Google Map Is Not The Map

Last June I gave an introductory workshop to digital mapping “Google Maps is not the Map”  on Friday June 29th 2012 Detroit, Michigan at the Allied Media Conference. Before they get lost I publish here the notes I used for preparing it.


Slides and notes may make sense when read together (may not!). I must find a way of publishing this notes more rapidly.

Related links

Raw notes:
More info:
Hashtag: #notGmaps

Have you ever wanted to make your own map but you didn’t know how? Do you want to use your GPS/smart phone? People usually approach maps as inert things, as invariable objects. Now, it’s easy to make your own maps and meanwhile understand that maps are not neutral, that Google Maps is not The Map, but just another map. GPS devices and smart phones, DIY aerial cartography (the Public Laboratory), OpenStreetMap map making, are making easier building maps and sharing them. BYO laptop, smartphone or GPS, but if you don’t have one, come anyway. Maps can be drawn with a pencil.

Short description
Information is more than ever geolocated, but who decides what we see on maps? who curates that information? Maps have never been neutral, but now they are ubiquitous.
This session will be a hands on workshop to enter the maps world and understand how communities can produce and edit their own maps (with and edit and curate information above them (
The workshop will  explore ways to integrate critical maps created in other platforms and websites.

1. Introduction

Maps are not neutral.

Subjectivity: map projections + Mercator.

Comparing digital cartographies, different examples: Google Maps, Bing and OpenStreetMap.

Do it yourself + Do it with others.

Maps online contain layers of information:

  1. Info above map
  2. Map
  3. Aerial photography

b. Aerial photography

Public Laboratory Tools + kit
Open Aerial Map

Explain technique of Public Laboratory. Examples in Ash Landfill at Saugus, MA.

c. Info above map

Points of information: texts, videos, photos, audio.

  • Meipi. Online version:
  • Ushahidi. Online version:
  • Google Maps / Google earth: My maps.

Other apps:

Hands on: Uploading info collectively to a map.

Create a map live at  and participants add their points. Where sleeping/ were born / living?
Tag information: by category/channel, by tag,
We’ll use the info later.
Need user. Create one or use:

user: testamc
psw: *******

Exporting info:

  • exporting kml url
  • Crowdmap. Exports csv
  • Google Maps / Google earth: My maps. exports kml

Export the results


2. Mapping: GPS are not only for cars. Be a cartographer.

What is GPS: Global Positioning System.
4 satellites needed

Satellites dance

Recording where we’ve been: gpx files.

Create a gpx. What is a gpx? time stamps and longitude-latitude. (kml compatible gpogle earth format)

Learning easy ways to use GPS devices (smart phones included). Not only “to know where I am”, also to know “where you’ve been, where we’ve been”.

And what about wifi/3g/gps differences to detect where I am?

  1. GPS: This is the “fine” location and is the only one accurate.
  2. Wifi: Using a database of hotspots google collected when doing streetview.
  3. 3G: Using database of base stations and some very rough triangualtion.

So GPS is the only accurate!
Smartphone consume a lot of batteries in this.

Learning how to record, import and export and use the recorded tracks.
Provide example gpx file. Download and upload to googlemap.

Create GPS tracks (.gpx) without a GPS Online. You can also use google earth or google maps!

Hands on: all the participants will draw their path to the #amc2012 with In Detroit? From home?

  1. As we can not “record” with a GPS that trip, we can draw the path you took to come to the amc2012  with
    1. an alternative solution is to use google earth and export the route as .kmz or .kml and convert it to gpx with
  2. Click save “GPX” in
  3. Download the .gpx file.
  4. Upload material to a dropbox folder / email it. Export it as yourname.gpx
  5. Use JOSMto merge all the .gpx files into one file.
    1. open google street maps to see all the tracks
  6. We will generate a unique allthetracks.gpx file with all the tracks
    1. Open the allthetracks.gpx file with google earth. To see it
  7. Conversion from gpx to svg (vector format) in
  8. Open in Inkscape and modify an publish

For larger amounts of gpx and big gpx (a lot of points) read tutorial and example at

Extra Options

Drawing part / collaborating on a map in with Potlatch. Online.

Embed gpx tracks with OSM plugin for WordPress.

Geotagging your photos

Takes shape files and turns them into Fusion table –

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