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A Google Map of Mexico City’s Street Vendors

Scientists will sometimes stain a certain element of organic matter to enhance its visibility under a microscope. These surreal and sharply colored images could be mistaken for such contrast-enhanced biological material.

They are actually Google Earth photos of tianguis, the famous street markets that spring up all across the Distrito Federal. In a collection compiled by Fabian Neuhaus of UrbanTick, and featured on Nicola Twiley's Edible Geography on Monday, the markets – sheltered beneath red plastic tarps, which gives them their distinctive appearance from the air - look more like living organisms than groups of merchants. They sprawl down certain streets, seemingly chosen at random from an endless grid, turning corners or branching off into side streets. Their logic, from above, is mysterious and undeniable.

Read more. [Image: Flickr/UrbanTick]

Interactive Map: Archaeology of the Pacific Electric, Los Angeles by The Militant Angeleno

Here’s an absolutely superb piece of interactive mapping that overlays the routes of the Pacific Electric streetcar system (the “Red Cars”) onto a modern Google aerial map of the greater Los Angeles area. That’s interesting enough by itself, but this map goes further, and pinpoints the still-extant remnants of this once-great network – stations, uncovered sections of old track, power substations, railway bridges and more – and has photographs from many of these locations. It’s wonderfully fascinating stuff that I could easily lose hours to.

Head here for some background information on the map, or click here to view the map full-screen.

Source: The Militant Angeleno

Google Maps and the relative importance of American Indian reservations.

By Stephen Bridenstine

As we live our lives increasingly in the digital realm, the sights, sounds, and moving images of the internet impact our conception of the world around us. Take, for example, the many online mapping services.  What began as simple tools to find driving directions have evolved into advanced applications that map multiple layers of data.

But who decides what we see? What features are considered sufficiently important to be included? And what information about our country do those design decisions make invisible?

Above is the map of South Dakota provided by Google Maps. Notice that the many Indian reservations are unmarked.  If you scroll in, eventually the reservations appear. At the state level, though, they’re invisible.

In contrast, Indian reservations do show up on Bing:

External image

Among the other map services, Yahoo! Maps and MapQuest do label Indian reservations while OpenStreetMap does not.

While these mapping tools certainly empower the individual, it is the designers and the developers behind them who hold the real power.  I can only speculate as to why Google Maps does not include reservations at the state level, but their decision impacts the way we understand (or don’t understand) the geographic and social reality of this country.

Stephen Bridenstine is pursuing a history masters degree at the University of British Columbia, where he studies popular attitudes and public memory concerning Indigenous peoples, the historic fur trade, and the natural environment. He blogs about non-Native America’s weird obsession with everything “Indian” at his blog Drawing on Indians, where this post originally appeared.