It seems like every week, computer programmers and digital cartographers come out with a slick, super-informative interactive map to synthesize Big Data. Perhaps that's what we should come to expect, now that we're experiencing a new Platinum Age of Maps. But to what do we credit this torrent?
Tanya Buckingham, assistant director of University of Wisconsin's Cartography Lab, says the spark happened about seven years ago, when online mapping was "hacked," and anyone could start making "mash-ups" -- that is, combining data with an Internet-based map. When application programming interfaces (APIs) became available, virtually anyone could customize an online map. From there, the wave spread -- from mapping all the local coffee shops to evolving into the complex geographic visualizations we now see daily.
"This snowballed into new application developments and demands for open access to tools as well as calls for new data -- open data," Buckingham told Discovery News. "Basemaps evolved, skills developed, and new technology was created. This evolution is still happening, and quite rapidly."