If there is one thing that is true about this world, it is the fact that everything is always at a constant change. Everything is changing rapidly nowadays. It feels just like yesterday when Nokia dominated the mobile phone industry but now its infamous 3310 had become a legend as smart phones have now taken over everything.
The same thing can be said about maps. However, its progression came a bit slower. But unlike mobile phones which are deemed as a ‘convenience’ rather than ‘necessity,’ maps are inherently important to human culture and its connection to people dates back to ancient times. As old as it may be, there is nothing permanent in this world and who knows how long people will get to see paper maps.
Over the years maps have evolved together with people and now that almost everything has gone digital, where do paper maps play a role in this digital society?
Throughout ancient civilization all the way to the 1800s and 1900s, paper maps were the navigation tool of choice. However, during the latter half of the 20th century, the progression of paper maps had begun to slow down as technology continued to advance. As technology began to rise, so did the people’s reliance on it.
In the 1960s, through the efforts of Howard Fisher and the Harvard Laboratory for Computer Graphics and Spatial Analysis, the GIS (geographic information system) and its development began to grow and with the founding of the Environmental Science Research Institute, their research on cartography had set precedents in the GIS industry. GIS and GPS have continued to develop throughout the 1970s especially during the introduction of space-based navigation and positioning systems.
Now, the paper map industry has been on constant decline and cartography jobs are being downsized. But it should be noted that many studies deem paper maps more reliable and accurate than digital ones however, this still doesn’t help with the current decline of paper maps.
Now when it comes to the future of paper maps, while many believe that they will soon be non-existent, this is actually impossible from happening. People are fond of maps, like colorful illustrated maps. The same thing had been said about books but you haven’t seen any libraries closing down yet. The thing is, while digital maps are dominating the world of navigation today, most of these maps still rely on paper maps like physical maps, climate maps and even illustrated maps, as a resource. So it would be good to say that while the future of paper maps may not be too bright, it is far from getting dim either.