The answer come this question could seem obvious. Therefore why spend a totality column on the topic? because perhaps it’s not so clear.

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Let’s an initial see what dictionaries tell us. The Oxford dictionary of English application defines a cartographer together “a human being who paint, etc or produces maps.” Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary says a cartographer is “one that provides maps.” and the Cambridge Dictionary, also accessible online, says that a cartographer is “someone who renders or color etc maps.”

Noticeably, these interpretations all focus on making and drawing. This is probably due to the outmoded process of producing document maps. The chain the production forced a whole set of world who each had actually their own skills. Next to the cartographer, for instance, was likewise a photographer and also a printing push operator.

Interestingly, web-based Dictionary.com writes the a cartographer is “a person engaged in cartography, or the manufacturing of maps.” This broadens the scope of the word, certainly, however it’s still a tiny vague. What does “engaged in” mean, exactly?

This reminds me of discussions amongst cartographers that were happening throughout the 1980s approximately the inquiry of who was the genuine cartographer—the person in the drawing room actually drawing the map or the scholastic who mostly discussed the map conceptually? together a young student at the time, the answer was pretty clean to me: both were members of the dutch cartographic culture and both engaged in the same activities and discussions during meetings, therefore both would qualify as “real cartographers” since both were experienced in cartography.


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When the computer system became fully integrated in creating maps in the 1990s, however, the number of people connected who had various crafts (e.g., the photographer and also the printing press operator) decreased. By this time, the cartographer to be doing every the work. So a cartographer came to be someone v the expertise and an abilities to design and also make maps because that a details audience.

The integration of the computer system in essentially all work processes also had a few additional impacts on cartography. Soon, world who own no cartographic an abilities whatsoever to be able to do maps. Oftentimes, they were researchers from geography-based self-controls who used GIS to visualize their data ~ above maps. To me, these people were not cartographers however rather mapmakers, considering castle lacked expert cartographic training.

In current decades, history repeated itself v a slight twist. The climb of the Internet and also mobile devices has brought about a tremendous rise in the creation and use of maps. Many of those maps are of the where-is-it and also how-do-I-get-there type. But with society media and also our growing behavior of sharing information, over there has additionally been a surging of world making mashup maps v online mapping tools.

It could be suggested that the experienced cartographic community shouldn’t be against the existence of much more maps in the world. However at the exact same time, not all maps room necessarily good. This is greatly because, first, the mapmakers’ an abilities are not approximately par, and, second, they frequently use the software defaults, i beg your pardon don’t always produce the many accurate results.


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So how can cartographers train mapmakers to do better cartography? sending them all ago to institution is not an extremely likely. The said, online, open-source education modules it seems ~ to it is in a viable option. The would likewise be useful if the available software far better described that is default settings and even offered suggestions on i m sorry map species or symbology come use throughout the mapmaking process.

Additionally, cartographers have to pay fist to the map users—those who manipulate a map v an target in mind. We have to ask ourselves concerns such as, carry out they really understand what lock seeing? do they realize how this particular type of map works? perform they obtain why the mapmaker made details design choices? One solution might be to add annotations or analysis instructions come maps come further describe the data.

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Given how significantly the process of mapmaking has readjusted over the past couple of decades, just how do we specify a cartographer now? I would say that a cartographer is someone who unquestionably own the understanding and an abilities to design and make maps, yet who is additionally engaged with map users to ensure that his or her maps are put to proper use.


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Menno-Jan Kraak

Menno-Jan Kraak is professor of geovisual analytics and cartography in ~ the university of Twente in the Netherlands, where he has been teaching because 1996. He has a degree in cartography native the Faculty of Geographical scientific researches at Utrecht University and also received his doctor in cartography indigenous Delft university of Technology. Kraak has actually written broadly on cartography and also GIS. His book Cartography: visualization of Spatial Data, written with Ferjan Ormeling, has actually been translated into five languages. He additionally wrote Mapping Time: portrayed by Minard’s Map of napoleon Russian project of 1812, published by gaianation.net push in 2014. Kraak is a member that the editorial boards of several cartography journals, including the global Journal that Cartography. That is previous president the the international Cartographic Association.


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