Thursday, October 13, 2005

Falkands vs. Malvinas

Falkands vs. Malvinas: "A confusing and confused article in the UK tabloid the Sun states that 'the British islands in the South Atlantic have been given Argentinian place names on the interactive Google Earth site.'

Well, in Maps the Spanish names are appended in parentheses. I have no problems with that, as it makes the map more useful to finding the islands when cross-referencing from other (Spanish-language) sources. (No access to Earth right now so if somebody could check...) "

It's interesting to see the reaction of people getting exposed to GIS data. The names of places can be very political. When I was giving a presentation in Morocco, they were disappointed to see that a country list in our application included "Western Sahara", which they rightly considered to be part of Morocco. Of course, we had not reviewed the list- it was an ISO list of country abbreviations.

To blame Google for any of these errors is idiotic- the data providers are the ones who made the decision, and they probably based on a list provided by an international standards body. While the name of place may seem to be the endorsement of a political belief, there's really no good way to be neutral and put all of the possible names for a place on a map and remain cartographically accurate.

This problem is doubly difficult when you are trying to produce a map for worldwide consumption. Do you call it Germany or Deutschland?


Chasli said...

How do you come off stating that the Western Sahara should be "rightly considered part of Morocco." Yes, Morocco is currently occupying part of the Western Sahara. However.......The UN does not recognize this occupation. The International Court of Justice has ruled that Morocco has no historical claims on the territory. No country on earth officially recognizes Moroccan rule over the Western Sahara. The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic is a full memeber of the African Union, who officially recognizes the SADR as the legitimate government of the Western Sahara. According to what criteria do you say "rightly?"

Matt M said...

in response to chasli... I guess the point is, from the perspective of the Moroccans, they don't recognize it as a state. So, while it is internationally recognized (and on the ISO list of standard countries), we had to remove it from the application we were providing to their government. I shouldn't have used the word "rightly" there, because it was only right from the perspective of the Morrocans, but definitely wrong from the perspective of the international community.

It's analagous to Google's problem, or anyone that has to provide geodata to people that disagree about borders or names of places. You can't please everyone, and it is difficult to know everything about every international naming situation that is out there. For example, you obviously know a lot more about Western Sahara than I do. Yet, there are probably other border disputes that neither you nor I are aware of, or have enough information to make an informed decision on. To expect a geodata company to express an opinion on each of these disputes seems unreasonable, which was the point I was poorly trying to make.

Thanks for your helpful comment!