Will TomTom’s Map Share herald the end of professional mapping?

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In an article yesterday, PC Pro’s (a UK-based tech news site) Darien Graham-Smith comments on the upcoming release of TomTom’s “MapShare” technology (here’s my previous post), and predicts that its impact will be much more far-reaching than the fairly quiet launch announcement. He argues that this will break consumer SatNav systems’ reliance on commercial map updates, and allow “peer-to-peer cartography” to eventually lead to the end of professional cartographers – he goes so far as to say that Map Share is a “disaster for the cartographers.”

This is a debate that’s not just going on among professionals in geospatial technologies, but in many other fields as well, as Graham-Smith points out. We all know how the Internet has played a huge role in changing the way we interact with and access information of all kinds, including geographic information, and I don’t think anyone is crazy enough to try to predict with any certainty how this will all play out over the next decade. While I don’t necessarily agree with Graham-Smith when he predicts that this is the beginning of the end for professional cartographers, I do think that the next generation of geospatial professionals will work and interact in a very different world, and their experience and much higher comfort level with generating and consuming user-based content will also likely contribute to a changing definition of what it means to be an expert or professional, in terms of expert knowledge, content creation and the value of that knowledge or content.