21st Century Mapping: An 8 part Series ; Part 3: Its ALIVE!

I decide to go for ramen, but I’m not sure yet where I want to go, I pull out Yelp and use the map function to see the star rating of ramen places in my area. Once I have decided which delicious noodle house to eat at I put the address in Waze to find out how long is going to take me with the current traffic and then I use a ride share app to call a car and watch its ETA through a symbol of the driver approaching my location. I send my friend a pin of where to meet me once I get there so that they don’t get lost. When I leave the restaurant, I notice that it is a particularly clear night in LA and pull out my star tracker app, which uses my location to tell me which stars and planets I should be seeing in the light polluted sky.

Maps and GPS are integral to the ways we interact with our phones, and more apps than you realize, such as social media, educational based apps, and even streaming services all require location services. Our location information is incredibly important spatial data, as it shows where we live, work, and spend our money. Large companies are constantly using this data to make decisions about where to send products, open new locations, and target potential buyers through ad campaigns. Since the birth of the internet, companies have been competing for the best online map interface, which are free to users under the condition that the companies collect data on the place you are accessing their map from the computers IP address and the destination. Mapquest, launched in 1996, was the first company to provide an online map that would calculate the best route based on the user’s point of origin and destination. Google followed shortly after with a revolutionary map interface that allowed the user to change the scale of the map through zooming and re-centering functions that quickly became the standard for all other online map programs. Finally, the ability to change the type of map, such as satellite image, street map, topographic, weather and climate, traffic, or other spatial demographic data.

The online map became the most versatile map because it could be changed in real time to reflect the most accurate data, or can be combined with other websites, such as Craigslist or Zillow to show available rentals or housing prices. The map was liberated from a stagnant 2D fixed extent paper image and became alive, malleable to the users needs and desires, accessible at the click of a button. In the 21st century, maps have become integral to the ways we interact with our media and have become an interactive user interface and design opportunity. Online maps have changed the ways in which we approach mapping and understand the world around us from the comfort of our devices. 


Image credit to the Smithsonian: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/geography-of-frankenstein-180956964/


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