Tag archive for map

In English, null means nothing, nil, empty or void. In computing, null is a special value for nothing, an empty value. In geography, null tends to be what you get when you’ve been unable to geocode a place or an address and haven’t checked the geocoder’s response. What you end up with is a pair of coordinates of 0 degrees longitude and 0 degrees latitude, a point somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, south of Ghana and west of Gabon. It’s here that you’ll also find Null Island, if you look hard enough.

If you’re trying to get out and about in London today you’ve probably noticed that the Tube is on strike. Again. You could read the list of closed stations that are on Transport for London’s website and try and work out quite how, if at all, you’re going to get to where you want to be. Or you could look at a map.

Running between Edgware, Mill Hill East and High Barnet to the North of London to Morden to the South, the London Underground’s Northern Line stretches for 36 miles and takes in 50 stations. The line, marked in black on the Tube map, is a familiar sight to London commuters. But is the map of the line accurate? Does it reflect reality?

My morning’s reading today has been dominated by a map image that the UK’s Environment Agency released on December 6th that, to quote the Tweet, shows “the extent of potential flooding of London if the Thames Barrier wasn’t in place“. If you know London at all, it’s certainly an arresting image but like so many times when I encounter a map, I want to interact with it, move it, see whether where I live in London would have been impacted. So I started investigating.

Oh look. It’s another reworking of Harry Beck’s London Underground map. Ken Field probably won’t like it. This one is Doctor Who related. All the usual suspects are present. Each line representing one of the Doctors? Yes. Stations representing monsters and adversaries? Yes. Vague notions of interchanges between the lines? Oh yes.

In his book A Zebra Is The Piano Of The Animal Kingdom, Jarod Kintz wrote “when you’re a cartographer, having to make maps sort of comes with the territory”. He’s right. When your business is making maps you should be able to do just that. But what if you’re not a cartographer? What if you had to draw a map of the country you live in? From memory? What would that map look like?

The Wikipedia entry for George William Frederick of Hanover, better known as King George III of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, is full of details but misses out one key aspect of his life. In addition to concurrently being King, Duke and prince-elect of Brunswick-Lüneburg he was also a map addict and avid map collector.

About 2 years ago I wrote about something I called mapping the might have been; things that were planned and made it onto a map but which never came about. Now it’s time for the opposite; maps of things that haven’t yet come to be but which probably will. It’s less mapping the might have been and more mapping the will be.

Today’s digital maps, both on the web, on our mobile phones and in our cars are almost ubiquitous. But they’re not without their problems. They need recharging, updating and most need some form of network connectivity and that’s even before you look at the potential privacy aspects of who’s watching your position. But now there’s the next generation of portable navigation system.

We’ve become firmly accustomed to the instant gratification of Internet Time, which can be roughly summarised as “I want it now, dammit“. Nowhere is this more evident than in maps. If something is wrong on a map, we expect it to be fixed. Now. Ten or so years ago, it would be common to wait somewhere between 12 and 18 months for a map’s updates to be collected, validated and published. These days, thanks to our modern digital maps, we get our updates in more or less Internet Time and that means fast. It hasn’t always been that way.