Posts tagged as "history"

The Ubiquitous Digital Map (Abridged)

A lot of great conferences in the UK happen in London. But not all great conferences. For some, you have to travel a little further afield. Maybe to East Anglia. Or more specifically to Norwich, the county town of Norfolk. If you were in Norwich last week, you might have noticed that SyncConf was taking place and I'd been asked by ex-MultiMapper and co-founder of SyncConf, John Fagan to do a talk on something related to maps. How could I refuse?


SyncConf isn't a maps conference or a geo conference; it's a tech conference for the city's tech and startup community. So it seemed to make sense not to go full-on maps nerd for the conference audience but instead look at how we got to the current state of play where the digital map has become ubiquitous. It also allowed me to the opportunity to put a little bit of map porn into a slide deck.

This is how it turned out .. my slide deck and notes follow after the break.

Of Digital "Stuff" And Making Your Personal Interweb History

Back in July, I wrote about Big (Location) Data vs. My (Location) Data, which was the theme for a talk I gave at the AGI Northern Conference. The TL;DR premise behind the talk was that the location trail we generate on today's interweb is part of our own digital history and that there's a very one sided relationship between the people who generate this digital stuff and the organisations that aim to make money out of our digital stuff.

Once I'd given that talk, done the usual blog write up and posted it, I considered the topic done and dusted and I moved onto the next theme. But as it turns out, the topic was neither done, nor dusted.

Firstly Eric van Rees from Geoinformatics magazine mailed me to say he'd liked the write up and would I consider crunching down 60 odd slides and 3000 odd words into a 750 word maximum column for the next issue of the magazine.

Mapping The Might Have Been

The moment you make a map there's a fairly good chance that it will be out of date. There's nothing wrong with this; anyone who works in the cartography or mapping fields will tell you that one of the biggest challenges in making maps is not making the map, it's keeping it up to date once it's made. Geography is constantly moving, changing, flowing thing.

One of the most fascinating aspects of old maps is not so much looking at what's changed since they were made, though that is fascinating enough, but of what might have been but then never was.

Regular readers of this blog may have worked out that out of all the maps there are, my favourite is the London Underground Tube map. A browse through the London Tube Map Archive shows just how much the Tube network has expanded and contracted over the years and how stations have changed not only in name but sometimes in position as well. But some of these maps also show what was planned but which was never realised; as Trent Reznor once put it "all the what abouts, the might have and could have beens". Take a look at this map of the network from 1938.

Finding Inspiration And Teaching Myself Location History At The BCS Geospatial SG

With GeoBabel firmly put to rest, I was looking for inspiration when Andrew Larcombe asked me back to the British Computer Society's Geospatial Specialist Group to speak. After a week of drawing a blank, with Andrew sending gentle messages of encouragement via Twitter Direct Message (OI - GALE. TITLE. NOW!!) inspiration finally arrived from a variety of sources. Firstly there was Mashable's History of Location Technology infographic. Then there the brief history of location slides I'd used in a few of my previous talks. There was the rather fine 3D visualisation of geolocation history that Chris Osborne used at W3G and at GeoCom 2010. And then there were two questions that kept cropping up when speaking to people at conferences ... "this location stuff's only recent isn't it?" and "I can't keep up with this geo stuff, it's all moving too fast, where's it going?".

So I started to research this. I knew that location had a long history but I was taken aback to find out just how long that history was. I'd tended to think of the human race using longitude and latitude to work out their location sometime in the 1700's, about the same time as the race to make a working, reliable marine chronometer. It came as a bit of a shock to find out that longitude and latitude were first proposed in 300 BC and were first used to locate a position on the surface of the Earth in 200 BC. Focussing on use of location, on location sharing and on LBS/LBMS and putting GIS to one side I came up with A (Mostly) Complete & (Mostly) Accurate History Of Location (Abridged).

History Is Also Written By The Man From The Council With A Tin Of White Paint

"History is written by the victors". So goes the saying attributed to Winston Churchill sometime during his reign as British Prime Minister. I'd like to offer up a corollary to that saying, which is "History is also written by the man from the council with a tin of white paint".

I should explain.

I live in what used to be the rather grandly named Municipal Borough of Twickenham. Used to be. Twickenham as a borough was created in 1926 out of the 1868 Twickenham Local Government District. In 1934 the new borough absorbed the nearby urban districts of Hampton, Hampton Wick and Teddington. But when Greater London was created in 1965, Twickenham Borough vanished overnight, becoming part of the new London Borough of Richmond Upon Thames.

Grepping And Grokking The Etymology Of Grep

I've been thinking a lot about the etymology of place names recently. That's a slightly verbose way of saying that I've been thinking about the origin of place names and where they come from. Take London for example. That's pretty easy as most sources of information seem to agree that London derives from Londinium, the name of the Roman settlement from which the modern metropolis of London grew.

Then there's Teddington, the town on the River Thames at the upstream limit of the Tideway, where I currently live. Some people believe that the name derives from Tide's End Town; Rudyard Kipling was one of the people who subscribed to this version of the name's origin. Scholars though tend to believe that the town was named after a Saxon leader, called either Todyngton or Tutington, which morphed into the modern day name over the centuries.

More Location Tracking; This Time From Foursquare

Back in March of this year I wrote about deliberately tracking my journey by using Google's Latitude and unexpectedly tracking the same journey by looking at the history of my Foursquare and Gowalla check-ins.

By using the history function from Google Latitude I was able to put together a quick and dirty visualisation of the locations I'd been to but my check-in history added not only the location but also the place that was at each location.

During last week's Geo-Loco conference in San Francisco, Fred Wilson (no, not the guy from the B-52's) mentioned that you could feed your Foursquare check-in history into Google Maps and produce another quick and dirty visualisation of not only the places you'd checked into but also where those places were.