For my Show & Tell spot at the Theoretical aspects of interactivity class, I would discuss some of the ideas brought up in Norbert Weiner’s ‘Cybernetics in history’ essay, concerning my thoughts about contemporary cartography and community GIS.
Here are some ideas I would like to go over in class:
- Note: even the term cybernetics refers back to a spatial metaphore – the steersman.
- I am especially imterested in Weiner’s concepts of Control and Communication, I think there is a lot to learn about control mechanisms from classifying them as a part of the same thing.
- In the case study I’m proposing here I will try to discuss a contemporary shift of mapping from a technology of control to a technology of communication (and in some cases, even resistance of control).
- The classic role of the map maker, the cartograper, was to apply the rulers of the land (or the ones attempting to overrule it) with a visual representation of man’s control over the space, it’s resources and it’s inhabitants. Today new technologies allow for a new mapping-literacy, turning the map and it’s details into a continuous question.
The question of space
- while we were brought up with this cross cultural concept of the world map, I never really bought it.
- Not until I saw Keyhole Earth Browser for the first time (later turned to Google Earth). It’s not the 3D terrain or the idea of seeing a satellite image, i’ve seen those a thousand times before. It is actually the zoom. [present Google Earth in Class, if not available present this].
- With the new technology I can get a continuous sequence of realistic imagery zooming from the extent of the abstract world map-like photography to a zoom-in level that presents imagery equivillent to what I can see with my bare eyes. I see that as a radical change of perception.
- Google Earth understands that. Nasa’s World Wind doesn’t.
- The abstract graphic world map that until now have forced me to believe it as an unquestionable truth, has for the first time brought up a persuasive argument.
- With that out of the way (for now) I can continue to the second question.
- In a way this level of mapping as convincing as it might be, can be refered to as the way Einstein & Newton approached science – the modernistic rationality approach, that unlike Gibbs’ approach did not manage to be flexable enough to encorporate probability. The next step for cartography was indeed unprobable.
- Geographic Information Systems is a field in technology that has been around for a very long time. Companies like ESRI have been developing systems for the digital presentation and manipulation of information on a map. Their clients are big companies organizations and universities that can pay for the expansive, high-end industry level software tools and for the proffesionals to work them.
- Online mapping services like Mapquest, Google Local and Yahoo Local have slowly created a buzz for a different level of cartography – the end-user level. Meaning low-cost, no-brainer, flexable, and easily broadcastable GIS systems.
- The APIs (Application Program Interface) allow for accessable building-blocks for the (almost) end-user. A kind of ‘an invitation to hack’.
- Mapping Hacks flourish on the web – using the APIs to present variable GIS data from grafitti images from flicker to mapping of
starbucks branchspublic toilets / wifi hotspots.
- These community layers, now available even in Google’s desktop mapping application introduce a whole new market (?) of end-user / unprofessional / decentralized cartographers.
From Location Aware Technology to a Location Aware Culture
- In his Essay Weiner says: “To live effectively is to live with adequate information”.
- I believe the use of the map to visualize a search-engine results is creating a very interesting situation.
While we were trained by the search engines’ design conventions to believe the order and ranking of the search results. We are slightly troubled by the way they are portrayed on the map.
- more than portraying any result, every community map is a map of the digital devide. And while in other circumstances we would dismiss these arguments and move on, in the case of the search we feel decieved. It’s as if our search results would look like that, or our image search present that.
- To quote Weiner again: “The more probable the message, the less informative it is. Cliches, for example, are less illuminating than great poems.”
To conclude I would argue that location aware technology is making us a more location aware society. The map visualization of the digital devide portrays the first world as a cliche. Global awarness and cultural interest are the somewhat unpredictable yet very important by-products of this new trend in contemporary cartography.