I really chatting last week with Andrew Turner on my Innovators show. Andrew is the driving force behind GeoCommons, a new service that brings social curation and visualization to the realm of geographic information and cartography.
A lot of our discussion wasn’t specific to geographic data. Issues of provenance, data tethering, syndication, and interpretive context apply to any kind of data that lives online and is both produced and consumed by a lot of different people. As more kinds and quantities of data move into the public realm, we’ll discover and codify best practices for coordinating our efforts.
But we also, of course, talked about the special challenges of geographic data. Marrying temporal and spatial data is a huge one. As I mentioned here, the team at Stamen Design is doing great work on that front.
My own related effort was far less effective than that RMI oil import map. The best stories told with data will arc through time, and it needs to get way easier for anyone who cares to tell those stories.
As the tools and services emerge, we’ll run into another issue that Andrew and I discussed. Cartography is an incredibly subtle art, and we will soon see a proliferation of awful maps made by folks with data, tools, and no design sensibility. But that’s OK, in fact it’ll be a good problem to have. People went nuts with fonts and colors when the web was new, and everyone suddenly became a publisher. Over time things have settled down. It’ll be interesting to watch the cycle repeat as everyone becomes a mapmaker.