Map Mashups: A Primer

by Chris Brennan-Horley, PhD candidate, GIS Project Manager, Australian Centre for Cultural Environmental Research, University of Wollongong:

A mashup is an internet application that combines data from more than one source. When one source involves geo-referencing data to real locations, you get a map mashup. In other words, map mashups link information to place. That information could literally be anything, from real estate prices, to graffiti sites.

Map mashups have gained prominence only in the past couple of years, as part of the wider growth in web 2.0 technologies (including video sharing, blogging, wikis and social networking sites). Most importantly, they have leveraged off the ability to access the programming capabilities of web-based mapping applications such as Google Earth, Google Maps and Microsoft's Virtual Earth. This means that programmers have been able to legally get 'under the hood' of these applications to make them do tasks and display information in new and novel ways. More importantly, their resulting maps and tools can be made publicly available for lay users. The result is a veritable explosion of map mashups, ranging from the personal (photo and video sharing, social networking) the commercial (real estate, restaurant and bar reviews), transit, travel, subcultures (music, graffiti) right through to the downright bizarre.

Map mashups are a great device for displaying results of research to the public, for facilitating collaboration between individuals on a research team, or for observing what members of the public are mapping; essentially as data sources in themselves.

Capitol of PunkCommunity Walk
Left: Screen shot from Capitol of Punk website. Right: Screen shot of L.A. graffiti map from Community Walk websit

The Map mashups pictured above, along with many more, can be found on the Featured GIS Resources page. The references informing this text can be seen in the GIS section of the Bibliography . . .

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