Paleo vs. Neo – A Final Word (Plus A Helpful Venn Diagram)

When you’re on the inside of an industry looking in, you take a lot of things for granted. You fling terminology, acronyms and slang around, safe and secure in the knowledge that your audience knows exactly what you’re talking about. But when you’re on the edges of an industry, or even on the outside, looking in, all of a sudden that terminology becomes opaque, those acronyms obscure and that slang becomes misleading. When you’re on the inside, looking in, you forget all of this and sometimes all it takes is a simple question to ground you and remind you of this.

And so it was with my post on neogeography being removed from wikipedia; a flurry of email conversations with friends and colleagues resulted which can be paraphrased succinctly as “neo? paleo? WTF?“. I tried to write down the background to all of this geographic storm in a teacup, but that only served to confuse matters. So, with the caveat that this may end up fanning the flames rather than putting them out, in the end I came up with the following venn diagram to explain.

Paleo vs. Neo - A Helpful Venn Diagram

It goes something like this.

Paleotard and neotard are both pejorative terms. Paleotards are what neotards call practitioners of paleogeography; not the study of ancient geographies but users of traditional GIS techniques who look down their noses at the upstart Web 2.0, mashup and LBMS communities. Neotards are what paleotards call practitioners of neogeography; those same Web 2.0, maps, data and LBMS combinants.

Both look down their respective noses at each other mudslinging neotard and paleotard around disparagingly. But in reality neotards and paleotards are a minority. Both neogeographers and GIS users both intersect with the wider web mapping discipline and with the use of geographic data. It’s all just “geo” really.

So there we go; paleotards vs. neotards explained. Now hopefully we can all move on and forget about this.

Written and posted from the Intercontinental Hotel, Chicago IL (41.891017, -87.62403)

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