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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

2012 InReview: New cartographers

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While our Spacing Vancouver contributors continue their well-deserved break, we would like to take the opportunity highlight some of our most popular posts from 2012. Each day this week, we will be posting some of our favourite posts from last year.


New cartographers: How citizen mapmakers are changing the story of our lives

Originally posted by Christine McLaren on January 30, 2012

We see them every day, popping up on our Twitter feeds, filtered through blogs, or even scattered throughout the New York Times: maps portraying not the usual locations or destinations, but data.

From people’s kisses in Toronto, to the concentration of pizza joints in New York, to the number of women who ride bikes, to the likelihood of being killed by a car in any given American city, the list of lenses through which we can now view our cities and neighborhoods goes on, thanks to data-mapping geeks.

“The map user has now become the map creator,” is how Fraser Taylor put it to me in an interview. The director of the Geomatics and Cartographic Research Centre at Carleton University, Taylor is one of the world’s leading cartographers, standing as the director of the International Steering Committee for Global Mapping and a member of the United Nations Expert Group on Global Geographic Information Management as well as a host of other major international mapping organizations.

He describes what’s going on as an enormous cultural shift from a previous era when the mapping of our cities (or countries, or world, for that matter) was placed mainly in the hands of government mapping authorities.

But even more importantly, Taylor says, we are also mapping new things—intangibles like social phenomena, feelings, impacts, and more.

“Individuals inside cities and elsewhere are creating maps for themselves and in fact giving us their own narrative of what a cityscape is about. They are telling us what is important to them, and they’re mapping the kinds of things that previously would not be mapped,” he says. “It’s becoming part of the creation of a culture of a city.”

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