Module Visualization and Cartography

by ustroetz

Finally the day has come: 600 days after starting my first module, I handed in my last mandatory module – Visualization and Cartography. A module you would expect at the beginning of a GIS degree was for some reason the last one. After producing many, many maps for various courses I actually learned what matters when creating them.

Even though I am currently not planning to focus on map making (at least print maps), knowing a little bit about visualization will always be handy. You have to communicate your work and ideas somehow. Inspired by Steve Jobs’ Stanford commencement speech and him pointing out the influence in his life of taking a calligraphy class, I wanted to learn calligraphy anyway, which is an important part in visualization. So I was excited to learn something about visualization and cartography.

It was the first time during all of the modules that the lectures were taught as an online class and not as a pdf class. But only kind of: We got a zip folder with an html inside. The html only worked on Windows browsers. So on the one hand, cool – online, on the other, not cool – some weird html only working on a Windows browser. Why couldn’t they host the data? I finally got it to work with the help of another student by using the developer user agent from Safari.
The html was very static. Unfortunately no javascript jumping around, even though the topic of the class is begging for it. But that’s just the form. Let’s get to the content.

The module had six big lectures: Introduction, Cartography language, Abstraction, Labeling/Typography, Map design, and Surfaces.
To the six lectures came four assignments. We had to produce a thematic map about tourism, design a poster (see the cyprus image), produce a couple of maps with the focus on classification, and answer questions about visual variables, like the use of color.

Most of the covered topics in the lectures were not limited to the use of maps (e.g. use of color). Though it was a little bit disappointing that the entire class was focused on static maps. Not a single word about web maps was mentioned.

Also the class was scratching mainly on the surface of the topics and didn’t give me more information or inspiration than Wikipedia can give me about design. In addition clicking trough the html jungle didn’t really motivate to get interested.
From my point of view, this module definitely needs an update – both the form and the content.