18 votes

'The perfect combination of art and science': mourning the end of paper maps

14 comments

  1. [2]
    scot
    Link
    In one of the advanced design classes I took in college, Communication Design II, we were tasked with collecting loads of data from a month of using any social media platform and "mapping" it into...

    In one of the advanced design classes I took in college, Communication Design II, we were tasked with collecting loads of data from a month of using any social media platform and "mapping" it into a poster. Not the classical geographic map, per se, but the lesson got into how to visually represent a large amount of data points in a way that was functional and aesthetically pleasing. Really made you think about how maps can be used. I mapped out my experience on the free one month trial of eHarmony. Interestingly enough, in so doing, patterns emerged that exposed the eharmony algorithm. For example, the site was able to ascertain which matches I'd be most interested in and which users would be most likely to respond to initial steps of communication. It waited until just after 3 weeks and then started to match me with users I found attractive. In stepping through the communication levels, in order to reach "open messaging" I would need to pay for that next month.

    9 votes
    1. ibis
      Link Parent
      A great example of this that is constantly brought up is John Snow's map of Cholera. Maps are great for quickly and visually identifying and communicating patterns.

      Really made you think about how maps can be used. I mapped out my experience on the free one month trial of eHarmony. Interestingly enough, in so doing, patterns emerged that exposed the eharmony algorithm.

      A great example of this that is constantly brought up is John Snow's map of Cholera. Maps are great for quickly and visually identifying and communicating patterns.

      5 votes
  2. [3]
    moose
    Link
    This article is talking about the end of maps, which may be the case in Australia, but in the US where hiking and skiing is popular, like along the Appalachian trail, maps are still wildly popular...

    This article is talking about the end of maps, which may be the case in Australia, but in the US where hiking and skiing is popular, like along the Appalachian trail, maps are still wildly popular due to the fact that you can at any one time be so far from electricity using your phone or an electronic gps is impractical or sometimes downright dangerous if it's not for an emergency

    6 votes
    1. emdash
      Link Parent
      Same with NZ. Paper maps are still very much a thing if you remotely go off trail. We have the Topo50 series of maps which provide highly detailed 1:50,000 terrain relief (digital version linked,...

      Same with NZ. Paper maps are still very much a thing if you remotely go off trail. We have the Topo50 series of maps which provide highly detailed 1:50,000 terrain relief (digital version linked, but it is customary to purchase the map tiles you need from your local outdoors shop). Kind of similar to the USGS Quadrangles.

      As a paraglider, physical VNC maps are pretty important too for VFR flight (linked file is a PDF with some examples of the map).

      Again, there are digital solutions, but these tend to augment instead of replace paper maps.

      5 votes
    2. Happy_Shredder
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      Parks Victoria, for example, still produce paper/printable maps of state forests. These naturally include tracks and campgrounds, points of interest, and so on. Here, as in Appalachia, it's very...

      Parks Victoria, for example, still produce paper/printable maps of state forests. These naturally include tracks and campgrounds, points of interest, and so on. Here, as in Appalachia, it's very easy to go beyond cooee of help [1].

      Many of these details are also reproduced on OpenStreetMaps.

      That said, Geoscience Aus maps are really valuable; the topography is signigficant,and they cover truly remote areas. So it's certainly sad to see these maps disappear.

      [1] It's only been in the past year or so that I've been able to get phone signal the whole train trip to my parents, who aren't remote by any measure.

      3 votes
  3. KilledByAPixel
    Link
    That's ok, now we have videogames to be "the perfect combination of art and science", which also often contain maps.

    That's ok, now we have videogames to be "the perfect combination of art and science", which also often contain maps.

    2 votes
  4. [8]
    vakieh
    Link
    Oh man that's an advanced case of wankeritis. Maps exist for function, not art - a map doesn't need beauty to convince people to look at it, it needs usability and accuracy. If you are the sort of...

    A map, he says, needs beauty so that users want to look at it and absorb what it contains.

    Oh man that's an advanced case of wankeritis. Maps exist for function, not art - a map doesn't need beauty to convince people to look at it, it needs usability and accuracy. If you are the sort of person like Brendan you aren't the one intended to be using the map - go look at a painting instead.

    4 votes
    1. [3]
      onyxleopard
      Link Parent
      Sorry to digress into aesthetics, but in the Aristotelian tradition of the philosophy of beauty, a beautiful map must be functional. Part of that function is being legible/utile. In Aristotelian...

      Sorry to digress into aesthetics, but in the Aristotelian tradition of the philosophy of beauty, a beautiful map must be functional. Part of that function is being legible/utile. In Aristotelian terms this is the so-called telic or final cause. Why is a map a good map? If it doesn’t help someone looking at it get a good sense for the domain it represents, it is not a good map. Thus the design decisions, such as those made for modern subway maps are different from, say GIS quads for topological info, vs. again chloropleths depicting demographic statistics. Thus, maps can be beautiful in many different ways. Even the typography, typesetting, and layout of textual labels on a map may contribute to its beauty.

