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

Ken Ganshirt @ Yahoo ken_ganshirt at yahoo.ca
Sun May 30 21:07:22 PDT 2010

--- On Sun, 5/30/10, Stephen Williams <sdw at lig.net> wrote:
> 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.

Most astute. I say that because it brings back a vivid memory of an observation my wife made about six years ago, the second time we were using our new personal navigation device to navigate in a large unfamiliar city. She observed that, while the GPS was a useful tool (because she didn't have to fight with the paper map and give me instructions), you still needed to pay attention to what was around you or you would have no better idea where you were with the GPS than without it. 

(Anything that meshes with something my wife observes *must* be astute. I'm sure you see the reasoning. ;-)

> 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.

We are rapidly heading away from that heavy human filtering by trained people for road maps. We (users) are the ones who do all of Google's filtering, now that they've dumped, first, Navteq and, later, TeleAtlas and gone with their own "mapping" efforts. They have teams who go out and drive around with the latest nav gear and cameras but after that it's pretty much automated. So we're the ones who filter and find and report the errors and provide the corrections. In many of the less populated areas of Canada Google's road maps went from not bad (Navteq) to awful (TeleAtlas) to horrid (Google's own efforts). 

Here's a discussion thread that's something of a commentary on the [not so great] quality of a couple of current products, for various reasons. It's not the only place you'll see similar cautionary observations.


Since that thread began someone in Ketchikan, or some of the thousands of cruise ship customers who visit there each year, must have bitched loudly to Google. I see they've recalibrated their maps since I offered that example and they now have the roads nicely overlaying their images on the aerial photos.


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