WithSteven E. Jones
Pages 26

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It's hard to imagine the Internet today without maps, flags, pins, directions, check-ins, and, in general, data tied to location. If cyberspace is leaking out into and colonizing the world, as William Gibson has said, one of the preconditions for this—in material terms—was the exploitation of GPS (the global positioning system), made possible after the previously established “selective availability” was turned off in May 2000. Though the immediate result for average users was more accurate navigation systems in their cars, in relatively short order we had Google Maps. Gibson himself once cited Google in general as “a central and evolving structural unit not only of the architecture of cyberspace, but of the world” now that we have entered the era of the eversion. 1 Along with the 3D Google Earth, Google Maps became a crucial piece of the search giant's Web services just after its initial public offering in August 2004, and—along with the competing free and open-access OpenStreetMap, as well as persisting commercial services (some of which predate Google's)—the Google Maps API has led to countless applications, including digital humanities projects. Because of a series of related developments, maps and linked data have been at the heart of recent changes in our understanding of the network that surrounds us, the shift implied in Gibson's relocation of Google's influence from “cyberspace” to “the world.” The dominance of mobile platforms has meant that, for many users, maps + data are inseparable from what they think of as accessing the Internet. The eversion of cyberspace is intertwined with the rise of networked mapping services, and the metaphor of eversion provides a broader cultural context for the so-called spatial turn in the humanities during this same period. The more general metaphorical turn—from the notional nonspace of cyberspace to the world as a dynamically mapped series of overlapping, data-rich places—has stimulated new kinds of digital humanities research and, more generally, pointed to a shift in the orientation of the humanities outward, toward the complex terrain of the physical world.