      17 votes
      1. [2]
        vakieh
        Link Parent
        Aesthetic is a big part of usability, sure, but that's definitely not the sort of thing the person in the article is talking about. Look at the examples they're talking about - they're talking...

        Aesthetic is a big part of usability, sure, but that's definitely not the sort of thing the person in the article is talking about.

        Look at the examples they're talking about - they're talking about the calligraphy, the iconography of monsters in the oceans, and the human history of the creation of the map, all of which are irrelevant to their function.

        2 votes
        1. onyxleopard
          (edited )
          Link Parent
          Yes, that gets to the formal cause in Aristotelian terms—how is the map composed? This is wrapped up in the efficient cause (again, in Aristotelian terms). These are all interrelated aspects of...

          they're talking about the calligraphy, the iconography of monsters in the oceans

          Yes, that gets to the formal cause in Aristotelian terms—how is the map composed?

          and the human history of the creation of the map

          This is wrapped up in the efficient cause (again, in Aristotelian terms).

          These are all interrelated aspects of the beauty of things if you assume Western theories of aesthetics. Function is one part of beauty, but a map that manifests the four causes (material, formal, efficient, and telic) to a higher degree is, arguably, the more beautiful. 'Beauty' may be an unfortunate word in this context because Aristotle’s ideas here may be considered more translatable to 'good' or 'quality' in the abstract rather than 'beauty' whose sense I think has drifted toward superficial connotations (a more apt word for Aristotle’s 'causes' that is sometimes alternated is 'qualia'—properties possessed by an object as distinct from the object itself).

          I.e., the quality of two maps (which arguably goes beyond aesthetics) can be compared in terms of their respective material, formal, efficient, and telic causes (or qualia). As such, the more accurate map may be considered better in terms of its telic quale, while the map that has flourishes such as calligraphic labels or interesting iconography might be considered better in terms of its formal quale. Now, if the formal quale of a map interfered with its telic quale I would not contest that that would detract from its quality. But, to say that the telic quale is more important than the formal quale is not something I would agree with. I think if you assess objects solely in terms of teleology, you will have an impoverished perspective.

          6 votes
    2. ibis
      Link Parent
      The full quote: I am a GIS analyst and I agree completely with the quote. I suspect you probably haven't been exposed to many truly terrible maps before. They typically have things like garish...

      The full quote:

      “One of the problems, with the development of GIS [geographic information systems] and everyone making their own maps is that people just dump their data without thinking about the aesthetics or what the map is trying to tell a reader.”

      A map, he says, needs beauty so that users want to look at it and absorb what it contains.

      But that’s less about particular platforms, whether digital or otherwise, than the cartographer’s skill.

      I am a GIS analyst and I agree completely with the quote. I suspect you probably haven't been exposed to many truly terrible maps before. They typically have things like garish clashing colour schemes, too many labels (many irrelevant), a cluttered map face, no visual hierarchy.

      I've worked with people that have the same philosophy as you, and I was quietly asked to redo their maps because no one wanted to use them. Maps are just another form of visual communication - you wouldn't make a poster in fluro green and bright red - and you shouldn't make a map with those colours either.

      5 votes
    3. [3]
      emdash
      Link Parent
      I'm sorry, but I have to disagree vehemently here. Maps may exist for a function, but if they're godawful to look at with hideous design and a poor palette—then no, I'm going to try and find...

      I'm sorry, but I have to disagree vehemently here. Maps may exist for a function, but if they're godawful to look at with hideous design and a poor palette—then no, I'm going to try and find something else: see OSM vs Google Maps. Yes, it's true: OSM looks like a garbage fire in terms of design and it massively turns me off from using their default product.

      Design is how it works. If your goal is to make people use the map, it needs to look good to fulfill that function; so by arguing in favor of utility, you yourself have effectively proven—albeit in a circuitous way—that beauty & aesthetics are actually important to function.

      And this is another thing I see a lot on Tildes that I'd like to see go away: scoffing quasi-insults against those arguing their point—often especially related to design. How does calling this "wankeritis" help the conversation go along?

      8 votes
      1. [2]
        onyxleopard
        Link Parent
        FYI, OSM’s data can be displayed with different styling and can be made to look better than the defaults. Google’s maps presumably could as well, but you don’t have any control over the...

        FYI, OSM’s data can be displayed with different styling and can be made to look better than the defaults. Google’s maps presumably could as well, but you don’t have any control over the presentation of Google’s mapping data (whereas anyone can make a better design for OSM).

        1 vote
        1. emdash
          Link Parent
          Yes! It can (this is why I said "default product"). The point was that OSM's default layer is ugly, though. It was merely an example to take at face value.

          Yes! It can (this is why I said "default product"). The point was that OSM's default layer is ugly, though. It was merely an example to take at face value.

          2 votes