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Cybercartography – Mapping out the Mystery

By: , Posted on: June 8, 2014

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Cybercartography is a new theoretical construct that focuses on “the organization, presentation, analysis and communication of spatially referenced information on a wide variety of topics of interest and use to society in an interactive, dynamic, multimedia, multisensory and multidisciplinary format. Beyond its multiple specifics, cybercartography offers an unprecedented opportunity for deeply rethinking the way we design, produce, disseminate and use maps on the Internet. These changes require a new cartographic paradigm that can be approached from different perspectives.

Cybercartography and Education

Maps, as well as the Internet, are often used for educational purposes. But we know little about the pedagogical rewards of combining maps (and other media) and the Internet. Research will explore assumptions using methods from cognitive science and human computer interaction research.

Cybercartography and Territorial Representations

Because map forms have changed and are constantly changing with the Internet, one can argue that cyber maps change the way people envision territories. What are the consequences of cybercartography and the way spatial phenomena are analyzed (visualization) / portrayed (communication) / understood (deciphered)?

Cybercartography and Cartography

Cybercartography is a new approach to map making and it is vital to analyze what influence the “old” medium (like paper maps) should have on these new media. What should be kept (or not) from these “old” media? Cybercartography will also involve a status change for (cyber) cartographers. What might the consequences of cybercartography be on the secular discipline of cartography?

Seven Elements & Six Ideas

The main products of cybercartography are Cybercartographic Atlases. A cybercartographic atlas is a metaphor for all kinds of qualitative and quantitative information linked through their location. Location is a central organizing principle informed by new concepts of the map and the process of mapping. Cybercartography is a holistic concept which combines these elements and is informed by the interaction between theory and practice. While the map is considered central to cybercartography, the notion of geographic narrative underpins the concept. Maps and associated media can help to tell stories about people, places, space and society. The following ideas are central to D. R. F. Taylor’s current thinking on cybercartography:

Cybercartography cover

Seven Elements

  1. Is multisensory using vision, hearing, touch and eventually smell and taste
  2. Uses multimedia formats and new telecommunications technologies such as the World Wide Web (e.g. Web 2.0, mobile devices)
  3. Is highly interactive and engages the user in new ways – user-centric and interactive, understanding and engaging the user in new ways through user needs analysis and usability studies, wiki atlases and “edutainment” (online educational games). Cybercartographic “users” can become “creators”.
  4. Is not a stand-alone product like the traditional map but part of an information/analytical package including both qualitative and quantitative information. The Cybercartographic Atlas Framework provides an organizational approach for the emerging products and processes of the Web 2.0 era of social computing.
  5. Is compiled by teams of individuals typically from different domains including disciplines not normally associated with cartography
  6. Is applied to a wide range of topics, not only to location finding and the physical environment. Responds to societal demands including topics not usually “mapped”
  7. Involves new research and development partnerships among academia, government, civil society and the private sector

Developments in the Theory and Practice of Cybercartography cover

Six Ideas

  1. People use all of their senses in learning. Consequently, cybercartography creates representations which allow them to do this through cybercartographic atlases.
  2. People learn in different ways and prefer teaching and learning materials in different formats. Cybercartographic atlases provide people with a choice of learning styles or combinations of learning styles. The same information is presented in multiple formats.
  3. Effective teaching and learning takes place best when individuals are actively involved and engaged. The multimedia and interactive approaches used in cybercartographic atlases facilitate this.
  4. People need the power to create their own narratives, ie. the social computing revolution. The Cybercartographic Atlas Framework provides a mechanism for doing this which gives some structure and metadata indicating the quality and nature of the narratives that people create. The Framework is also open source and does not require special knowledge in order to create a narrative.
  5. Many topics of interest to society are very complex. There is no simple “right” or “wrong” answer to many questions such as global warming and climate change. To understand these complexities different ontologies or narratives on the same topic should be presented in ways that people can easily understand without privileging one over the other. Cybercartographic atlases do this. Of particular importance is giving voices to local people. They can speak for themselves rather than having others speak for them.
  6. There has been a shift from “map user” to “map creator” which establishes new forms of democratized teaching and learning. The Cybercartographic Atlas Framework helps to democratize mapping in new ways.

To learn more about cybercartography you can look at the Geomatics and Cartographic Research Centre Website at as well as two books on cybercartography published by Elsevier – Cybercartography: Theory and Practice, D. R. Fraser Taylor, ed. (2005); and Developments in the Theory and Practice of Cybercartography: Applications and Indigenous Mapping, D. R. Fraser Taylor,ed. and Lauriault, T. P., associate ed. (2014).

Both books are available on the Elsevier Store. Use discount code “STC3014” at checkout to save 30%!

About the Author

Fraser Taylor

Dr D. R. Fraser Taylor is a distinguished research professor and Director of the Geomatics and Cartographic Research Centre at Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada. He has been recognized as one of the world’s leading cartographers and a pioneer in the introduction of the use of the computer in cartography. He has served as the president of the International Cartographic Association from 1987 to 1995. Also, in 2008, he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in recognition of his achievements. He was awarded the Carl Mannerfelt Gold Medal in August 2013. This highest award of the International Cartographic Association honours cartographers of outstanding merit who have made significant contributions of an original nature to the field of cartography.

He produced two of the world’s first computer atlases in 1970. His many publications continue to have a major impact on the field. In 1997, he introduced the innovative new paradigm of cybercartography. He and his team are creating a whole new genre of online multimedia and multisensory atlases including several in cooperation with indigenous communities. He has also published several influential contributions to development studies and many of his publications deal with the relationship between cartography and development in both a national and an international context. We are thrilled to announce that Fraser Taylor has been awarded the Killam 2014 prize for his distinguished research and expertise in Cybercartography, congratulations Fraser.

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