Maps Must Change to Match the World

May 8, 2011 admin Geography

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Humans are somewhat resistant to change. Familiarity breeds comfort while change brings anxiety. The thought that the us wall maps that graced their childhood classrooms are no longer accurate can be disconcerting to many adults. They probably followed world news and understood the changes in countries and borders that happened in the intervening years, but they never stopped to think that each of those current events changed the face of a map.

It is not just wars and revolutions that change the world. The physical nature of the planet is constantly evolving. Tectonic plates are moving and shifting. Water levels rise and fall, changing coastlines and making rivers appear, disappear, and change course. New roads are built, forests are cleared, mountains are blasted, and mankind is even making islands on a regular basis. Then there are major disasters, like earthquakes and tsunamis, which cause islands and even continents to change position.

It would be silly to print a new map every time a road is extended or a city annexed new territory. In general, road maps are updated every few years, as are other printed maps. A major advantage of digital maps over print is that they can be updated rather than replaced. A map that lives on a computer or is accessed through a network can have changes and additions uploaded as fast as they can be programmed. This updating is usually invisible to the end user. This is the way that humans can absorb change without having to think about it.

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