Lars Brodersen                                                                                      4. October 2006


Aalborg University




Abstract submission, ICC2007, Moscow


Conference theme: 1. Theoretical cartography






Cartography was the discipline that created maps. Cartography is still the process that creates maps. Cartography has even evolved, e.g. by adopting computer disciplines into the production. Seen from one side, nothing has really changed; cartography has always produced maps and will continue to produce maps.

However, maps are changing. Transmission of all sorts of geoinformation demands other media than maps alone. One example is the spatial data infrastructure (SDI), which is crucial to modern transmission of geo-information. SDI is not a map per se, although SDI can transfer maps. A map no longer can be seen as ‘the information’, but fare more as ‘the expression of the information’.

On another front, maps compete with other sources of information. One of the most prominent examples or group of ‘producers of geoinformation’ are the National Mapping Agencies. Do the National Mapping Agencies have an answer to tomorrow’s tasks? Do they support the SDI and transmission of geo-information through web-services etc? I think the answer is ‘no’. Another prominent ‘producer of geo-information’ is Google Earth. Who created Google Earth? Was it a producer from the core, traditional producer-group? I think the answer is ‘no’. Producers of geo-information must be capable of mastering several more disciplines than just a few years ago. Those skills that were sufficient up till recently cannot solve tomorrow’s tasks! Per definition, this is a paradigm shift.

The consequences are that the previous scientific basis must be re-formulated, the concepts must be re-defined, the methods must be re-constructed etc. And here, I’m not talking about developing better, more sophisticated and more efficient software for cartographic production.

One ‘sacred cow’ that must be re-defined is that almost all registration of phenomena is based on a description of the geometric appearance of an object, e.g. buildings. In many cases the function inside the building is more important than the geometric appearance. One example is the registration of airports. Does any traveller care about the circumference of an airport or the position of the runway? No, they care about the relative position of the entrance-door to the check-in facilities; relative to the public transportation or to the parking lot. Do we register the entrance door to the check-in facilities? No, we don’t.

Another ‘sacred cow’ is that geo-information, cartography etc. cannot benefit from the humanities. What do we care about communication-theories, rhetoric, phenomenology etc? Not much. Looking at the example above with the airport it seems obvious to me that humanities must be part of a re-defined domain. I think a re-definition of the geoinformation domain should begin at the users’ position.