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Google Maps as cartographic infrastructure: from participatory mapmaking to database maintenance

Plantin, Jean-Christophe ORCID: 0000-0001-8041-6679 (2018) Google Maps as cartographic infrastructure: from participatory mapmaking to database maintenance. International Journal of Communication, 12. pp. 489-506. ISSN 1932-8036

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Google Maps has popularized a model of cartography as platform, in which digital traces are collected through participation, crowdsourcing, or user’s data harvesting and used to constantly improve its mapping service. Based on this capacity, Google Maps has now attained a scale, reach, and social role similar to the existing infrastructures that typically organize cartographic knowledge in society. After describing Google Maps as a configuration relying on characteristics from both platforms and infrastructures, this article investigates what this hybrid configuration means for public participation to spatial knowledge in society. First, this turn to infrastructure for Google has consequences on the status of public participation to mapmaking, which switches from creating content to providing activities of maintenance of its database. Second, if Google Maps “opens up” cartography to participation, it simultaneously recentralizes this participatory knowledge to serve its corporate interests. In this hybrid configuration, cartographic knowledge is therefore simultaneously more participatory and more enclosed.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2018 The Author
Divisions: Media and Communications
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Date Deposited: 19 Sep 2017 10:35
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2021 01:22

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