Right, so we all know that one telltale sign of a mashup is the use of a pushpin to signify just about anything. In a way, I get the pushpin icon. It makes sense, right? When you go to that restaurant in Coastal Maine (yeah, Cook’s Lobster House), you enter through a vestibule where a big map emblazoned with pushpins hangs on the wall. The pushpin carryover works in mashups. After all, physical pushpins were the primary tool for these restaurant wall maps. These wall maps were mashup prototypes. The maps were put up with the intent of being peppered with user-generated content from any number of different contributors. If that’s not a mashup, what is?
But here’s the thing. No one was walking into Cook’s Lobster House and placing pushpins locating U.S. Drone Attacks in Pakistan since 2004. I mean, why would they? That would be . . . well, insensitive? Inappropriate? Awkward? Or all of these things and more.
Pushpins maps were used to generate hype about just how far flung restaurant patrons were. The pushpins themselves were used almost explicitly to locate a person’s hometown, not the site of a bombing or drone attack.
This Google Maps mashup is one of the most popular on the web right now according to Google Maps Mania. Many people are being exposed to this type of misplaced symbology. So, I have to wonder if what is actually being mapped sinks in to the viewers. Call me old fashioned, but a yellow pushpin doesn’t quite carry the weight of “20 killed in the village of Mami Rogha in North Waziristan by a US Drone in June of 2007”.