Google Maps must engage in a cross-cultural (and often cross-lingual) act to publish its maps. Each place or feature name can be given in multiple languages, and occasionally as NPR’s On the Media discusses, cultures don’t agree on the name of a shared feature.

I’ve been aware of differing names for some features, such as the Bay of California vs. Sea of Cortez and the Faukland Islands vs. Las Malvinas. However, the difficulty of even constructing one world map upon which multiple cultures can agree is amazing. The NPR story is a good listen or read for those interested.

Google must pick a name (or list multiple names) when naming these locations. Google is able to name features differently on different language versions. Thus, the maps of China on has an slightly wider more definite reach than the version, which has a dashed border that doesn’t make it clear whether Arunachal Pradesh is part of India or China.

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NPR On the Media

Note: This post was originally published on Scott Hale's blog on . It might have been updated since then in its original location. The post gives the views of the author(s), and not necessarily the position of the Oxford Internet Institute.