In truth, maps are emblematic of mankind. The act of mapping is about trying to locate oneself within a geography of space and emotion. The human impulse to pinpoint "place" is about giving order to a complex topography of physicality and personality.
Today, easy access to data and technology has opened a door to a new host of personal map renderings. Interactive, customizable tools allow individuals to create a visualization of his or her own depiction. For this reason, maps are the new meme, more prolific than ever.
In fact, the Wired article, "Uncharted territory: amateur cartographers fight to put their communities on the map," highlights a crowdsourced project called OpenStreetMap that aims to compete with Google's "authoritarian" "agenda" by putting the power of place back in the hands of local inhabitants.
Another data-rich resource is Mapline, formerly known as Topo.ly. This tool allows anyone to build a map from Microsoft Excel spreadsheet data. Major companies use Mapline to visualize store locations on their web pages. Journalists build heat maps of trends and figures. Political scientists drill down on electoral results and polling statistics. For their part, students can take advantage of our favorite reference series, The Almanac Of American Life, to chart a changing America.
- Personal geography explores memories, nostaligia, and playfulness
- Active mapping brings out cultural identity through shared “third spaces”
- Locative stories enhance connections to neighborhoods by archiving a community's history
- Maps are not a product, a visual artifact, or a fixed entity to read for information -- they are a representation of truth as corrective of past injustices
- Participatory maps engage real-world challenges and offer experiential, hands-on learning
- The study of geography fosters relational literacies, multimodal design, and critical thinking
- Maps for centuries were top-down creations, made by the elite and pushed to the populace -- digital maps now subvert this hierarchy
The tools featured below are incredibly useful for this kind of hands-on, experiential mapping. All of these applications tap into emerging digital technologies. Some of them involve a bit of programming know-how, while others are user-friendly smartphone apps:
|Source: Logos of referenced sites|
For other ideas on the new nature of mapping, check out: