Paul Georgie is working for the City Technology Platform as the City Engagement Lead. This Autumn the Map Portal will launch on the Open Glasgow Platform. Paul tells us why September is an important month for those who love all things geographic!
Between the satellite images of our homes to the phones taking over our pockets, it seems we can’t go too far without bumping into a map these days. New technologies and hardware have brought modern mapping to the masses, with almost all of us remembering the first time we gazed at the wonders of Google Earth. Paul Georgie, leading on the building of the Future City | Glasgow map portal, tells us why we should be excited.
Is this the Democratisation of Cartography?
Using electronic technology, no longer does the map user depend on what the cartographer decides to put on the map. Today the user is the cartographer.J.L. Morrison (1997) on the Democratisation of Cartography
Well, not quite yet… modern mapping technologies continue to be confined to ‘industry experts’ and not the majority. Navigating A to B and placing your business on Google Maps is not a mapping revolution, merely a taste of what can be done once you have the mapping data for yourself. However, legal and technical restrictions often prohibit regular citizens from utilising maps in creative, unexpected ways that reflect their own priorities and ideas.
Change is on the horizon. For almost a decade, a quiet revolution has been taking place amongst the benevolent mapping community. If Gerardus Mercator – famous among Google users for his cylindrical map projection (1569) – is their Santa Claus, then this month is Christmas.
September 2013 in the UK has been dubbed ‘Maptember’, with a chain of mapping events kicks off with State of the Map 2013; a conference organised by OpenStreetMap. If you haven’t heard of them yet, you will soon.
Since 2005 they have relied on volunteers to survey the planet and share the results. Progress has been good in and around Glasgow, with most of the basic features – main roads and buildings – now mapped. OpenStreetMap makes all of the mapping data available for all to use, not just the map images that have been created from it. If you are tired of your neighbourhood map not being current or complete, why not sign up and get involved?
Open source software: windows down, systems up – on the road with open data
A few years ago, you would have needed to splash out thousands of pounds to get your hands on the software needed to participate in the realm of digital cartographers. Now all you need is a PC, Mac or smartphone. Free and open source software has made giant leaps in the last few years and this month, the International FOSS4G Conference (standing for ‘Free and Open Source Software for Geographic Information’) will be in the UK for the first time. This will give Britain front row seats to a showcasing of the latest and greatest mapping software developments… And it is all free to use.
Mapping with OpenStreetMap
As an avid geographer, I am acutely aware of the lack of mapping data that has been available to the citizens of Glasgow. Having confidence in the benefits that open source software and open data can provide a citizen or community is only half the battle; getting a critical mass of Glaswegians to adopt such tools is the main ambition. After all, Google doesn’t know about the unique history, priorities or preferred future of your community, do they?
The Future City | Glasgow team will be compiling a series of themed map visualisations and will launch this autumn on open.glasgow.gov.uk.