Posts Tagged ‘beijing’

The Agnostic Cartographer: Google’s maps are embroiling the company in the world’s touchiest geopolitical disputes

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

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[Editor's note: Like other mapping company operating internationally, Google has to meet multiple objectives when delineating national frontiers.  This article from the Washington Monthly discusses some of the hot water the company has gotten itself into. Google recently rolled out higher-precision boundary lines in it's Maps and Earth products to address some of these concerns. Image above: Picturesque but contentious: Google Maps made this village Chinese, temporarily. India wasn’t pleased. Photo: Annabelle Breakey. Thanks GeoStuff!]

Republished from Washington Monthly.
By John Gravois

One fateful day in early August, Google Maps turned Arunachal Pradesh Chinese. It happened without warning. One minute, the mountainous border state adjacent to Tibet was labeled with its usual complement of Indian place-names; the next it was sprinkled with Mandarin characters, like a virtual annex of the People’s Republic.

The error could hardly have been more awkward. Governed by India but claimed by China, Arunachal Pradesh has been a source of rankling dispute between the two nations for decades. Google’s sudden relabeling of the province gave the appearance of a special tip of the hat toward Beijing. Its timing, moreover, was freakishly bad: the press noticed that Google’s servers had started splaying Mandarin place-names all over the state only a few hours before Indian and Chinese negotiating teams sat down for talks in New Delhi to work toward resolving the delicate border issue.

Google rushed to admit its mistake, but not before a round of angry Indian blog posts and news articles had flourished online. Some commentators posited outright conspiracy between Beijing and the search engine. “Google Maps has always been more biased towards China over the Arunachal Pradesh border dispute,” surmised an Indian blogger. Even more ominously, one former member of Parliament told the Times of India, “The Chinese know how to time their statements ahead of a bilateral meeting.”

Google responded in a manner that radiated chilly omnipresence—by posting a statement in the comments section of what appeared to be every single Web site that had discussed the mix-up. “The change was a result of a mistake in our processing of new map data,” Google announced. “We are in the process of reverting the data to its previous state, and expect the change to be visible in the product shortly.”

One mystery remained, however: how did such an error happen in “the product” in the first place? Why did Google have that perfect set of Chinese names lying around, ready to swap in for the Indian ones?

Continue reading at Washington Monthly . . .

Transit on Google Maps comes to a Town Near You (Kelso)

Friday, April 3rd, 2009

[Editor's note: When I've traveled to Paris or Beijing I like to take public transit both below and above ground. It gives me a good sense of the people and the place. And it reduces my carbon footprint. But sometimes figuring out transit systems can be irksome. I've got a great pocket atlas of Beijing that shows major bus lines and their stops which is helpful. And Paris offers some good printed material. But figuring out which station or stop is closest to the start and end of the trip is just the beginning. Which route is best? And when will I get there are two important questions. If you've missed it, Google Transit solves many of these challenges. New transit systems are being added monthly, check to see if your city participates.]

I live in metro Washington DC and our transit agency finally released their network topology, routing, scheduling in Google Transit format after a long petition drive. Now 3rd party developers, including Google, can use this to build out web apps or even mobile phone apps like iBART. DCist has coverage of both the recalcitrance of this public agency in giving out data we’ve already paid for as tax payers (sound familiar). Cartographers should use the station and bus stop locations included in these transit feeds to locate these features on their city maps.

Cartographers need to get on the mobile app development bandwagon and provide customers with tools that leverage these types of datasets. Imagine an app that has a proximity sensor / alert for nearby bus or transit stops or tells you the bus you want is coming in 5 minutes, time to pack up. And can do all the routing for you. And can be leveraged to provide the customer with, say, trail routing in the backcountry, too.

Why is transit on Google Maps a big deal? From WorldChanging:

[Including transit on maps and routing] make public transit more accessible and easier for everyone to understand; and in doing so, it will certainly increase transit ridership and reduce driving.

