Posts Tagged ‘india’

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 . . .

China’s territorial claims (Economist)

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

[Editor’s note: Animated and narrated map provides good summary the China’s boundary disputes with it’s neighbors. Check out Natural Earth, free GIS world map data where you will find all the mentioned areas.]

Republished from the Economist.

Suspicions between China and its neighbours bedevil its boundaries to the east, south and west.

Watch video China’s territorial claims »

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Obama’s apparent low-key approach to Kashmir disappoints some in disputed region (Wash Post)

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

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[Editor’s note: The map uses Natural Earth vector and raster imagery to parse the mixed administration and claims in the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir.]

Republished from The Washington Post.
By Emily Wax. Wednesday, December 30, 2009

SRINAGAR, INDIAN-ADMINISTERED KASHMIR — Every day, Irfan Ansari sorts through dozens of résumés from young Kashmiris seeking jobs at his call center, seen by many here as a haven from the turmoil caused by militant Islamist forces seeking to uproot the government of Indian-administered Kashmir.

“Many young Kashmiris today just want a good life,” said Ansari, who has 300 employees. “I have more than 10,000 résumés on my desk. I wish I could hire them all.”

A new generation of Kashmiris is weary of five decades of tensions over the future of this Himalayan region, which has been a flash point for India and Pakistan, both nuclear powers that claim Kashmir as their own.

But Kashmiris have been caught in the diplomatic dilemma facing the Obama administration as it tries to persuade Pakistan to take on a stronger role fighting Islamist extremists and simultaneously seeks to improve relations with India, Pakistan’s arch foe.

Many Kashmiris celebrated when President Obama took office nearly a year ago, because he seemed to favor a more robust approach to bring stability to Kashmir, where human rights groups estimate that as many as 100,000 people have died in violence and dozens of Pakistan-backed militant groups have sprung up. At one point, the Obama administration contemplated appointing former president Bill Clinton as a special envoy to the region.

Continue reading at The Washington Post . . .

India to create new southern state of Telengana (Wash Post)

Friday, December 18th, 2009

gr2009121103403[Editor’s note: Time to updated Natural Earth vector already! Last week India added a new state to the national map (see map at right), not without counter protest. India is largely administered by language-focused states. The last time states were added was in 2000. The BBC has some good coverage (second).]

Republished from The Washington Post via the AP.

By RAVI NESSMAN. December 16, 2009.

Demand for new states could change India’s map

NEW DELHI — From scores fasting in demand of a new state in India’s hilly northeast to a powerful chief minister suggesting her region be split up, the map of the nation is facing an overhaul.

Ethnic minorities and activists in economically deprived regions are seeking states of their own, following the government’s surprise decision last week to give in to a hunger strike and create a new state in southern India.

Now, India is confronting serious calls for a grand reorganization of this sprawling, diverse nation of 1.2 billion.

“We are looking at what could be a major crossroads in the political evolution of the Indian system,” said Mahesh Rangarajan, a prominent political analyst at Delhi University. “Are 28 states enough for a billion people when 300 million Americans have 50 states?”

China, which India is expected to surpass in 2025 as the world’s most populous country, uses centralized, authoritarian rule to maintain order and unity. India’s democracy has relied on constant negotiation and compromise to empower its different ethnic groups and bind the diverse country, from the rural hill people who live on the Tibetan border to the business tycoons of Mumbai.

The Indian system gives broad power to the states. It was largely created after a Gandhi disciple died from a 58-day hunger strike in 1952, while pressing for the creation of Andhra Pradesh, a new state in the south.

Following the ensuing street protests, the government agreed to reorganize the country based on language groups. India has occasionally tweaked its internal boundaries since then, most recently with the creation of three new states in 2000 that brought the total to 28.

Some states remain so large they have become difficult to govern, leaving politically marginalized regions out of the country’s economic boom.

“You’ve got to try something new,” Rangarajan said. “Something’s not working about it.”

Parties across the spectrum – including the ruling Congress Party – have backed appeals for new states to garner regional support during elections. But as the campaigns fade, so does the pressure for statehood.

In an attempt to re-ignite the passions, politician K. Chandrasekhar Rao embarked on another hunger strike in Andhra Pradesh last month, demanding his neglected region of Telangana be given statehood.

As his health faded and protests grew, the government suddenly gave in – and was immediately swamped by calls for at least 16 other new states.

Continue reading at The Washington Post . . .

Online Maps: Everyman Offers New Directions (NY Times)

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

zooatlantabeforeatlantazooopenstreetmap[Editor’s note: As my music prof was want to remind, the only difference between amateur and professional is one gets paid and the other doesn’t. My hope is Google Maps starts offering user-generated geodata back to the community, like OpenStreetMap.org now does. Left image is before community edits, right is after. Thanks Nora!]

Republished from the New York Times.

SAN FRANCISCO — They don’t know it, but people who use Google’s online maps may be getting directions from Richard Hintz.

Mr. Hintz, a 62-year-old engineer who lives in Berkeley, Calif., has tweaked the locations of more than 200 business listings and points of interest in cities across the state, sliding an on-screen place marker down the block here, moving another one across the street there. Farther afield, he has mapped parts of Cambodia and Laos, where he likes to go on motorcycle trips.

