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29 August 2008, 09:48

Map reading skills threatened by Internet maps

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Mary Spence MBE, president of the British Cartographic Society, has complained that map reading skills are disappearing as people rely more on Internet and satnav maps to get from A to B, during a speech at the society's annual conference in London.

Spence also felt that the locations of the thousands of churches, stately homes, woodlands, follies and other landmarks were disappearing from the public consciousness and suggested that people were becoming scared of reading more traditional paper maps because of their reliance on technology.

"Corporate cartographers are demolishing thousands of years of history – not to mention Britain's remarkable geography – at a stroke by not including them on maps which millions of us now use every day," she said. Spence demonstrated by showing the lack of the Science Museum, Royal Albert Hall and Natural History Museum from Google Maps view of South Kensington. "But it's not just Google" said Spence, "it's Nokia, Microsoft, maps on satellite navigation tools. It's diluting the quality of the graphic image that we call a map."

Ed Parsons, a geospatial technologist at Google said maps were changing because the way people used maps was changing and pointed to the ability for people to selectively include data which could include landmarks or create their own maps.

Open source could have a major part to play in the preservation of Britain's historic cartography. The OpenStreetMap (OSM) project is an open source project which is building a free map not based on any copyright or licensed map data.


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