Accessibility and Geo-visualization

The TED talk posted by sah is very interesting and I think it is a perfect example of the exciting developments occurring in GIS and geo-visualization. The example of Bing Maps demonstrates the ways in which different technologies (photography from flikr and street maps) can be combined based on their geographic locations, enveloping the idea of a ‘canvas for applications.’ This video, however, also highlights the challenges associated with geo-visualization, which MacEachren and Kraak discuss in their article.

One of the aspects of the article that appealed to me the most was how MacEachren and Kraak pose the question of whether or not these technologies enable people to think differently about the world. Specifically, their question seeks to understand how creative thinking is impacted by these technologies. For example, a reason Google Earth has revolutionized the mapping world is due to the creation of “slippy maps.” Has this concept of a computer-based map, which displays the world naturalistically, changed the way we see the world? I would argue that it has and I think that the Bing Maps example highlights this well. The ‘mashing-up’ of different applications enables users to make connections that were inconceivable before.

I think that it’s also very important to consider that geo-visualization is always a work in progress—an issue that MacEachren and Kraak’s article exemplifies well—and needs to be supported by researchers. One of the concerns that arises from this development is the accessibility/usability of technology produced as a result of these advances. Interestingly, in a discussion I had about developing an application for mapping the accessibility of Montreal for those with disabilities, many individuals found that “slippy map” applications were very difficult to use. So, while this idea has completely changed the way many use and perceive geographic information, it has also potentially left behind individuals as well, perhaps solidifying a kind of digital divide. MacEachren and Kraak delve into this problem, but I think it cannot be stressed enough how important it is to consider these aspects during this development.

– jeremy

Comments are closed.