New pictures of our world
Humans have always needed maps, not just as practical tools for finding
their way around, but for their own peace of
mind. Maps help us make sense of the world and find
our own place in it. They reflect reality, and at the same
time create it; in our minds, the simplified images become real worlds
that shape our thinking and our actions.
In recent years, a novel combination of technologies has
transformed map-making, and map-viewing. They include
satellite images of earth, along with rapid access to those images via
the Internet, but also the Global Positioning System, which provides a
common language of location, worldwide. Finally, there are
techniques for assembling, via computer, data on any phenomena
that has a geographic location. That can be almost anything:
Wildlife habitat; crime; income in particular
neighborhoods; real estate development; or political contributions.
One of the most spectacular examples of this, and my personal
favorite, is Google Earth.
I became fascinated by this revolution in map-making.
With support from the Sloan
Foundation, I started exploring this field and reporting on
particular facets of it. On the left, you can find links to
my various map-related stories.