What The Experts Fail To Grok About Google Maps

I wrote a super quick, super short comment to a recent editorial on Directions Magazine’s site:


My point was to indicate one of the important characteristics that I feel the editorial missed as it pitted experts against the wide-eyed, bushy-tailed novices creating Google Maps mashups. In a word — collaborative mapping. The ability for many hands, eyeballs, brains and sensibilities to contribute in a collective fashion to map making and world viewing. I’m going to start a new category — collaborative cartography.

I may’ve read your dispatch wrong, but calling for GIS experts to stay at their posts suggests a kind of narrow perspective on what’s changing in the world of locative media and services — collaboration.

Experts’ GIS systems for all their sophistication are far behind in their ability to provide the kind of massively multiparticipatory collaborative mapping that something as “basic” as Google Maps provides, right out of the box, and for a negligible cost. Pretty soon, if not already, GIS systems as we know them today will be as cranky and useless for their inability to dynamically correct through the collaboration of hundreds to millions of contributors.

There’s no questioning the sophistication of a self-regulating social formation of many, many cartographers working on creating maps of everything that matters to them, including the infrastructure maps you privilege. I could map right now, without ESRI and for all to see, including my local water utility, the leaky main in the back alley. Is the guy in the public works office downtown going to be able to do that? Maybe yes..but why should it’s right here 30 meters from where I sit?

Why do I blog this? I’m interested in the production of experts and expert knowledge. Not so much from the perspective of the knowledge itself, but mostly from the production of knowledge, how experts come to be experts, and how experts manage and police the boundaries between themselves and non-experts and the other way around — how non-experts situate themselves in relationship to experts and why.

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