Neogeography Is Dead (According To Wikipedia At Least)

Ahh … paleogeography and neogeography; will the battle never end? The latter is a term used to refer to the combining of online mapping with data, incorporating classic cartography and GIS and exposed via Web 2.0 style mashups. The former is a term with dual meanings; one referring to the study of past and ancient geography and one being a pejorative to refer to the opposite and inverse of neogeography.

Good News

Both terms have their own entries on Wikipedia … at least they used to. Towards the end of September 2010 the neogeography entry on Wikipedia was deleted with the justification …

‘(it) isn’t even clear about what the term means. Not exactly a neologism (it’s apparently been used by various people – it doesn’t take much creativity to add “neo-” to a word), but a poorly defined term that has not gained general acceptance’

… while the paleogeography entry was revised to remove any mentions of the term being neogeography’s antonym.

Within the location industry the term neogeography has certainly gained general acceptance, from Di-Ann Eisnor (ex of Platial and now at Waze) being credited with first coining the phrase, to Andrew Turner’s book on the subject being published by O’Reilly in 2006.

Introduction to Neogeography cover

Maybe we need a new term in place of neogeography, one free from the pejorative comparisons between the new and the old ways of doing things? Web Mapping has been suggested, on Wikipedia, but to me that seems too focused on the map at the expense of the other innovative uses of geographic data which have little or no map associated with them.

For now though, neogeography may be dead on Wikipedia but the tools and techniques the term describes are very much alive and well, even if they lack a convenient, one size fits all, label.

Photo Credits: Pascal and Andrew Turner on Flickr.
Written and posted from home (51.427051, -0.333344)

Written by Gary

A self-professed map addict, Gary has worked in the mapping and location space for over 20 years through a combination of luck and occasional good judgement. Gary is co-founder of Malstow Geospatial, which provides handmade, professional geospatial consulting. A Fellow of the RGS, he tweets about maps, writes about them...
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Andrew Turner

Never fear – there is a deep discussion occurring that will be published soon in some Journals. This should give the clarity and credibility it needs.

I agree that ‘Neogeography’ has been repurposed and discussed in a way that makes it confusing and therefore suggests that it is akin to “Web Mapping”.

As you point out – doesn’t mean there isn’t a disruptive methodology and technologies that are changing the way people are interfacing with maps, location, and place – perhaps much to the chagrin of traditional vendors and researchers.

Andrew Turner

By the way, I would also cite many other references:


as well as the 90 year history of the term “Neogeography”

such as:

“between the extremes of the geopoliticians and the non-environmentalists, the neogeographers have adopted an intermediate position in which the effect of geography can be plainly traced in some instances in human conduct”. (Miller & Miller, 1944)

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