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CV-21 - Map Reading

Map reading is the process of looking at the map to determine what is depicted and how the cartographer depicted it. This involves identifying the features or phenomena portrayed, the symbols and labels used, and information about the map that may not be displayed on the map. Reading maps accurately and effectively requires at least a basic understanding of how the mapmaker has made important cartographic decisions relating to map scale, map projections, coordinate systems, and cartographic compilation (selection, classification, generalization, and symbolization). Proficient map readers also appreciate artifacts of the cartographic compilation process that improve readability but may also affect map accuracy and uncertainty. Masters of map reading use maps to gain better understanding of their environment, develop better mental maps, and ultimately make better decisions. Through successful map reading, a person’s cartographic and mental maps will merge to tune the reader’s spatial thinking to the reality of the environment.

CV-01 - Cartography and Science

"Science" is used both to describe a general, systematic approach to understanding the world and to refer to that approach as it is applied to a specific phenomenon of interest, for example, "geographic information science." The scientific method is used to develop theories that explain phenomena and processes. It consists of an iterative cycle of several steps: proposing a hypothesis, devising a way to make empirical observations that test that hypothesis, and finally, refining the hypothesis based on the empirical observations. "Scientific cartography" became a dominant mode of cartographic research and inquiry after World War II, when there was increased focus on the efficacy of particular design decisions and how particular maps were understood by end users. This entry begins with a brief history of the development of scientific cartographic approaches, including how they are deployed in map design research today. Next it discusses how maps have been used by scientists to support scientific thinking. Finally, it concludes with a discussion of how maps are used to communicate the results of scientific thinking.

CV-08 - Symbolization and the Visual Variables

Maps communicate information about the world by using symbols to represent specific ideas or concepts. The relationship between a map symbol and the information that symbol represents must be clear and easily interpreted. The symbol design process requires first an understanding of the underlying nature of the data to be mapped (e.g., its spatial dimensions and level of measurement), then the selection of symbols that suggest those data attributes. Cartographers developed the visual variable system, a graphic vocabulary, to express these relationships on maps. Map readers respond to the visual variable system in predictable ways, enabling mapmakers to design map symbols for most types of information with a high degree of reliability.