Stone tablet maps to GPS tablet PCsThe first world atlas was made by ancient Babylonians in the 6th century B.C. They drew it on a clay tablet by using geometric lines, a circle and an isosceles triangle. Based on the legend of Sargon, the inside of the circle represented the land (i.e. the empirical world of this side), and the outside represented the sea (i.e. the imaginary world of the other side). Japanese scholar Toshiaki Oji said, “Ancient maps do not show the world, but the worldview of the people who made it.”
The world’s first printed map was produced in China in the 12th century. With the Great Wall as the northern boundary of the world, it was a vision of Sinocentrism. The Cantino World Map is the earliest modern world map, made in Portugal in 1502. For the first time, it included longitude and latitude. Using a scale of 1:12,820,000, it had significance in four main categories: ideological, artistic, scientific and practical. In particular, the map provided information on the goods produced in each region. It was the first location-based information service.
Map production technology is changing dramatically with the use of global positioning systems. It is now possible to get information not only on longitude, latitude and altitude, but also on the speed of a moving object via the 24 Navstar satellites that circle the earth at an altitude of 22,000 kilometers (13,670 miles). Civilian satellites are less accurate than military ones. They have a margin of error of 3 centimeters (1.18 inches) per second. That’s why the speed on a dashboard gauge does not match with that on a navigator.
Now, Google is producing maps that are closer to reality by using GPS. This is Google Maps. In 2007, it started Street View, a 3-D map service that shows actual photographs taken at ground level with a sophisticated camera. And once again they changed the concept of a search engine - not only providing information by keyword, but also tailoring information based on the location of the user through location-based services. The potential for advertising revenue explains why Google provides these incredible maps for free. It is also the reason Apple recently took over a Canadian 3-D mapmaker.
In the meantime, a security-related problem arose in Korea. While Google Korea was collecting information on geographical locations, it also collected some private information via public Wi-Fi networks. In Taiwan, a woman’s naked body appeared on Street View, causing a stir.
However, this may only be the beginning. The “Big Brother” in George Orwell’s “1984” may already be looking down on us. With a smartphone in our hands, we can see where you are, what you do and even what you think about. They argue that we will never get lost as we hold a palm navigator in our hands. But I wonder whether modern men have lost their way because of Google Maps, standing at the crossroads of civilization and humanity.
*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
By Park Jong-kwon