Sunday , January 24 2021

Why paper maps still matter in the digital age

Ted Florence is ready for his family trip to Botswana He has seen up his hotel on Google Maps and downloaded a digital map. He has also packed "I travel all over the world," says Florence, the president of the International Board of International Association and Avenza, a digital map software company. "Everywhere I go, my routine is the same: I get a paper map, and I keep it in my back pocket."

With the proliferation of smartphones, it's easy to assume that the paper map is over. That attitude, that digital is better than print, is what call "technochauvinism." In my book, "Artificial Unintelligence: How Computers Misunderstand the World," I look at how technochauvinism is used to create an unnecessary, occasionally harmful bias. digital over print or any other kind of interface A glance at the research reveals that the paper map still thrives in the digital era, and there are distinct advantages to using print maps.

Your brain on maps

Cognitive researchers usually make a knowledge of deep knowledge. Experts have a subject or a geography; amateurs have surface knowledge

Digital interfaces are good for acquiring surface knowledge Answering the question, "How do I get from the airport to my hotel in a new-to-me city?" Is a pragmatic problem that requires only shallow information to answer. If you're traveling to a city for only 24 hours for a business meeting, there is usually no need to learn more about a city's layout.

Physically handling
Veles Studio /

When you live in a place, or you want to travel meaningfully, deep knowledge of the geography will help you to navigate it and to understand its culture and history. Print maps help you acquire deep knowledge faster and more efficiently In experiments, people who read on paper consistently display better reading comprehension A 2013 study showed that, as a person's geographic skill increases, so does their preferences for paper maps.

For me, the difference between deep knowledge and surface knowledge is the difference between what I know about New York City, where I have lived for years, and San Francisco, which I have visited only a handful of times In New York, I can tell you where all the neighborhoods are and which train lines to take and speculate about whether the Manhattan schist in the Geological substrate influenced the buildings that the Greenwich Village versus Midtown I've invested a lot of time in both new and new maps of digital maps. In San Francisco, I've only used digital maps from point to point. I'll be the first to admit that I do not know where

Our brains encode knowledge as what scientists call a cognitive map. In psychology-speak, I lack a cognitive map of San Francisco.

"When the human brain gathers visual information about an object, it also gathers information about its surroundings, and associates the two," wrote 2017 study in communications researchers Jinghui Hou, Justin Rashid and Kwan Min Lee. "In a similar way to how people construct a mental map of a physical environment (eg, a desk in the center of an office facing the door), readers form a 'cognitive map' of the physical location of a text and its spatial relationship to the text as a whole. "

Reading in print makes it easy Sensory cues, like unfolding the complicated folds of a paper map, help create that cognitive map in the brain and help the brain to retain the knowledge.

The same is true for a simple practice like tracing out a hiking route. The physical act of moving your arm and feeling the paper under your finger gives your brain haptic and sensorimotor cues that contribute to the cognitive map of formation and retention.

Map mistakes

Another factor in the paper versus digital debate is accuracy. Obviously, a good digital map is better than a bad paper map, just like a good paper map is better than a bad digital map.

Technochauvinists may believe that all digital maps are good, but just as in the paper world, the accuracy of digital maps will depend entirely on the level of detail and fact-checking.

For example, a 2012 survey by the crowdsourcing company Crowdflower found that Google Maps accurately located 89 percent of businesses, while Apple Maps correctly found 74 percent. This is not surprising, as Google invests millions in sending people to the Google StreetView. Google Maps is good because the company invests time, money and human effort in making its maps good – not because digital maps are inherently better.

Fanatical attention to detail is necessary to keep the digital maps up to date. Companies like Google are constantly updating their maps, and will have to do so regularly The maintenance required for digital content is substantial – a cost that technochauvinists often ignored.

What to do when your map does not match with the real world?
kanvag /

In my view, it's easy to forget Physical maps are usually included in the map. When you are passively following the spoken GPS directions of a navigation system, and there is, say, an unmarked exit, it confuses the The GPS system and causes chaos among the people in the car. (Especially the backseat drivers.)

The best map for the job

Some of the deeper flaws of digital maps are not clearly visible to the public. Digital systems, including cartographic ones, are more interconnected than most people realize. Mistakes, which are inevitable, can go viral and create more trouble than anyone anticipates.

For example: Reporter Kashmir Hill has written about a Kansas farm in the geographic center of the U.S. that has been plagued by legal trouble and physical harassment, because a digital cartography database mistakenly uses the farm's location as a default every time the database real answer is not identified.

"As a result, for the last 14 years, every time MaxMind's database has been queried about the location of an IP address in the U.S. It can not be identified, it is the default location of a spot two hours away from the geographic center of the country, "Hill wrote. "This happens a lot: 5,000 companies rely on MaxMind's IP mapping information, and in all, there are now over 600 million IP addresses associated with that default coordinate."

A technochauvinist mindset will give you everything in the future. But what happens if a major company like Google offers its maps? What happens when a government shutdown means satellite data powering smartphone GPS system is not transmitted? Right now, ambulances and fire trucks can keep a road atlas in the front seat in case electronic navigation fails. If society does not maintain physical maps, first responders will not be able to get addresses.

Interrupting a country's GPS signals is also a realistic cyberwarfare tactic. The U.S. Navy has started training new recruits in celestial navigation, a technique that dates back to ancient Greece, as a guard against the digital grid gets hacked.

Ultimately, I do not think it should be a competition between physical and digital In the future, people will continue to need both types of maps. Instead of arguing whether paper or digital is a better map interface, people should think about

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