Subjective cartographies

We often think of maps as objective representations of geography. I would argue that objective maps are impossible: they always involve subjectivity. Take for example the classic Mercator world map: it shows the world from a European-centric point of view. Maps are an expression of political power, and at the same time they are a way to reinforce it.

Google Maps is quickly becoming our new default map. What does it mean when a company from Silicon Valley is behind our standard representation of place? These kind of theoretical questions are important, but the focus of this project will be the development of alternatives to Google Maps.

The Mercator projection is not the only way to create a map. For example: the equal-area projection faithfully represents the proportions of continents and shows how big Africa actually is. We need similar alternatives to Google Maps; alternatives that will never show us the “real” place, but that will each reveal something special about a place.

These alternatives can take on different forms. Here are two initial explorations I did:

  • The ‘35 days in NYC’ project is an experiment in finding more interesting ways to visualize GPS data.
  • The Barcelona metro travel time map shows the city from the point of view of a subway station. Distances on the map represent time instead of physical distance, and the standard map is deformed according to travel times.
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