Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Do Maps Have Morals?

Via Technology Review, this thought-provoking essay on the startling technology and applications of modern cartography is worth a read, especially because India is a player in this field.

Six months ago, relief workers used digital maps to find their way through areas devastated by the Indian Ocean tsunami. The U.S. Air Force relies on such maps in Iraq. Aerial photographs and digital mapmaking tools are allowing the governments of Uruguay and Brazil to survey and sell off vast tracts of land. "Sitting there in Arlington, Virginia, you can buy land in Brazil," says Christopher Simpson, a professor of communications at American University in Washington, DC, who's been studying current uses of remote sensing in Latin America. In theory, Brazilian peasants can buy the land they currently till. But in practice, Simpson says, the best properties will be snapped up by "those with the most resources, who are best organized, with the best overview." In other words, those with access to digital maps of millions of unclaimed acres.


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