For the Love of Maps

7 years ago

What's a better fetish for a traveler than maps? I love them -- not just maps of where we're going right now, but maps of other places, maps of imaginary worlds, maps redrawn to show what things are really like. When I first moved to Seattle and learned about the Great Outdoors, I was still a working artist and much of the best work I did at that time was on topographic map -- I'd acquired a great pile of them from a friend who had been unable to throw them away. I've also been picking up old guidebooks here and there, and while the information they include is wildly out of date, the maps of walled cities and mountain elevations are enchanting. We have a handful of atlases, too, states have changed, borders are not in the same place they once were, whole countries are divided and redivided and divided again.

I thought of my affection for maps while reading this post (complete with gorgeous pictures) on Intelligent Travel.

Twenty years ago, when Connie Brown decided to become an art mapmaker (sans formal cartographic training), she didn't have an inkling of how difficult it would be to put "places on a two-dimensional plane and deliver clarity without chaos. Making it beautiful is the easiest part." Despite her "profound ignorance," Brown's maps are some of the most interesting--and beautiful--I've ever come across. They blend art, science, and storytelling. -- Mapmaker, Mapmaker, Draw Me My Life

I'm nutty, just nutty, about Strange Maps, a blog devoted to the subject of maps ancient and recent, information displayed as cartography,sometimes making perfect sense, other times, just causing more questions about how the map-maker saw the world.

So firmly does Shufelt and a little staff of assistants believe that a maze of catacombs and priceless golden tablets are to be found beneath downtown Los Angeles that the engineer and his aides have already driven a shaft 250 feet into the ground, the mouth of the shaft being on the old Banning property on North Hill street overlooking Sunset Boulevard, Spring street and North Broadway.-- Secret Caves of the Lizard People

Last summer, while traveling to Chicago, we used the WonderMap, a technology mashup built by the folks behind Travellious -- it let people see where we were going and leave suggestions -- and let them see pictures of where we'd been.

First, what this map is, is a representation of everything these three bloggers do, see, and say. You can track where the roadtrippers ARE, where they are going, see the photos they have taken, the blog posts they’ve written, and even their tweets - all on one convenient page. You can even make suggestions! How easy is that? Very, I hope, because accessing that huge mass of information simply and easily is precisely why I made the map. I couldn’t even imagine how many photos, posts, and other stuff three active bloggers would make…much less how you could keep track of them via their respective sites and services. Checking 3 different Flickr accounts, Twitter, AND a blog didn’t sound like fun. So I set out to make something do all that for me, and be fun to use. --More about the WonderMap

Google Earth lets you add geotagged photos, as does Flickr, and there are plug-ins that will let you geotag your blog posts, too. You can get memory cards for your camera that will capture geotagging info with the photo and let you upload straight to the web. I haven't tried a lot of this stuff, but with a GPS enabled phone, a camera, and a decent connection, there's all kinds of ways to make virtual maps of your travels. Uncornered Market has a series on this, here.

Geotagging our photos is a critical step in accurately documenting our journey. If we use a GPS device and some freely available software, we can batch process and associate our photos with detailed location data (within about 50 meters).

We also use our photos to help us tell a story about our experiences. However, we’ve traveled to some places that are unfamiliar to many (even some geography majors). That’s where geotagged photos come in. The answer to the question “Where is Kochkor, Kyrgyzstan?” becomes an experience rather than a one-dimensional text description. -- Geotagging your Photos, Part 1

I'm still learning how to take advantage of GPS and easy technology mashups. If you've got something cool and mappy that you've done, I'd love to see it. Share, why don't you, in the comments.

Nerd's Eye View

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