Mapping the Maps
Monday, June 25, 2012 - 03:14 PM
The past few weeks have seen bumper to bumper traffic in the streets of – pardon the conceit – new media cartography.
Two weeks ago, Apple announced plans to revamp Maps in iOS 6, despite immediate comparisons to Google’s likely superior maps platform. Then last week, Peepol.tv, a project that will create a searchable map of livestreaming news, won a Knight News Challenge grant. And in the month of June alone, OTM’s colleagues at WNYC have been on a true mapping-spree; their efforts range from cultural (places mentioned or visited in Mad Men, the filming locations of Lena Dunham’s Girls and Law & Order SVU) to civic (a map of abandoned bicycles across the city, and most recently, one of shifting demographics in New York’s Sixth Congressional District).
The recent map-making buzz is the latest in a trend in news, media, and advocacy over the past few years. Earlier this month, OTM talked to Lauren Wolfe, who curates a map charting sexual violence in Syria; the project brings to mind a similar enterprise called HarassMap in Egypt. In the U.S., maps have become a bold tool for homicide coverage from the Philadelphia Inquirer and Homicide Watch in Washington, D.C. Maps have even entered the world of environmental advocacy. Consumers interested in checking out their carbon footprint can use a site called Sourcemap to trace how the parts of a given product – say, a laptop computer – are mined, assembled, transported, and distributed in steps that crisscross globe.
Other recent maps elevate the trade to art. In 2011, artist and self-described bricoleur Brian House created a smartphone navigation app called Serendipitor that charts a deliberately circuitous route between any origin and destination. House’s latest work – to be released later this year – will transform a year of his personal location-tracking data into a musical record. And finally, for less abstract, but aesthetically pleasing, map art, maps.stamen.com changes any coordinates or location into a watercolor.