“Are Consumer Maps Dead?”—Does it Matter?

James Killick, over at Map Happenings, contemplates whether we’re witnessing the end of consumer maps:

It’s all part of a trend, a downward trend in my opinion, that will result demise of consumer maps. Contrary to Beck’s approach to distill reality into its essential essence we’re moving in the opposite direction.

We are instead on a path to the dreaded metaverse, a virtual world where we should all be thankful and glad to wander around as legless avatars with the aspirational goal of reaching social media nirvana. I don’t know about you, but, ugh.

Sure, Zuck wants us all to stay home and spend all our money inside his multi-player game instead of going on holidays and exploring places.

But no matter what, we’ll continue to go places, and navigating unfamiliar territory will always involve maps. These maps will look different from what we’re using today. More real-time information will be involved, more data capturing sentiments and our phone cameras will play a vital role.

Is it really that bad if future maps don’t resemble those made by Harry Beck or the Ordnance Survey in the olden days? I don’t think so; it’s called progress. I remember arriving in London almost ten years ago. Citymapper was a godsend. Even though you rarely ever looked at a map, it made this humongous city approachable to a boy from a small-ish town in East Germany.

Whether future solutions can be called maps as defined by the National Geographic Society doesn’t matter. Whether we old people like the look of digital way-finding tools doesn’t matter either. What matters is that they make cities easier to explore and navigate for the majority of people.