Lecture 4: Online Cartography:
Tools for Landscape Reading, Past and Present

Suggested Readings:

The most helpful additional reading for this particular lecture is probably the help documentation that comes with the online map software you use most heavily, especially Google Maps and Google Earth. There are myriad websites and apps for accessing online maps, and since many include functions that can be fairly technical, it generally pays to devote some concentrated time to learning their capacities.

If you'd like to learn more about the digital revolution in cartography, you have several courses available to you on campus, especially Geography 370, 371, 377, and 378, depending on the technical level of difficulty you're prepared to take on.

But if you'd like to do some reading on your own, these are solid introductions:

A. Jon Kimerling, Aileen R. Buckley, Phillip C. Muehrcke, Juliana O. Muehrcke, Map Use: Reading, Analysis, Interpretation (7th ed., 2012). (comprehensive, technical, but accessible introduction)

John Krygier & Denis Wood, Making Maps: A Visual Guide to Map Design for GIS (3rd ed., 2016). (easy and highly graphical introduction to GIS)

Denis Wood, Ward L. Kaiser, Bob Abramms, Seeing Through Maps: Many Ways to See the World (2006). (accessible overview of the many perspectives maps can offer)

Mark Monmonier, How to Lie with Maps (2nd ed., 1996). (a classic discussion of the ways maps can distort and deceive if you're not careful about the way you make and read them)

I. Opening Thoughts: The Value of Digital and Paper Both

The goal of this lecture is to show the kinds of online and digital cartographic information that’s now available on the Web. The best way to illustrate these is to explore them online in real time. Remember: you don’t need to memorize all the minutiae either the lectures, the readings, or exercises like the ones you'll be doing at the Map Library. Instead, we hope you'll focus on broad patterns and processes for understanding landscape change over time, and the tools available to us for exploring these patterns and processes. We’re giving you a toolbox of places you can when you want to find something out. This involves not just direct targeted searching in Google, but also simply rummaging.

Let's begin with a couple examples of the power of big data for online mapping:

https://earth.nullschool.net/#current/wind/surface/level/orthographic=-82.12,11.60,295 This map shows current wind patterns in real time. Distills complex wind data into vectors to show the direction and speed of the wind over the surface of the globe. Through this simplification, however, it’s also an example of how we distort things on maps to make them visible to us.

http://demographics.coopercenter.org/DotMap/index.html This places a dot on the map for every single citizen counted by the 2010 Census, then colors each dot according to the racial categories used in that census. The spatial patterns of distribution and segregation it reveals are quite remarkable. Only immense computer processing power now makes it possible for us to create such maps far more easily than could ever have been done in the past.

One problem with maps made from big data is that they are usually from the recent past. We have vastly more of them for the past 1, 5, 10, 20 years as a result of the digital revolution. If you go back further, you’ll find yourself before Google, search engines, HTML, the Web, etc. Get back to World War II and you’re back to an almost completely paper-based world. That paper world lacks the digital pointers that Google uses to rank its search results, which means that even when paper documents are digitized, they're still much harder to find than materials that were born digital. Quite different techniques--and entirely different frames of mind--are needed if you hope to find and use them.

That's one reason we're sending you over to the Map Library this week to look at paper maps, and why we want you to tour the UW Archives: to see the kinds of documents that cannot easily be found by digital search alone..

Powers of Ten title screen

We began the lecture by viewing "Powers of Ten," the classic 9-minute documentary produced by the modernist designers Charles and Ray Eames in 1977. Hired by IBM to do a documentary to give viewers a visual sense of the concept of "orders of magnitude," which raises a host of questions relevant to our study of digital maps (and maps in general): the film illustrates what happens when we zoom in and out of something, and the amount of information we're able to observe at different zoom scales. The question of resolution (what we would now call pixels, ) has always been a problem for map-makers. How much information can be contained within a resolution of a unit scale? This film is about the relative size of things in the universe and the effect of adding another zero. It begins with a picnic, zooming out by a power of 10 every ten seconds to convey the macro-level vastness of the known universe. It then zooms back in to convey that same vastness on the micro-level of atoms inside a patch of skin. For purposes of this course, we’re interested in phenomena ranging from 100 to 108 meters.

You can view Powers of Ten again on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0fKBhvDjuy0

Bill concluded his introductory remarks by telling a story about his son Jeremy, who drove a thousand miles from Madison to Lewiston, Maine, one year while returnng to college. Although Jeremy is a professional wilderness guide (you can read about his recent adventures on his Chasing Cairns blog, http://chasingcairns.com) and a very skilled map-reader when leading trips in remote areas, on this particular trip he routed himself back to college using Google Maps on his iPhone. So when Bill asked him what route he had followed, he wasn't able to answer. When Bill asked even to know which states Jeremy and his friend had traversed on their drive, they still didn't know the answer. The space around the blue line on the Google Maps screen was just too narrow, hiding any real knowledge of the larger contexts through which they were traveling.

Jeremy later drew his own lesson about this when the New York Times asked him to write an article (published on July 3, 2016) about his ten-month driving trip visiting (nearly) all the national parks in the Lower 48. Entitled "10 Months, 45 National Parks, 11 Rules,", it offered eleven rules Jeremy used to guide his travels. One of those rules was "Use paper maps," and here's the reason he gave for it:

In the age of Google Maps, the spirit of adventure can be sidelined by blindly following the seemingly omniscient blue line on the glowing screens in front of us. When I permit myself to follow that blue line, I sometimes lose track of where I am and forget the bigger picture. I was not going to let that happen on this trip. From Day 1, my trusty National Geographic Road Atlas rode shotgun. Its colorful pages tempted me with side trips at every turn, and never led me astray. Without that atlas, I would just have headed south after leaving Death Valley for Los Angeles. Instead, the map guided me north toward Manzanar. What I found there surprised me. Formerly a World War II internment camp for Japanese-Americans, this deserted landscape in the Owens Valley was a stark reminder of the stories we often choose to forget.

