Keep up with essential planning news and commentary, delivered to your inbox every Monday and Thursday.
Google Maps' 'Interesting' New Feature
"Interesting" is one of those garbage words that doesn't mean much; in different contexts, it's used to mean good, bad, weird, and (once in a great while) worthy of interest. So it was "interesting" when Google launched a new feature highlighting "areas of interest."
The deeply subjective notion of what is interesting seemed problematic (another deeply flawed word) to Joe Cortright. He cites a CityLab piece by Laura Bliss that compared the highlights in the more commercial Westlake neighborhood of Los Angeles to the richer but more residential Sawtelle, finding that Sawtelle seemed to be generously marked as "of interest" even on blocks where the only interesting things would seem to be people's houses.
Still, the word is slippery and Cortright's article in City Observatory goes on to say, "it’s a fair point to suggest that not everyone will find the same set of destinations “interesting,” and it’s likely, given capitalism, demographics and math, that any algorithm-based means of identifying interesting areas will tend to select places that appeal to the masses." Cortright suggests the solution to the "interesting” problem will come from more iteration on the concept of mapping points-of-interest, and he predicts that is likely to happen. "The more data (including everything geolocated on the web, including Google maps and listings, tweets, user reviews, and traffic data) are widely available to end users, and the more different the people who are crafting their own maps, the better we may be able to create images that reflect the diversity of interests of map users."