Somewhere down there
WHEREon earth am I?
On terra firma it’s a question that can baffle the weary traveller, but aboard a plane at 30,000 feet one quick look at the tracking map will provide a precise answer. The trusty map will also tell you how much flight time is still to be endured, which is why this feature consistently ranks as one of the most popular onboard entertainment options. But the map is purely functional — you might consult it several times during a journey, but you’re not going to linger. Tyler Sterkel, a museum curator and interactive producer based in San Francisco, thinks that’s about to change. Back in the early 2000s, Sterkel, who had experience producing audio guides for museum visitors, was introduced to Greg Dicum, author of a series of books designed to help airline passengers in North America and Europe understand the landscapes over which they were flying.
The pair tried to think of ways to get Dicum’s Window Seat books into in-flight entertainment systems, but shelved the idea when they realised the costs were prohibitive. In 2010, when US airlines started to install WiFi on aircraft, they decided to revisit the concept and launched MondoWindow , a website designed to transform the moving map from a handy tool to an entertaining guide.
MondoWindow’s content is currently focused on North American regions and geographic features, with geo-coded Wikipedia articles and Flickr photos on