Presentation by Kenneth Field at International Cartographic Conference, Dresden 2013
The London Olympic Games in 2012 provided the impetus for official organisations, news media and individuals to turn the vast amount of data into map form in order to tell their stories. This paper explores some of the cartographic highlights (and one or two lowlights) that the Olympics inspired and how different cartographic approaches were taken to mapping the results of the election. There were some great maps on view and also some interesting trends emerging, particularly in terms of web maps and web maps used as infographics.
During the summer of 2012 it was almost impossible to follow any Olympic coverage in person or through the media without seeing maps of some form or other from branded official products, innovative media mapping, individual efforts, mashups of live data feeds and everything in between. Maps were crucial to event planning, for transport, emergency management and to simply locate the new facilities for those lucky enough to have acquired a ticket. They have also been part of the ongoing story throughout the event as virtually every media outlet has used maps in a multitude of forms to report everything from the location of countries and athletes home towns, to world maps of medal counts that update as winners cross the finish line.
For web maps/information graphics the Olympic Games provided a rich reservoir of potential for professional and amateur map-makers alike to get their creative juices flowing. Web maps were clearly the preferred choice of information dissemination and hard to beat given the ease of production and appetite for consumption of maps to present data created in rapid real-time. The rise of the online infographic is particularly apparent. Maybe we’re seeing a move towards these more diagrammatic forms of mapped representation with increasing use of online as a way of publishing information? Perhaps the traditional mapped view of the world simply isn’t seen as attention-grabbing enough to be the preferred choice any more. Certainly, with such short web surfing attention spans, the more visually stimulating you can make your map/infographic the stronger the chance people will stop, read and re-visit. This is a key dimension to web mapping and this paper reflects on the way in which design plays an important role in shaping the story.