Mr. Hintz said these acts of geo-volunteerism were motivated in part by self-interest: he wants to know where he’s going. But “it has this added attraction that it helps others,” he said.

Mr. Hintz is a foot soldier in an army of volunteer cartographers who are logging every detail of neighborhoods near and far into online atlases. From Petaluma to Peshawar, these amateurs are arming themselves with GPS devices and easy-to-use software to create digital maps where none were available before, or fixing mistakes and adding information to existing ones.

Like contributors to Wikipedia before them, they are democratizing a field that used to be the exclusive domain of professionals and specialists. And the information they gather is becoming increasingly valuable commercially.

Google, for example, sees maps playing a growing strategic role in its business, especially as people use cellphones to find places to visit, shop and eat. It needs reliable data about the locations of businesses and other destinations.

“The way you get that data is having users precisely locate things,” said John Hanke, a vice president of product management who oversees Google’s mapping efforts.

People have been contributing information to digital maps for some time, building displays of crime statistics or apartment rentals. Now they are creating and editing the underlying maps of streets, highways, rivers and coastlines.

“It is a huge shift,” said Michael F. Goodchild, a professor of geography at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “This is putting mapping where it should be, which is the hands of local people who know an area well.”

That is changing the dynamics of an industry that has been dominated by a handful of digital mapping companies like Tele Atlas and Navteq.

Google is increasingly bypassing those traditional map providers. It has relied on volunteers to create digital maps of 140 countries, including India, Pakistan and the Philippines, that are more complete than many maps created professionally.

Last month Google dropped Tele Atlas data from its United States maps, choosing to rely instead on government data and other sources, including updates from users.

“They have coverage in areas that the big mapping guys don’t have,” said Mike Dobson, a mapping industry consultant who once worked at Rand McNally. “It has the opportunity to cause a lot of disruption in these industries.”

Continue reading at New York Times . . .

Gunmen Attack Tourist Sites, Kill Dozens in India (Kelso via TWP)

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008
[Editor's note: Miss last week's events in Mumbai? Check out this mashup I did for the Post. It went up Wednesday night and was updated continuously through the conclusion of the attacks Saturday.]
Republished from The Washington Post.

Locator map

At least 174 people were killed and hundreds injured during a series of coordinated attacks in Mumbai, India that started November 26, 2008. The synchronized attacks struck at the heart of the city’s commercial district. The three-day siege left several Americans dead, including a father and daughter from Virginia and a young Israeli American rabbi and his wife.

Click on the map markers below for more information.

View Larger Map

Reporting by Rama Lakshmi; Graphic by Nathaniel Vaughn Kelso and Larry Nista — The Washington Post.

Google Earth helps yet worries government (USA Today)

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

[Editor’s note: I was able to attend the reception for GeoEye-1 at the fabulous Newseum last week in Washington, DC. The imagery from this new satellite is truly awesome. Look for it soon in The Washington Post, and in Google Earth.]

Republished from USA Today, Nov. 6, 2008. By Peter Eisler.

WASHINGTON — The secretive National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency is rushing to get the latest, high-definition satellite photos of Afghanistan into the hands of U.S. ground troops as they ramp up operations in the country’s tangled terrain.

The NGA analysts aren’t tapping the government’s huge network of highly classified spy satellites; they’re getting the pictures from commercial vendors. That’s the same stuff pretty much anyone can get, either through free, online programs, such as Google Earth, or by buying it from the same companies supplying Uncle Sam.

It’s a remarkable turn, given the warnings that security experts in the USA and worldwide raised a few years ago about giving the entire planet — terrorists and rogue states included — access to high-resolution satellite photos once available only to superpowers.

Last month, the most powerful commercial satellite in history sent its first pictures back to Earth, and another with similar capabilities is set for launch in mid-2009. The imagery provided by those and other commercial satellites has transformed global security in fundamental ways, forcing even the most powerful nations to hide facilities and activities that are visible not only to rival nations, but even to their own citizens.

Although no one disputes that commercial imagery poses threats, it has been embraced in ways few predicted.

“It’s created a lot of opportunities to do things we couldn’t do with (classified) imagery,” says Jack Hild, a deputy director at NGA, which provides imagery and mapping for defense and homeland security operations.

Pictures from government satellites are better than commercial photos, but how much better is a secret. Only people with security clearances generally are allowed to see them. Using commercial products, intelligence agencies can provide imagery for combat troops, which wasn’t possible before because of the risk of it reaching enemy hands and even international coalition partners.

Federal agencies use commercial imagery to guide emergency response and inform the public during natural disasters, such as this year’s Hurricane Ike. It’s also used by government scientists to monitor glacial melting and drought effects in the Farm Belt.

When commercial satellite photos first hit the market, “the gut reaction was, ‘We can’t allow this imagery to be out there because someone might do us harm with it,’ ” Hild says. “Are there still bad things that people can do with commercial imagery? Absolutely … but we think the benefits far outweigh the risks.”

