What is a Map?

It’s a Map: US Wildfire Activity Web Map

It’s a Map: Atlas of Surveillance

Map: 321 Definitions

Map: a “spatial representation of reality”

  • spatial: consisting of at least two dimensions and usually referring to geographic space
  • representation: something that stands for something else (in our case, something in the human or physical environment)
  • reality “the state of things as they actually exist.”

Map: “A graphic statement that locates facts.”

  • Graphic: A visual display of marks that stand for something else. An airplane shape on a map implies an airport.
  • Statement: To put forth information, a formal embodiment of facts or assertions.
  • Locating facts: Tangible and intangible phenomena located in geographic space: what we can see (roads, rivers) and what we cannot see (temperature, radiation), varying in amount (population) and kind (vegetation types).
  • But: “My show shoes are in my basement”: is this a map?

Map: “Maps are Propositions.”

  • What is a proposition?
    • the act of offering or suggesting something to be considered, accepted, adopted, or done.
    • a plan or scheme proposed.
    • a thing, matter, or person considered as something to be dealt with or encountered: Keeping diplomatic channels open is a serious proposition.
    • anything stated or affirmed for discussion or illustration.
    • a proposal of usually illicit sexual relations.

Handout & Discussion: Ce n’est pas le monde

Some more jargon…

Mapmaking: the production of a tangible map; the aggregate of those individual and largely technical processes of data collection, cartographic design and construction, reproduction, normally associated with the actual production of maps; designing, compiling, and producing maps.”

Cartography: seen as broader than map-making, as it involves the theoretical and philosophical aspects of mapmaking rules.

  • International Cartographic Association (ICA): Cartography is “the art, science, and technology of making maps, together with their study as scientific documents and works of art. In this context may be regarded as including all types of maps, plans, charts, and sections, 3D models, and globes representing the Earth or any celestial body at any scale.

Visualization: The interactive use of digital maps to explore and understand data. Geographic Visualization refers to the visualization of spatially distributed (geographic) data and usually involves maps. Visualization usually means more exploratory, preliminary examination of data with maps to try and learn things about the data (and the phenomena the data represents).

Geographic Information Systems: Computer hardware and software for the capture, storage, retrieval, analysis, and output (paper or digital display) of spatial data. Maps play a vital role in the analysis (visualization) and display components of GIS. GIS operates on desktop computers or the web.

What Maps and GIS Do to the World: Abstraction

Abstraction: the transformation of unmapped data into map form and selection and organization of information to help the user interpret material; identification of what is relevant given the purpose of the map

Selection: geographic space to be mapped, map scale, projection, aspect, data variables, data gathering or sampling, client needs, familiarization with what is to be mapped (you have to know about what you are mapping)… but mostly, what is chosen to be mapped… and what is not mapped.

Classification: grouping and categorizing; reduction of complexity to organize the mapped information to enhance communication

Symbolization: marks which represent data in some logical way

Design: “The planning and patterning of any act towards a desired foreseeable end constitutes a design process” An act of synthesis: pulling together disparate elements into something coherent

What is Map Design and Creation in GIS? an Art and a Science?

  • Borden Dent: “The art in cartography is the cartographers ability to synthesize the various ingredients involved in the abstraction process into an organized whole that facilitates the communication of ideas.”
  • Krygier “Cartography as an Art and a Science?”

Cartography and Art…

People do have aesthetic reactions to maps: maps as objects of interest, contemplation, and interest beyond their immediate utility

J. S. Keates: British cartographer: aesthetic responses to maps

  • imitation: somehow the map reminds us of what it represents in a way that makes us appreciate it. We like maps because they seem mimetic and even better than the reality they are supposed to represent

  • Emotive: somehow the map causes some emotional reaction

  • Expressionist: somehow the map causes us to feel that there is some personal expression from the map maker – some distinguishing characteristics that make us associate the map “look” with a certain person or persons

  • communicative: while put together bit by bit, a map seems to have some “message” that is more than the sum of its parts: emergent properties

  • formalist: the least applicable to maps, according to Keates. A response to the work itself which is not dependent upon the object the work represents, but on the abstract form of the work (Map Art Exhibits)

Cartography and Science…

Science defined: a methodological and objective process by which we come to understand physical and human phenomena

  • Arthur Robinson and the OSS (Office of Strategic Services) during WW2: question: how do people react to different map designs? Is there a way to systematically and formally improve the design of maps?
  • Origins of the Communication model

  • Ideas from communication science and perceptual and cognitive psychology
  • The “scientific approach” to map design had useful results: a coherent body of map design principals and guidelines which provide a starting point in the map design process

  • Much of this is based on perceptual research: evaluation of human visual processing of the visual variables and determination of their visual limits

Combine the principals and guidelines derived from scientific approaches to map design with the aesthetic aspects of design and mapping

Krygier & Wood: Up Through Ch. 1: Slides Here