Morality And The Shady Origin Of Maps

Daniel Charles offers a fascinating introduction to GIS and the field's apparently shady origins.
May 29, 2005, 7am PDT | Chris Steins | @urbaninsight
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"At first glance, the value of GIS seems self-evident. It's hard to imagine a more innocent and enlightening technology than a map. Maps reveal the truth about our world, and the truth, as the saying goes, will set us free. Or will it?

...The real roots of digital mapping...back to the Cold War and to the U.S. Defense Department's secret campaign to assemble accurate maps of nuclear targets in the Soviet Union.

The Pentagon didn't invent the entire field of GIS, as Clark implies. Yet his search for the dark, hidden ancestors of modern mapmaking illustrates something simple and true: maps--like technological progress itself--are not inherently benevolent.

Geographic information systems extend the reach of the human imagination, but in the end, they mainly help people do what they wanted to do in the first place... Maps can show us the way, wherever we choose to go."

Thanks to Chris Steins

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Published on Friday, May 27, 2005 in Technology Review
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