperatures. This video explains how it works, as does the FAQ.