Why are maps still so powerful?

Can a map reveal too much? How do they direct our thinking? From ancient atlases to satnav and Google, maps continue to be a key planning tool.

Rana Mitter hosts a discussion recorded at BBC Radio 3’s Free Thinking Festival at Sage, Gateshead between Vanessa Lawrence CB, head of Ordnance Survey and Professor Jerry Broton. They look at who owns the data? What are they doing with it? Who are they selling it to? Who has peer reviewed the maps?

Professor Jerry Brotton, Professor of Renaissance Studies in the Department of English, Queen Mary, University of London is the author of A History of the World in Twelve Maps and presenter of the BBC Four TV series Maps: Power, Plunder and Possession.

Vanessa Lawrence is advisor to the British government on mapping, surveying and geographic information. She is honorary vice-president of the Geographical Association and visiting Professor at the University of Southampton and Kingston University.

Available here.

Creepy cartography

A whirlwind introduction to the world of digital mapping technologies over at The Guardian today. Lots of predictable quotes, here are some of a selection;

‘The transition to print gave far more people access to maps. The transition to ubiquitous digital mapping accelerates and extends that development – but it is also transforming the roles that maps play in our lives.’  Jerry Brotton (academic) on the speed of technological change.

‘Before [Google Maps launched], we were on that old Mapquest thing – that was just an interface for loading a static map, really. But then Google… comes along, and suddenly you feel like you’re in this seamless interactive environment.’ David Heyman (map company founder) on interactivity.

‘The map is mapping us…[and] I am quite suspicious and cynical about products that appear to be innocent and neutral, but that are actually vacuuming up all kinds of behavioural and attitudinal data.’ Martin Dodge (academic) on data ethics

‘People should be free of the worry of some hi-tech peeping tom technology violating one’s privacy when in your own home.’ Chuck Schumer (Senator) on digital privacy

‘Every map… is someone’s way of getting you to look at the world his or her way.’ Lucy Fellowes (curator) on maps as political tools.

Scroll down the article to see ‘how technology is making us mentally flabby‘ (ha).