Most people believe that with all the satellite and GPS technology at our disposal, maps are getting better. But in reality, world mapping programs have been in steady decline for decades, and never existed in many countries (as Michael Goodchild has argued here). Open-source, grassroots projects like OpenStreetMap have aimed to remedy this by crowd-sourcing locational data (sending parties of amateur cartographers out on bikes with GPS is the most popular method), and recently Google launched its own version of this concept with “Mapmaker,” which allows individuals to edit and add to existing maps (though Google retains proprietary ownership of all data input, natch).
Anyway, long story short, the email below, which was posted on the Geowanking listserv, signals another nail in the coffin for federally-sponsored mapping programs, and underscores the shift towards enterprise mapping as the model for the acquisition and validation of geographic data—and the potential profit therein (hence Nokia’s $8.1 billion acquisition of Navteq…).
A map is never an objective representation of the physical world (just look at China’s borders today, or the British Empire a hundred years ago), so the implications of how this might manifest in the long-term are really fascinating. At what point do we begin to see a corporate vs. nationalist bias embedded in the basemap?
From: Morgan J Bearden
Sent: Thursday, July 10, 2008 6:46 AM
Subject: USGS – The National Map Corps Update
July 10, 2008
Dear National Map Corps Volunteer,
Due to budgetary considerations The National Map Corps volunteer program is being evaluated by a USGS committee to determine the program’s future and how it may better serve the needs of The National Map. During the evaluation period, processing of submitted data will be suspended due to the demands on USGS personnel.
Consequently, we are asking all National Map Corps volunteers who are presently collecting data using a global positioning system (GPS) receiver to stop collecting structure data and send collected data to the USGS by August 10, 2008.
Although we are asking you to stop collecting structure data using your GPS receiver, we encourage you to continue your volunteer activity by using our prototype web-based collection procedure. You may visit the web-based collection site at http://ims.er.usgs.gov/vfs/faces/index.jspx. You will be asked to fill out a brief registration form and you may then collect structure data after you have familiarized yourself with the navigation and collection tools.
We appreciate your support over the past several years as the volunteer program evolved and grew. Since its inception the Earth Science Corps and The National Map Corps volunteers have contributed to the graphic mapping program and to building The National Map structures data theme. We hope that the current program assessment results in a renewed volunteer program supported by our current and many future volunteers.
Please refer to the web-based collection site for updates. You may also communicate with one another via the National Map forum at geocaching.com.
Best wishes in your future endeavors.
Thank you for your past service to the U.S. Geological Survey. We look forward to working with you in the future.
Morgan J Bearden, Coordinator
The National Map Corps
U. S. Geological Survey
National Geospatial Technical Operations Center