F.Ch. Hruby

University of Vienna



As cartographic textbooks are still focusing on maps, a multiplicity of alternative forms of visualizing reality in 2D- or 3D-space are being developed. For cartography questions arise, how these new alternatives can be used and should be used. This implicates an interest in whether and how these recent technologies of visualization may outclass maps as well.


Being interested in optimal or even ideal forms of cartographic representation requires a broad theoretic background, that allows to compare different models of reality on a theoretical equivalent basis. However cartography is missing such a basis of comparison at the moment, as its theories, rules and vocabulary are concentrating on the map. Thereby cartographic theories are falling behind possible cartographic practice (e. g.: virtual reality models, digital globes) more and more, so that an already old dilemma of cartography – namely the backwardness of theory behind practice – is aggravating. From there it is first of all necessary to create theoretical fundaments, that apply to maps, current alternative forms of digital visualization and future models of reality as well. Therefore it seems to make sense to develop such a theory, that is as independent of technological restrictions as possible.


In view of the problem outlined above this article addresses two objectives. First we will try to model the principal aims of cartography on a semiotic basis and to reformulate them in terms of a cartographical imperative. This imperative shall be designed in a way, that allows an argumentation of cartographic signs, which is independent of any concrete technical restriction. At the same time such imperative shall be applicable to all forms of cartographic representation that can be summarized on conditions of space (2d vs. 3d), time (mono-temporal vs. poly-temporal) and the different modes of sensory perception (visual, haptic, olfactory, ... ) in terms of a Cybercartography. This postulated independence and universality shall be attained by orientating cartography on the one hand on the user and on the other hand on reality.


Secondly this article shall exemplify, how concrete signs can be derived from this semioticaly reformulated cartographical imperative. This aim refers to a general description of a method and its application to cartographic practice. Such method includes tools to evaluate existing signs as well as instructions to form new signs. Anyway this method shall be designed in a way, that is always independent of the concrete application and therefore generally applicable to every concept of cartographic signs. The root of this method addressed above is the prototype-theory, whereby the relation between user and reality can be formalized and thus underlie every cartographic design process. How the prototype-theory can become integrated to semiotics to achieve a workable method, shall be illustrated by means of an empirical research, so that theory exemplary will get interrelated to practice.