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Cartographic wizardry

These online maps help preserve the architecture of Los Angeles, and share the immigrant experience of New York.

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It would be difficult to overstate the impact that the Internet has made in such fields as music and video, but it has changed the nature of the content itself very little. Apart from file format, a song downloaded over the Net is essentially the same as one bought in a department store, and while sources like YouTube might make obscure and made-at-home video productions more accessible by the general public, apart from some fringe content and a smaller screen size there are no fundamental differences between these clips and the images streaming through your TV. (While it's possible to place hotspots and additional information into Web- based videos, to date, it's very rarely done.)

Maps, on the other hand, have gone through pivotal changes since the introduction of the Web. Remember that it was only a few years ago that the height of cartographic interactivity came from sticking a pin through a map, and the definition of "user friendly" was a chart that was easy to fold. Now, you can feed a destination to a map, and it will find "unfold" to your designated location for you, some will give you a choice of topographical, road, or satellite renderings, and almost all will be holding additional information under the primary interface. Poke as hard as you want on your paper map, it's not going to tell you a thing about local businesses, or show you pictures or live streaming video from that location.

And, productions like Google Earth notwithstanding, some of the most imaginative adaptations of the old art are being hosted by museums and other organizations dedicated to education and conservation. This week, we look at two recent, and very different, variations on the map theme from opposite ends of the country - one geared to Curating The City of Los Angeles, and the other to sharing the immigrant experience of New York through Folk Songs From The Five Points.


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