Daniel Huffman wrote an article about 2 years ago for Visually (linked above) that discusses the issues I’ve been writing about lately, but more specific to cartography rather than geography.
He makes a strong case that maps shouldn’t simply present information, but ought to tell a story. He concludes that ultimately, companies care increasingly less about beautiful maps (that tell a story like the former image) and instead want quick, mass-produced maps (like the latter image above).
Two years later I still find this article relevant, however I don’t think cartography will die just yet. I think as consequence of our society’s obsession with appearance and beauty, good-looking products will continue to sell. Think Apple versus Android–the demand is still there.
He is also totally spot-on that cartographers don’t really know how to assert and define themselves in this evolving industry. I mean, it is understandable. GIS opened the doors to mapping in so many more industries and with all this increased in demand, you can’t just do GIS and cartography anymore. You have to have a field of interest you want to apply your GIS and cartography expertise to. I even mentioned that in my Master’s thesis process; the maps ended up being a final product for presenting the results of my work. The conceptualization and analysis was also crucial to creating good work. When the emphasis on the final product just isn’t there because people care more about the analysis and results, design becomes an afterthought. Basically GIS is allowing the math and science of this work to overpower the art and beauty found in maps, for now at least.
Writing about an issue like this ultimately leads to a climactic halting moment for me–what is more important in this line of work, science or art? I don’t think there’s a good answer for that, so I will let it remain rhetorical.
I understand this issue from both points of view. But since you could literally argue both sides forever, I’ll just leave you with this: research is incredibly important, but the more effective story you can tell about your research, the more people you are going to reach.
(a very appropriate?) Happy Mapping,