Presentation by Kenneth Field at International Cartographic Conference, Dresden 2013.
Much has been made about web maps being a new map-making medium even to the extent that they’re often referred to as a whole new breed of maps (e.g. intelligent web maps) or that they define a new paradigm in cartography. The democratization of map-making has certainly been pivotal in developing new ways of publishing maps and by new map-makers but cartography has always been a milieu defined by the varying dimensions of science, art and technology. The last of these has always been hugely defining and has gone a long way to determining how a map appears. Trends in ornate lettering were largely brought about by the skill of the copperplate engraver. Full colour map production was underpinned by developments in printing and digital map production technologies. Now, barriers to online map production have diminished; data has never been more easily gathered using mobile devices or acquired through online sources so making a map has never been easier in terms of their construction.
This is of huge consequence to the art of cartography. Technological development has been so rapid due to the perceived need to create a framework that allows anyone to make a map. What this has resulted in is more maps and, consequently, more bad maps. This paper does not seek to simply shine a light on the widespread abuse of maps brought about by recent change but, rather, to focus on an assessment of the way in which web mapping is both redefining and challenging cartography. I use a case study approach based on the parallel print and web production of a map designed to tell the story of deaths in Grand Canyon.
The Death in Grand Canyon map is the first of its kind to depict over 700 known deaths in the Grand Canyon. The purpose of the map was to catalogue the deaths spatially; to give them a locational context and to display the thematic information of the nature of the events of each death ranging from falls and drownings to snake bites, suicides and murders. Each death has a very individual story but collectively, they tell a bigger story of the danger that such a magnificent but dangerous environment poses to humans. The map was used as a vehicle to explicitly explore the differences between print and web as a publication medium and how the medium affects the design process.
The print map was designed as a large format poster; the web map as a multiscale information product for viewing on screen and mobile devices. Each was treated as a separate product and designed within the constraints and opportunities afforded by the two different production technologies. This paper explores how design principles and the use of different cartographic methods were largely driven by the different technologies of production and what they meant for how the story was to be communicated by each.