While out at WhereCamp we organized a session on cartography and the GeoWeb. Someone blurted out NeoCartography during the meet up and the label seems as good a title as any. There are good guiding principles for paper based cartography and there are good guiding principles for interactive design on the Web, but it is a bit of a void when it comes to good interactive cartography on the Web.
As journalists and bloggers discuss the GeoWeb, geography and cartography often get used interchangeably. For the purposes of this post I’m referring to cartography as the creation of maps and how information is presented on them – both scientifically and aesthetically. If you ask most cartographers about the quality of your standard map mashup – they’ll flatly say its crap – using pushpins for everything and massive information overload from maps that are far too busy. This was also the general conclusion of the session at WhereCamp – we can do better. The discussion broke up into three topics:
1) Base map cartography
2) Thematic maps
3) 3D and interactive cartography
Base map cartography refers to cartographic quality of the tiles you get from the standard providers (Google, Yahoo, Microsoft etc.). There has been a movement led by folks like OpenStreetMaps and EveryBlock to “roll your own” base map tiles, which opens the door to many cartographic questions.
Thematic maps refer to visualizing geographic data based on a variable or attribute – most often quantitative – on a map. This is where you see techniques like shading polygons to indicate a value (choropleth) or sizing a symbol to reflect a value (proportional symbol). Many great examples on Bjørn Sandvik’s Thematic Mapping Blog.
Lastly the question of how does cartography change with the advent of interactive live maps and adding a third dimension. As the GeoWeb moves more towards immersive mirror worlds how will cartography adapt or will it be replaced?
Over the next week or so I’ll try to explore each of these topics and do my best to reproduce the great insights from the session at WhereCamp.
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