July 16, 2004
Who Maps the Mapmakers?

My friend and mapmaker Jo Walsh (aka zool) writes:

"i spill out of the station with my bike, a three-lane motorway ringed with concrete blocks all of my prospect. i ask the station guard if there's a map here, or if he has any idea where i'm going. "ironically enough, i'm visiting the ordnance survey." "sorry, i'm not from round here," he replies. i set off down the carriageway and buy a geographers A-Z streetmap from a garage." [who maps the mapmakers, ad infinitum]

Why is it that most cartographers are hopelessly lost? Maybe I'm speaking from experience, but it seems like mapping, despite being one of the oldest exploratory traditions, is still quite young. Some people seem to think the world has already been discovered by people like Columbus and Magellan, but I think they just scratched the surface.

"the subjects of provenance, and of trust, layered on top of instance data, seem to be of strong interest; an interesting negotiation, between statements "that the [Ordinance Survey] has been imposing its view on england, its government and citizens, for most of the last 200 years... for the last 20, it's been listening to what the customer wants, and telling them regretfully they can't have it." but now perhaps there is a technological solution to their core problem; maintaining their IPR and status as trusted source, while allowing user contribution - but very much 'using' the users.

so they're looking for a killer RDF app, like everyone else. i maintain that the solution and the problem are the same thing; not a killer app, but a thousand interlocking sub-apps, enhancing each other; the swarm of bots, propelling themselves about a fluid continuum."

Jo gets it. She knows the power of RDF coupled with geo technologies. Defining space is about the name space and semantics. Trying to get well established companies and government cartography institutions to open up is a bit like trying to get your cat to take a bath. Even in countries like the United States, where government maps are more open, they still aren't reliable enough to use for generic things like driving directions, and the only other option is to lease expensive geographic feeds from companies like Mapquest and ESRI.

"The mapping and position-finding technology is all there, says Ed Parsons, Ordnance Survey's chief technology officer. "We know where you are, we know what you're looking at." The only lack is a business model for supplying data to individuals - and a PDA with attributes, such as a screen that can be read in daylight." [Gardian]

In this writer's opinion, community and open-source developers will be the ones forging the emerging cartography world, not a business model or better PDAs. Jo is the smartest girl I know, and possibly the smartest geek I know. The Ordinance Survey could greatly benefit the people of Britian if they open up and listen to cartography pioneers like Jo Walsh, who are often all too eager to hack shit up in the name of progress.

[Link from www.zooleika.org.uk]

Posted by nym at July 16, 2004 06:57 AM | TrackBack