“A New Golden Age Of Maps”


Will Oremus heralds it:

Once the province of big, professional operations like Rand McNally and National Geographic, cartography is becoming a more democratic realm thanks to publicly available data and software tools. Thanks to online marketplaces and crowdfunding platforms, amateurs and hobbyists can now draw up maps with a niche focus and a geeky appeal and make a little money in the process.

So now we have maps like David Imus’ hand-drawn opus, which has found a market thanks to a rave review from my colleague Seth Stevenson. We have issue-focused maps like Alfred Twu’s fantasy high-speed rail map, which reignited a debate over the country’s stalled high-speed rail plans. We have interactive online maps that make a point or provide a public service, like Slate’s gun-deaths map or ProPublica’s impressively detailed New York flood-insurance map, which lets you compare FEMA’s official maps to the actual damage from Hurricane Sandy.

And then we have people making maps for the sheer fun of it. In that category is Simon Schuetz’s Kickstarter project to create a global “bucket list” map, filling in the borders of the world’s nations not with road markings and city names, but with lovingly scrawled illustrations of the one-of-a-kind sights you can see there.

Elsewhere, OpenStreetMap, a crowdsourced cartography project that has been open to contributors since 2004, recently held its annual State Of The Map conference. The project’s 2013 report yielded a meta-map, seen above, that illustrates the dates of map edits by color (green marks the oldest edits and white the newest, with blue and red in between):

While [mappers] were taking stock, it turns out the global open mapping effort has now mapped data on more than 78 million buildings and 21 million miles of road (if you wanted to drive all those roads at, say, 60 miles an hour, it would take you some 40 years to do it). And more than a million people have chipped away at this in an impressively democratic manner: 83.6 percent of the changes in the whole database have been made by 99.9 percent of contributors.

A close-up of edits to a London road map:


Previous Dish referencing OpenStreetMap here.