Open Source Computing and GIS in the UK

Travels in a digital world

Of Neogeography and Mashups

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Soooo, yesterday was FOSS4G 2006 Day Two, and the key point of interest for me was the interaction between the old-school learning-intensive traditional approach to GIS with the “anything goes” Google Mashup approach.

Several of yesterday’s speakers acknowledged the undeniable debt that web-based mapping has towards Google for lowering the barriers and raising the profile of the discipline, but some also pointed out that often this means abandoning core ideas in GIS such as coordinate systems, because you don’t need this knowledge to create a mashup.

As I learnt in Scott Davis’s very informative and interesting workshop in the afternnon, you can create a perfectly functional Google Maps clone in javascript with free imagery from NASA without referring to real world coordinates, but is that a map or a pretty interactive picture?

I think it is still a map, the London Tube Map isn’t an accurate location of what’s under the ground, but people don’t expect it to be geographically accurate. When creating maps that have the appearance of accuracy, should we be more upfront about the limitations of the data or applications we produce?

People who create Google Maps Mashups were described yesterday as NeoGeographers, which was the first time I’d heard the term. If you take that to mean that Google Mashups represent the rebirth of mapping, then it’s even more important that we acknowledge the limits of the maps, and in fact all the spatial data, that we create.

[Posted with my pda from the conference]