Bill closed by saying that he's an enormous fan of digital maps, and uses them all the time...but he encourages students to think about both their strengths and their weaknesses, so they can be mindful in their use of these extraordinary tools. Today's lecture is about digital maps. This week's library exercise, some the lecture coming up, will focus on the virtues of paper maps.

II. Basic Wayfinders: Google, Bing, Apple

The basic wayfinding tools that we all use today in some form or another, whether in a browser on our computers or in an app on our smartphones or tablets:

Google: https://www.google.com/maps

Microsoft Bing Maps: http://www.bing.com/mapspreview

Apple Maps (entirely app-based, originating in IOS): http://www.apple.com/ios/maps/

OpenStreetMap.org (open source vector graphics maps) https://www.openstreetmap.org maps.me is a wonderful offline app for downloadable maps all over the world http://maps.me/en/home

These all work in essentially similar ways, so I'll rely today on Google Maps and its more powerful sibling, Google Earth. But don't forget that Google, Microsoft, and Apple often use different satellite views, so you can sometimes gain quite different information by consulting both.

Google Maps was originally written by two Danish brothers, Lars and Jens Eilstrup Rasmussen at Where 2 Technologies, who sold their company to Google in October 2004. Google Maps was released in 2005, and by 2013 was determined to be the world's most popular smartphone application, with 54% of smartphone users having tried it at least once. In 2012, Google had 7,100 employees working just on mapping for this program, Google Earth, and other Google applications.

Google Earth: https://www.google.com/earth/explore/products/

Google Earth Education: https://www.google.com/help/maps/education/learn/index.html

Bill spent much of the lecture demonstrating basic navigation tools in Google Maps and then in Google Earth. You should be sure to review these for yourself, studying the help files for these programs if you wish to learn more.

In Google Maps' Map view (which is the default when you log on, and is the view users use most), be sure you can: Zoom, pan, search, get directions. Then switch to satellite view (remember, historical versions of this are available on Google Earth). Street view is so recent that it's not all that useful, though it does enable you to walk down a street to remind yourself what's there if you're writing about a particular place. Remember too that Street View can be searched historically, though it's only about a decade old. Many users add photos to Google Maps, and you can peruse those at the bottom of the screen as well. An important function that Bill did not demonstrate is the ability to obtain a URL pointing to precisely the map settings you're viewing at a particular moment: you can access it from the menu in the upper-left-hand corner, then selecting "Share or embed map" Help files for Google Maps are here: https://support.google.com/maps/?hl=en#topic=3092425

Google Earth: https://www.google.com/earth/ This is far more powerful than Google Maps, and well worth getting to know well. The main additional function that Bill demonstrated is the fact that Google Earth shows you the dates of the the satellite images it enables you to access, and you can also search back through historical satellite imagery, typically as far back as the 1990s. Be sure to familiarize yourself with this powerful cartographic tool.

Bill visited several of the locations below (though he ran out of time and didn't demonstrate all of them) where you can view landscape history from a satellite at various zoom levels. You can visit these for yourself, but it'd be better still to find many others on your own: UW-Madison's Library Mall Picnic Point Menominee County (and its tornado path of 6/7/2007) Wawa, Ontario's iron-sintering plant pollution track Butte, Montana, copper mine Bingham Canyon, Utah, copper mine Fort McMurray, Alberta, tar sands Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park Grand Canyon Village Elwha Dam Removal World Trade Center

Finally, don't forget that you can also perform straight Google Image searches to locate maps focusing on particular themes. Remember that you can use the memo to show only maps of a certain size (helpful to avoid pixellated imagery), and also to limit your search to maps with limited copyright restrictions if you plan to use them on the Web or elsewhere.

III. Major Online Collections of Historic & Thematic Maps

Bill was running out of time by the end of the lecture (that seems to happen pretty much all the time, doesn't it?), so he was only able to share a few of the following as major collections of online maps that are well worth exploring. You can peruse them on your own if you're interested.

USGS National Map: http://nationalmap.gov/

USGS Thematic Maps: http://education.usgs.gov

USGS Historic Topographic Maps: http://historicalmaps.arcgis.com/usgs/

USGS Topo View: http://ngmdb.usgs.gov/maps/topoview/viewer/#4/46.38/-100.06

Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey (WGNHS): http://wgnhs.uwex.edu

USGS National Atlas of 1970, Digitized by the Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection, University of Texas-Austin: https://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/national_atlas_1970.html

Library of Congress American Memory site (extremely rich online collection of public domain materials): https://memory.loc.gov/ammem/index.html

Library of Congress Panoramic Birdseye Maps: https://www.loc.gov/collections/panoramic-maps

David Rumsey's extraordinary online map collection: http://www.davidrumsey.com/

Charles O. Paulin's Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States (1932): http://dsl.richmond.edu/historicalatlas/

Historical Atlas of UW-Madison: http://www.williamcronon.net/uw-campus-atlas/

UW-Madison's Lakeshore Nature Preserve Digital Map: http://lakeshorepreserve.wisc.edu/

Forest Hill Cemetery: http://foresthill.williamcronon.net/

Learning Historical Research: http://www.williamcronon.net/researching/

The most important lesson in all this: it’s a treasure trove out there! Enjoy the Web and explore it in a spirit of playful wandering as you look for tools and insights to help you understand the Making of the American Landscape....