Wired: Have open access cartography tools like Open Street Maps impacted your work?
Dillon: “In a way, yes. Not so much with boundaries because boundaries are legal instruments. Anybody can put down a boundary in OSM but nobody’s going to pay attention to it because there’s nothing backing it up. But in the realm of names, definitely so. People are putting down names in OSM that are quasi-official or not official or local, and those are very interesting. We look at them and we collect them.
Before the internet, we had a much easier time defending the names we used because we were considered much more of an authority.
Now, if you want to find out how to spell a town in an Arabic country, if you go to Wikipedia you may find a name that’s more commonly used on the ground. It’s something we’re having a hard time keeping up with.
The democratization of cartography, much like the internet as a whole, has opened up the world of geographical knowledge to a much bigger degree.”