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Thursday, 30 April 2015

Map is Power

The map above converts complex statistical information to
chunks of  relevant knowledge pieces
This is part of my submission to International Map Industry Association (IMIA) blog
Like many cartographers, I am always fascinated with maps. I could be staring at any floating globe or spending quality time with my atlases. Maps has been one of the best graphical tools to convey knowledge. Knowledge is Power. Hence, Map is Power too!
Through my personal globe and many atlases, I came to know the vastness and complexities of the world. Maps simplify the complexity of world into chunks of knowledge relevant for the audience. For example, atlases have many thematic maps which shows the interrelationships of nature and mankind. A thematic map reduces multiple relationships to a simpler one where you and I can understand the world. Since the dawn of mankind, maps has served to further progress of humanity. From finding food to 3D modelling of disasters, maps have informed us what to do. Hence, Map is Power!
Like what other blog contributors mentioned, most of the map history is dictated by the professional surveyors and cartographers. Vast majority of the populace lives by and accept the standards and shapes determined by map-makers. Hence, the power of maps and the knowledge conveyed to the world is predetermined. With the advent of technologies and global geographical volunteers, the centre of power has shifted away from the map-makers. Today, non-cartographers(or surveyors/GISers) are the forefront in providing the new geographical information and most importantly, new maps.
I captured a lot of free geographic information for many years but there wasn’t a platform for me to make it publicly available. Then, I stumbled upon the OpenStreetMap and it was Power in action. As I am from Malaysia, freely available datasets (we take granted this in developed world) is very hard to be obtained. OpenStreetMap provided me and other geographic volunteers to break down the mammoth dataset barrier in front of us. Before Google Maps showed all the bus stops locations of my home state, I filled up the bus stops and route paths on Open Street Maps. Other users also chipped in by updating the attributes. It is clear example how new technologies are bringing power of maps to a bigger audience. Maps impact people and people impact maps.
With the advent open source datasets and open source technologies, maps are empowering more people than ever. Civil society and individuals are creating maps more than ever in history of mankind and interpreting the world in their unique ways. Barriers are coming down and map mashups are everywhere. Geographical analysis is advancing further and giving new insights to businesses and governments. We know exactly where to put our store or next school. We can visualize predictions using time-lapse features of various GIS software. Don’t you feel map is so empowering? Map is Power.
In conclusion, in our current lifetime, we have seen how maps have empowered us. More importantly, we, both the consumers and producers, have been empowered to shape the maps. Maps will continue to evolve (from drawings on ground to virtual reality) but always to stick to its main purpose. Conveying knowledge in a simplified manner and giving us the power to act. Map is Power!
Danesh Prakash Chacko, volunteer/pro-bono GIS consultant in Melbourne (Australia)

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