Other nations share the sentiment. U.S. and foreign government contracts provide critical income for commercial imagery companies, such as Digital Globe and GeoEye — both of which supply photos for Google Earth.

“Most of our revenue (is) from governments,” says Mark Brender, vice president of GeoEye, which got half its 2007 revenue from the U.S. government and 35% from foreign governments. “They have a core competency in understanding how to use this technology — and a national security imperative to do so.”

In August 2006, the Islamic Army in Iraq circulated an instructional video on how to aim rockets at U.S. military sites using Google Earth.

Posted on a jihadist website, the video showed a computer using the program to zoom in for close-up views of buildings at Iraq’s Rasheed Airport, according to an unclassified U.S. intelligence report obtained by USA TODAY. The segment ended with the caption, “Islamic Army in Iraq/The Military Engineering Unit — Preparations for Rocket Attack.”

The video appeared to fulfill the dire predictions raised by security experts in the USA and across the globe when Google began offering free Internet access to worldwide satellite imagery in 2005. Officials in countries as diverse as Australia, India, Israel and the Netherlands complained publicly that it would be a boon to terrorists and hostile states, especially since the pictures often provide a site’s map coordinates.

Indeed, some terrorist attacks have been planned with the help of Google Earth, including an event in 2006 in which terrorists used car bombs in an unsuccessful effort to destroy oil facilities in Yemen, according to Yemeni press reports. Images from Google Earth and other commercial sources have been found in safe houses used by al-Qaeda and other terror groups, according to the Pentagon.

Many security experts say commercial imagery does little to enhance the capabilities of such organizations.

“You can get the same (scouting) information just by walking around” with a map and a GPS device, says John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org, a research organization specializing in defense and intelligence policy. The imagery “may give someone precise coordinates (for a target), but they need precise weapons … and their ability to target discrete parts of a particular site is pretty limited. People who think this gives you magical powers watch too many Tom Clancy movies.”

(more…)

Paula Scher: Maps as Tag Clouds?!

Sunday, June 29th, 2008

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paula scher europe detail

Paula Scher has produced a series of nifty map art that focuses more on placenames than their locational placement. The placenames are in correct “relative” space but not absolute space. The names all run together in a placename tapestry where they swirl in colorful waves and eddies. Thanks Curt!

From the Maya Stendhal Gallery press release:

Maya Stendhal Gallery is pleased to announce a solo exhibition of renowned artist and graphic designer Paula Scher, which runs from November 8, 2007 through January 26, 2008. Scher expands on her highly acclaimed Maps series to create her most engaging work yet, depicting entire continents, countries and cities from all over the world that have been the critical focus of attention in recent headlines.

Through an acute understanding of the powerful relationship between type and image, Scher harmonizes witty with tragic, the methodical with the intuitive, and the personal with the universal in these new paintings. Dynamic images are saturated with layers of elaborate line, explosions of words, and bright colors creating a plethora of visual information that produces an emotive response to places lived, visited, and imagined. Scher’s maps also reflect the abundance of information that inundates us daily through newspapers, radio, television, and the Internet to reveal the fact that much of what we hear and read is strewn with inaccuracy, distorted facts, and subjectivity.

On view will be Tsunami (2006) depicting the area that was ravaged by the destructive natural force on December 26, 2004. Evoking memories of compassion and grief, the image is covered by a swirling vortex of words denoting towns, cities, and areas, which echo the violent rotation of that monumental storm. Paris’s (2007) bold blue and white péripherique rigidly maintains the city’s borders. While inside, Paris as we know it beams in a captivating latticework of blue, yellow, green, and purple exuding the city’s sense of vitality and charm. China (2006) shows a colossal landmass with cities, provinces, and roads pulsating in reds, blues, greens, and yellows. Listed above are the astounding statistics that make China one of the world’s great centers of capitalism and culture. Manhattan at night (2007) glows in deep jewel tones of purple, blue, green, and black. This enchanting quality is sobered as the median incomes of various neighborhoods disclose the very different realities of city residents. NYC Transit (2007) projects the city in intricate layers of line, text, and color that culminate with the iconic map of the New York City subway system. The major outsourcing destination of India (2007) takes form in a giant pink landmass accented with bright blue and green road markers and orange location names, which give the impression of a sign for its popular Bollywood industry. Israel (2007) presents the country and bordering countries including Egypt, Palestine, Jordon, Syria, and Iran. Text representing cities and regions is written in varying, haphazard directions communicating a visual sense of conflict and discord. Middle East (2007) segregates the area by rendering each country in its own bold color. The land’s sordid past is remembered through hatch marks and dots representing the Babylonian Empire, Moslem Empire, Ottoman Empire, and Roman Empire.

Ms. Scher began her career creating album covers for CBS Recordings in the 1970ís. She moved on to art direction for magazines at Time Inc., and in the 1980ís formed her own boutique firm, Koppel & Scher. She has been a principal at the New York-based Pentagram design consultancy since 1991, where she has created visual identities for Citibank, The New York Public Theater, and the American Museum of Natural History, among others.

Further reading:

Andy Woodruff over at the Cartogrammar blog has a post that lists other tag cloud like maps with images.