[FoRK] Paper vs Digital maps -- tip of an iceberg?

Stephen Williams sdw at lig.net
Sun May 30 20:36:35 PDT 2010

On 5/30/10 8:22 PM, Ken Ganshirt @ Yahoo wrote:
> ...
> Thanks Jeff. Make that at least a nickel's worth. ;-)
> Seriously, it's those two observations of yours that prompt my question about working hard to find a balance. That is, let's not toss out the paper maps entirely just because we can fit the entire globe into our smartphones. That does us bugger-all good if we can't actually accomplish some of the things we need to with all that data due to the display limitations.
> This ties back somewhat to Asimov's short story linked in Sean's monomaniacal obsessing on the "tool vs crutch" thing: are we becoming/can we become too dependent on technology and, thereby, lose options that might still be quite useful to us? Specifically, in this case, if we toss analog paper maps altogether in favor of digital representations on electronic displays, we no longer give the cartographers a business case to produce them. It doesn't take very long before they simply aren't available. Then we no longer have any option.

Technology should boost us, but it should also train, reinforce, and 
strengthen our talents and ability.  A bad GPS interface gives you a 
context-less peephole of directions.  Not much different from watching 
and following someone's bumper.  A good GPS / maps interface would help 
you build and reinforce a mental model of the logical, spatial, and 
actual physical (through pictures, video, and augmented reality) space 
involved.  After using the app(s), you should be more likely to be able 
to navigate that or similar paths without the GPS than before.  If 
that's not the case (and it usually / mostly isn't) then it is a 
deficiency of the current apps.  I know that I often study an overview 
with G Maps / Earth of an area with twisty, complicated roads to get the 
actual geometry and directionality.  This is needed since constant turns 
can leave you with a mental map of road connections that has confused 

> At least not until someone develops real digital paper, e.g. a digital display as large and thin and energy-efficient and easy to read in bright sunlight and high-res and foldable (*not* rollable) as a real map. A digital display that can display all that lovely data we stuffed into our smartphone as well as if it was printed on paper and can still fit in a jacket pocket or purse.

What displays on the GPS / map apps?  Does that not need cartography?  
Whether it is rendered to paper or pixels, we need good editing.  Unless 
we're able to automated almost all of it now.  Aviation maps at least 
have heavy human filtering of information of interest.  Often, other 
than placement of the largest roads and bodies of water, a road map and 
an aviation map have little in common.

> Pretty tall order.
> "The form factor/user interface is the application. jb"  Indeed.
>         ...ken...


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