People’s reliance on in-car technology, says the President of the British Cartographic Society, is breeding a generation scared of reading maps.
What maps there are offer a sterile view of the world. England is a palimpsest of Medieval churches, abandoned mineral railways, ruinous Gothic institutions and follies built by mad aristocrats. But you won’t find them on your satnav.
A subsequent editorial in the Guardian argued:
This view fails to grasp the boundless opportunities opened by interactive websites that enable users to put their own photographs or comments on any part of a map. This wealth of information can be used by anyone with an internet-connected laptop or the right sort of mobile phone.
I was more struck by a letter in The Times today from Nicole Perry of the Ordnance Survey. In it she says:
The paper map is still vital for walkers and outdoor enthusiasts but satellite navigation systems and web mapping have democratised geography like never before.
The is an odd view of democracy. To me, democratisation would involve a process that made one of the good things in the life available to everybody.
But satnav does not spread the joy of understanding the landscape - Medieval churches, abandoned mineral railways, ruinous Gothic institutions and follies built by mad aristocrats - through spreading map reading skills. It offers a debased version of that experience so that it can be sold to everyone.
This is not democratisation. It is dumbing down. More evidence here.