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.


4 Responses to NeoCartography – Whats Next for Data Visualziation and the GeoWeb

  1. Peter H. says:

    These are subjects and questions that caught my eye. I met someone recently at the i2 Conference that may be of assistance and provide additional insight or collaboration. Dr. Isaac Brewer at Penn State.



    Also of interest, he is looking for assistance on the topic of Cyber Warfare, i.e., “CyberManhattan Project”

  2. Nick says:

    Sean – I realised after the session at WhereCamp that we didn’t look at the animated maps that Barry Crabtree presented at last year’s State of the Map conference. Take a look at this video – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8900qxXBwEg – and this image – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8900qxXBwEg

    These maps were meant purely for fun, but the techniques used by Barry could also be used to create the next generation of cartography. Roads could pulse according to the amount of traffic driving down them and shading could change according to weather conditions etc. Neo or what?

  3. Sean Gorman says:

    Thanks Peter would be great to get his thoughts. Cindy Brewer is a real pioneer in the field – guessing they are related since they both work for GeoVista. The Cyberwarfare work sounds interesting as well. Need to catch up sometime soon.


  4. Sean Gorman says:

    Hey Nick,

    Cool animations and a great approach for visualizing temporal data. As Tom puts it “animate and add sliders”. Both provide a new cartographic dimension that has not been possible with traditional approaches. Lots of possibilities I think. OSM with pulsing traffic and dynamic weather would kick ass.

    So – do they have mechanical bulls in Limerick I think it is Steve’s turn.