University of Minnesota
He mapped Kazakhstan
U of M student maps the world’s ninth largest country
By Bill Magdalene
A couple of years ago, Kyril Negoda went into Google Maps to look up his hometown of Shakhtinsk, Kazakhstan. What he found was a blank spot. In fact, there was little detail for any of Kazakhstan—the former Soviet republic and world’s ninth largest country. It hadn’t recorded its geographical details online in the years following the Soviet Union’s collapse.
So, Negoda, a senior in graphic arts at the University of Minnesota, decided to do the mapping himself. He spent 500 unpaid hours over the next two years using Google Map Maker to map Kazakhstan from his home in St. Paul.
Q&A with Kyril Negoda
Why did you do this project?
Negoda: I wanted to create a map of Schakhtinsk, Kazakhstan, where I spent my childhood. Schakhtinsk used to be a bustling town for mining coal. But the area fell into dilapidation with the decline of mining. People started moving out and soon the place started to resemble a ghost town. No reliable maps existed that would show the extent of population loss.
So, I set out to correct this problem. In the beginning, my goal was to create a map of just one town and make it as reliable for other people as possible. Later, I expanded my focus to cover all of the country.
How did you do it?
Negoda: I relied on my memory, old photos, friends, and family who still live in the area to lay out the town's street network and later the surrounding countryside with its lakes, woods, highways, factories, old coal mines.
Why is the project important?
Negoda: In Central Asia, [many] people will benefit from having a reliable online map. As the Internet use keeps growing, so will the demand for services.
The exercise is important for the country's development efforts, especially investment where important features can be easily traced online. Businesses can post their location online and it will sync up with their Places page. The Places page can serve as a website for small businesses that don't have the capital to invest into their own websites.
It is also a collective construction that individuals draw on, to produce meaning and organize social knowledge. As a teen I drew maps, attempting to make sense of the changing urban landscape, to guide myself and to guide my peers. … I hope this inspires young individuals to express themselves and their unique view of the world through mapping.
What is your big goal?
Negoda: I don't have one big goal but rather small milestones along the way. Although it's taking me a long time to get where I want to be, I learn a great deal along the way. The more detours and side trips, the better.
How did you discover your academic path?
Negoda: I wanted to be in design since I was 13. I can't remember how I arrived at this, but I knew it was something I wanted to do.
Why the University of Minnesota?
Negoda: The U allowed me to pursue my interests in fields that lie outside my major. I think it is essential that designers look beyond the design sphere in framing new opportunities for themselves. I'm more of a well-rounded person coming out of the U, as I feel I'm fully equipped to tackle challenges of the modern world.
What do you like to do beyond academics?
Negoda: I take part in charity art events, where my art can make real difference.
Advice for freshmen?
Negoda: Find your corner. Pick at it long enough and eventually something good will come of this.