09 January 2008


We have been experiencing for decades the melding of humans with machines; think of artificial body parts, hearing aids, prosthetics, and so on. What if we could spawn bionic cartographers who have the ability to transfer spatial data that they see, directly (through thought-transmission) and tele-communicate to geo-referenced mapping programs?

In the case of disasters, when nobody knows at first what is going on--what has been destroyed, what has not, what obstructions are in the way of transportation routes, and so on--this capability would be extremely valuable (an understatement). Whether the cyborg-cartographer works from a helicopter or on the ground, he/she would combine reconnaissance with mapping (and disaster relief), as only the human brain could comprehend what is important to observe.

Even now here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast we are experiencing something of spatial amnesia (spatial dissonance?) almost seven months out from the Storm: we might not know what exists on the landscape only one mile away, in areas that we, personally, formerly traveled. Who has produced a current map of this area, carried out with groundtruthing, of what actually exists? No one, of course. [Written a few months after Hurricane Katrina.]


Amber Case said...

As a cyborg anthropologist, I like this post quite a bit. I'm fascinated with Twitter, Foursquare, Google Latitude and other social sites that provide GPS location and capabilities.

I have my own GPS on me right now. It tracks where I am and posts it to a map. My device is on loan from a friend of mine, who has taken tracking one step further. His maps track time of day, speed and location, allowing one to map out data over time. http://aaronparecki.com/GPS_Visualization.

I had him speak at a recent Portland data vizualization group that I run. I find it interesting to compare a new generation of capable mobile-accessible geologgers with Steve Mann's first attempts in the 1970-80's at MIT.

There's a lot more to say, but I'm trying to keep this short. Basically, I wanted you to know that your post was read and appreciated.

Amber Case said...

Also see: Piper, Karen. Cartographic Fictions: Maps, Race, and Identity. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2002.

"A convincing study of the inhabitant of modern, western society as a “cartographic cyborg,” which is to say as someone so thoroughly intertwined with mapping technologies that it is impossible to say, in terms of knowledge practices, where embodied knowledge ends and technological knowledge begins. Piper goes far beyond the obvious analysis of the modern dependency on maps (and GIS) as spatial instruments to consider the implications of that dependency for the construction of gendered and racial identities within popular culture".

Unknown said...

Thanks, Amber. I'll look at the Piper book.