‘Mapping the Planet’

My final piece on ‘Mapping’, is how it is ok to look elsewhere for directions! In my previous blogs I started with talking about counter-mapping, and then went on to talk about the morals in the Google Map business. To close I would like to mention an organisation challenging the fierce market of global positioning and GIS that is ‘Open Street Maps’.

To begin with, it is worth talking about how sometimes, large corporations can get it wrong on the maps. A classic example of this happening was in Mildura, Victoria, Australia. Apple maps, was created by Apple California, to replace Google Maps on the iPhone. In 2012, many issues became apparent to Apple with their maps, the Mildura example being one of them. Victorian Police over two months in 2011 rescued 6 separate people from the Murray Sunset National Park. These people were trying to get directions to Mildura, but Apple maps, sent them astray on a different route, more than 70 kilometres away.’ “Inspector Simon Clemence, said he is concerned with people using Apple maps will get themselves in to trouble. If it was a 45 degree day, someone could die” (ABC News, 2011). This example is one of many International cases, which show how online map glitches, can cause disturbances in the real world. Users take the maps very seriously, so it is important for them as up to date and as correct as possible.

I think it is safe to say, that sometimes, maps made by locals, may translate a little safer than a cartographer working in California. Whilst Google and Apple may have representative professionals working on the ground in each country, it would be a lot cheaper for the company to ask for society input. There are alternatives in the sphere of mapping.

‘OpenStreetMaps’ is exactly this, people are able to edit and add stories on to the map, to create a ‘neutral and transparent’ (S, Wroclawski. 2014) version of cartography. Anyone with Internet access can add to the map and edit existing data, keeping it up to date. This concept is helping to reduce the global divide between the elite powerhouses and society. Counter-mapping is a concept describing this action. Counter-mapping is a progressive way to keep the power of place and history as un-biased and as free as possible. Companies like ‘OpenStreetMaps’ and ‘Urban-Crawl’, are moving from “tracking the individual line of enquiry through GPS to impersonating tour guides in offering alternative histories of the city”(C, Johnston. 2011). It is a different way to go about your original route.

Something started in a BCM232 tutorial with our tutor Trent, was an exercise to re-map UOW. I took this exercise very literally and began to use OpenStreetMap program called Stamen, to create my own version of the UOW map. It may be something that UOW could take further? If you read my first piece on mapping, you would have remembered my story of the ‘Use It’ Vienna map made by locals. I think it could be a really interesting project for UOW to release a ‘made by locals for locals” concept map to UOW in O-Week. It could be improved each year with café and building updates. It could make the somewhat boring map into a creative, intriguing one, which at the end of the day is still presenting the same information, if not more.

Screen Shot 2015-04-04 at 8.07.54 pm Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 2.14.44 pm

Current UOW map in blue vs. OpenStreetMap UOW in watercolour

Before this study, I did not look at maps as a form of powerhouse, but they are. They put people in their place, and they give people an identity in the world, which I never realized is as important as it is. Here are some further counter-mapping movements talked about over the years on TED Talks which helped bring to light to me the importance of mapping.

If your home isn’t on the map, you can imagine the amount of alienation you would feel? Erica Hagen on TED Talks, talks about her counter-mapping effort, to get the slums of Kenya shown on Google maps. As of 2009, these slums were an empty land space, on the maps. Therefore, a large proportion of the world just simply isn’t represented. They used ‘OpenStreetMaps’ to help put the Kibera slums on the maps (TED Talks, 2015).

Even more so, maps can be used to change emotion. Researcher, Daniele Quercia, created ‘Happy Maps’, which is a map that “takes in to account where you need to go, but also how you want to feel along the way” (TED Talks, 2014).

Maps need to also be altered when things like natural disasters occur. Delivery of aid after a natural disaster is slowed when a place is not mapped properly. Aid workers need to see roads and hospitals to deliver help. As of 2005 only 15% of the world was mapped in detail. Google created a piece of software known as ‘Google Map Maker’, to help empower locals on the ground to map their areas, unknown or inaccessible to cartographers (TED Talks 2009). This software is very similar to OpenStreetMaps.

So, as you can see in these examples and in the past pieces on counter-mapping, there are many alternatives to the mainstream mapping systems. Counter-mapping overall is a very interesting topic that deserves to be talked about and shared more. I do not think many people realize just how important maps are in our lives. Maybe Google maps and Apple is the quickest to access, but take a look at an alternative source every now and again, you might be surprised at what you find out.

BCM232: Blog 3: The Significance of OpenStreetMap

ABC News, “Apple maps strands motorists looking for Mildura”, ABC News, 11 December, 2012, retrieved from, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-12-10/apple-maps-strands-motorists-looking-for-mildura/4418400

C, Johnston, 2011. Urban Crawl – Counter Mapping, Retrieved from,


D, Querica, 2014, ‘Happy Maps’, TED Talks, retrieved from, http://www.ted.com/talks/daniele_quercia_happy_maps#t-12729

E, Hagen, 2015, ‘Mapping the Slums’ TED Talks, retrieved from, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lVkyBf_TM9s

L, Katragadda, 2009, ‘Making Maps to fight disaster, build economies’, TED Talks, retrieved from, http://www.ted.com/talks/lalitesh_katragadda_making_maps_to_fight_disaster_build_economies#t-76329

Wroclawski. (14/1/14). ‘Why the world needs open street map’. Retrieved from, http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/jan/14/why-the-world-needs-openstreetmap

uow map picture



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