Mapping Contenders: A More Writable Space

Over at The Map
, Jonathan Crowe posted a


notes about MSN
Virtual Earth
that tipped me on to a few ideas and the
Virtual Earth weblog
where MSN is inviting input.  In light of the clamor raised over two
notable features at Virtual Earth–the
absence of Apple headquarters and the
presence of the World Trade Center in Manhattan, Crowe verifies (if there was
any doubt) that VE uses "very old imagery."  As I see it, the age
of the satellite images concerns me less than their superior resolution. 
Right, already
been over this

And yet, the release of Virtual Earth comes with a need to understand
the temporal dynamics associated with the images.  Could be that we
perceive them as timeless or, equally implausibly, as ever-current–maps of both "here" and "now."  Wave to the camera on high.  Seems likely enough that we’ll see this synoptical, real-time satellite cam soon enough, but in the interlude between now and that bright future moment, I think the horse race between Google and MSN for the best mapping venue is really fascinating.

One, I expect (yeah, pure spec-ulation), will steer toward the commercial
flows–the trafficking of people and goods, roadways and restaurants, hotels and
coffee shops.  This site will be determine its quality and future
developments around issues of advertising and appeals to hubs of marketable
activity.  The other (or perhaps yet an other) will also integrate
some of this commercial flavor (i.e. need to find the nearest Denny’s?). 
But this one will develop capacities (functionality?) for other kinds of
capital.  How impressive it would be to have one of the map-aspirants
(Yeah, Google, you…or MSN, you.) devise our shared world as a space to be
written–inscribed with the memory-notes and also with links (even blog
activity, for example)?  I’m getting dreamy with this, I know (was cleaning
the bathroom during this thought…chemically inspired–Comet and Tilex), but
think of this: a mapping site that gives us ways of seeing patterns beyond the
roadways and coffee shops, something that takes into account the topo-logical
haze in language–either in the
notes or in the composing that is done in/at/around a point. 
This is rather jumbled, so let me try it another way–listed:

I want to be able to:

  • See my zonal memoria notes layered with the same kind of notes by others
    over a common space. 
  • Incorporate photos, either by link or with thumbnails. 

    Flickr world map
    and Mappr both have shades of what I want, but I don’t need
    the whole globe at once as much as the local sites (sliding between them is
    okay).  Give me neighborhoods, city blocks, better detail–like the
    detail we get in VE. And be able to mix the images and the text, play them
  • Selectable tags (applied by users or derived by parsing) that sift away a
    particular layer of discursive activity for a particular area.  Let’s say
    we have a square mile.  I want a way to lift a tagged set of
    writing/photographic activity involved with the area.  In this sense, the
    system would be friendly to social geography (like the mapping hunger in
    Onondaga Cty. project done here at SU). Oh, and give us a couple of classes of
    tags: arch tags (broad, engulfing) and minutiae tags (narrower).
  • Selectable periods of time.  2000-2005, let’s say.  Or January
    of ’04.  Scaling down to months–in terms of temporal sorting–would be
    good enough for me (the others, they’d want something more probably). This will get easier as the imaging systems get snappier. But it would make it possible to watch a site evolve (even if only year by year).
  • Include audio and video files–the full documentary effects.  These
    can be tagged, too.  Why not? 
  • Block spam from this space.
  • Visualize the development of multiply composed (multi- in both people and
    technologies), multiply constituted texts as they relate to particular places. 
    This is a set of conditions, I think, making possible Barthes’ notion of mapping mythologies. Watch them morph–fads, trends, mass consciousness, the popular, political ideologies, diet, etc.

I’m sure systems exist for processes like this in geography programs (yes?). 
I’d say one of the web’s mapping contenders could blow it open by giving us a
more writable map with a social quality, a space where so many of these writing
technologies might converge in exciting ways.

Added (something in the arena of what I’m thinking here): Geotagging And geotagging Flickr. Terrific, this one (and up for almost a month already).