One of the big barriers to public transit use is the knowledge required to use the system: where to wait, when to wait, where to transfer, how much to pay, etc. Some readers may remember that two years ago we helped cause Google Transit to happen, but it’s taken off far beyond what we had suggested, and they keep getting better. What’s more, they’re doing it at no charge to the transit agencies (a perpetually under-funded sector of local governments). More cities are coming on board, as well; if you live in one of the eleven cities now participating, enjoy! If you live elsewhere, consider writing to your local transit agency and telling them to join the 21st century. (ahem… San Francisco, right in Google’s back yard, no excuse… ahem.)

What are these tools? In addition to being able to type in your route and get comprehensive directions (including walking to stations, showing the bus or train route, walking directions between stations, how much it costs, etc.), you can plan trips by departure or arrival time and see when the next couple buses come if you miss the one you’re aiming for. Now, if you zoom in enough on any Google map in the right city, all the transit stops appear, with different icons for bus, light rail, etc.; click on a bus stop and up pops a list of the buses or trains that stop there; click on the bus number, and up pops the timetable for the next several buses stopping there.

Want to get your transit data on the map? Aaron Antrim, who heads Trillium Transit Internet Solutions helps smaller agencies get online with Google Transit, in particular, those small-to-midsized transit agencies that don’t have dedicated IT staffs (ref). Aaron went to the same university as me and is quite active in transit circles.

There’s a petition to add “By bike” like there is “Walking” and “Transit” to Google Maps (ref). See this in action at byCycle.org as seen at Treehugger.

Mental Map: How China Sees the World (Economist)

Monday, March 30th, 2009

[Editor's note: "Illustration by Jon Berkeley with apologies to Steinberg and The New Yorker". Map illustration shows China's world view / mental map with Tiananmen Square central, the US in the distance, and Europe but a spec on the horizon. This mental map is a good example of a network topology based projection.]

Republished from the March 21st, 2009 print edition of The Economist.

And how the world should see China

IT IS an ill wind that blows no one any good. For many in China even the buffeting by the gale that has hit the global economy has a bracing message. The rise of China over the past three decades has been astonishing. But it has lacked the one feature it needed fully to satisfy the ultranationalist fringe: an accompanying decline of the West. Now capitalism is in a funk in its heartlands. Europe and Japan, embroiled in the deepest post-war recession, are barely worth consideration as rivals. America, the superpower, has passed its peak. Although in public China’s leaders eschew triumphalism, there is a sense in Beijing that the reassertion of the Middle Kingdom’s global ascendancy is at hand (see article).

China’s prime minister, Wen Jiabao, no longer sticks to the script that China is a humble player in world affairs that wants to focus on its own economic development. He talks of China as a “great power” and worries about America’s profligate spending endangering his $1 trillion nest egg there. Incautious remarks by the new American treasury secretary about China manipulating its currency were dismissed as ridiculous; a duly penitent Hillary Clinton was welcomed in Beijing, but as an equal. This month saw an apparent attempt to engineer a low-level naval confrontation with an American spy ship in the South China Sea. Yet at least the Americans get noticed. Europe, that speck on the horizon, is ignored: an EU summit was cancelled and France is still blacklisted because Nicolas Sarkozy dared to meet the Dalai Lama.

Continue reading at The Economist . . .

China Pictures 1st (Kelso)

Thursday, November 6th, 2008

I vacationed in China for 12 days at the end of October 2008 and returned just in time to participate in Obama’s smashing victory over McCain in the US presidential contest.

Here is a quick selection of my photos from Shanghai, West Lake / Huang Zhou, Jing de Zhen, Huang Shan / Yellow Mountains, and Beijing / Great Wall. I’ll be posting more later with some trip discussion and photo captions.

To see the photos blown up, click on the photo thumbnail below, and then click on the next page’s thumbnail to see the larger resolution image. Sorry, WordPress is lame about this.