H. Baer, R. Sieber, J. Cron, P. Marty, L. Hurni

ETH Zurich, Institute of Cartography, Zurich, Switzerland



Recently, the Swiss World Atlas started a new cooperation with the Institute of Cartography concerning a supplementary Web atlas version. At that time, the printed atlas already had a tradition of more than eighty years. The new project therefore aims at convincingly combining traditional claims and novel approaches.

For one part, the proposed paper will report on technical aspects and stages of the development. For the other part, it will focus on a few selected topics that reveal new approaches of a general interest. This includes ideas of how to handle sets of maps, what students can do beyond browsing maps, how the literate skills of students can be improved, and how future interfaces might look like.

To start with, the novel idea of synchronized maps will be presented as a means to simultaneously handle sets of related maps. It will be shown that synchronized maps constitute a general concept that enables users for map comparison as well as for spatial navigation.

The atlas will serve a broad audience, but will also be aware of skilled computer-experienced students. This is where the idea of a programmable or scriptable atlas comes into play. Thus, students shall be able to individually control map visualization, symbolize their own data sets on top of existing base maps, and configure the atlas according to their personal needs.

From an educational point of view, it can be argued that with the advent of graphical user interfaces and multimedia products, the literate skills of students risk the danger of turning into a mere recognition vocabulary. It is intended to counter this tendency by assisting them in the use of a proper terminology, supporting text-based interactions with appropriate feedback and the design of a geographic database that builds on language, concepts, and relations.

Finally, the apparently paradox notion of an interface-less atlas reflects the observation that for a Web atlasin contrast to atlases delivered on a dedicated data storage mediummap search strategies are becoming more important than sophisticated map manipulation tools. The idea is to take much advantage of the powerful search strategies of todays Web search engines and to tie thematic atlas navigation close to such services.