A biweekly tour of the ever-expanding cartographic landscape.

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Orient yourself: Hard, but not impossible

A map only reveals as much as the mapmaker knows about the world, or at least, cares to show. When most mapmakers are men, there’s bound to be gaps.

For example, on Open Street Map, the free and open-source Google Maps competitor edited by volunteers around the world, “childcare centers, health clinics, abortion clinics, and specialty clinics that deal with women’s health are vastly underrepresented,” reports Sarah Holder at CityLab. It’s estimated that just 2 to 5 percent of OSMers are women. The vast majority are older, retired men.

That gender imbalance provokes serious debate among mapmakers—one of the more contentious battles in OSM history was in 2011, when editors rejected an appeal to tag “childcare” at all. (It’s since been added.) But more importantly, a map that fails to represent the needs of more than half the population is not a very a useful map. The stakes are highest in places where there is no Google, Apple, or any other company working as a back-up. Sometimes, a volunteer-made map is the only cartographic resource citizens and humanitarian organizations in developing countries have to go on.

A childcare center in Scottsdale, Arizona. (OSM)

That’s why a team of OpenStreetMap users—with lots of women involved—is intentionally creating maps that reflect space more inclusively. On International Women’s Day, Holder reported on a “feminist map-a-thon” in Washington, D.C., hosted by Missing Maps, a humanitarian mapping organization. There, volunteers worked to build a map for an NGO in Tanzania that shelters girls facing the threat of genital mutilation. Their digital lines and labels (such as: “women’s toilet”) could become real-world escape routes.

Inclusive geography is about more than mapping bridges and tunnels that everybody uses. “It’s shaped by asking things like: Where on the map do you feel safe?” Holder writes. “How would you walk from A to B in the city without having to look over your shoulder? It’s hard to map these intangibles—but not impossible.”


Compass points: Puerto Rico’s exodus

Hurricane Maria, the storm that devastated Puerto Rico in September 2017, left hundreds of thousands of residents without power for months, and continues to crush the island’s economy. No wonder young Puerto Ricans are leaving faster than ever. A report by the City University of New York’s Center for Puerto Rican Studies estimates that roughly 470,000 Puerto Ricans will leave the island between 2017 and 2019. Most of them are headed to the U.S., with 135,592 already settled on the continent.

(Center for Puerto Rican Studies CUNY | UNIVISION)

As it is, six states—Pennsylvania, Florida, Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey—account for 80 percent of the Puerto Rican population in the continental U.S., CityLab Latino’s Martín Echenique reports. It’s likely that most new arrivals are headed there, too.

However, Puerto Ricans aren’t just headed towards the urban centers that have traditionally been magnets for migration. “Post-Maria, the data from the state of New York shows that the enrollment rate of Puerto Rican students has been higher in upstate cities than in New York City itself,” writes Echenique.

That’s consistent with other data on domestic migration. If it weren’t for immigrants moving there from other countries, New York’s population (and that of other U.S. cities) would probably be declining.


Mappy links

Student walk-outs on the east coast of the U.S. (Snap Map)

Snap Map has legitimate social value: Student walk-outs demanding gun control unfolded live on the app-based map around the country. ♦ Kind of nowhere: frightening maps of where adequate affordable housing is available in the U.S. ♦ Spawn of Pokémon Go: Google is opening up a software platform for location-based mobile games developers. ♦ Speaking of Google Maps, sounds like Japan’s version rules: ”It’s like Street View, but from your dog’s perspective!” ♦ Thank you, Stephen Hawking: Here is a map of things written and said by the greatest physicist of our time, who died on Wednesday. ♦ One step closer to a theory of everything: Cambridge University’s COSMOS supercomputing center has been plotting a 3-D map of the known universe, a project Hawking launched in 2016.


MapLab isn’t afraid of black holes either. But don’t let it approach one. Share with your loved ones and sign up here.

Laura

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