A belated Happy New Year to all. With Britain having been lashed by wind and rain for the last month it is not a particularly auspicious start to the year, but we can console ourselves that things can only get better. Thankfully I live in a nice dry part of Woking, not susceptible to flooding, but those who live along the River Wey will hope that it can only get better as they are in for a rather wet time as this extract from the Environment Agency website shows. The Agency actually maintains a huge range of online maps covering a wide range of environmentally related topics from floods to air pollution. So whatever may be impacting on your local area, you should be able to find out more about it. Very good if you are planning to move house, potentially catastrophic if you have just moved into a flood risk area!
|Contains Environment Agency information © Environment Agency and database right|
The Monthly Bulletins for 2013 were all themed to reflect anniversaries, linked to the 50th Anniversary of the Society itself. I was considering what theme should run through 2014 and decided that it is going to be best to just wait and see what happens. There are plenty of cartographically related stories in the news on a regular basis, so I don’t see myself struggling for topics anytime soon.
First World War
There is, of course, a significant commemorative event this year in that we remember the 100th Anniversary of the start of the First World War. The BCS are currently planning a series of posters to illustrate this event with maps of the time to show how they were used and how they developed during the course of the war. We are hoping to produce a poster each year until 2018 to show the way in which the maps developed and how they kept pace with the changing technology that was introduced onto the battlefield. The first two are currently in work to provide a broad overview of the entire conflict and to illustrate the situation at the outbreak and during the first few months of war in 1914. Further details will be available via the website soon.
A potentially interesting new set of seminars has recently been announced entitled "Livingmaps 2014, Map is not territory". This is a series of seven seminars exploring new directions in critical cartography. the seminars are focused on development of open source and reflect the fact that map making has been made much more widely available. Details of the seminar programme being held in London starting on 11th February and then running monthly can be found at the Livingmaps website.
Cartography on the Web
There continues to be a huge amount written on a daily basis about all aspects of cartography and if I read every article, I suspect I wouldn’t get much else done. This reflects very well on the cartographic industry in its broadest sense, giving a clear indication that the industry is in rude health. One article that particularly sparked my interest was entitled “The Land of Coding Cartography and the Embrace of Technology”. Coding Cartography. It starts with a rather contentious sentence “Somewhere in the past few decades, cartographers have lost the control of cartography”, but goes on to explain very well how cartographers need to keep pace with modern technology and ways of working. It recognizes that in what can be a very visual profession, those used to working with colour palettes may struggle with hex code and "if then" loops. But that is not to say that the two cannot be successfully brought together to ensure that we remain relevant and contemporary. Interestingly, Ken Field has commented on the post “It’s an art, a science AND a technology. Knowing the first two won’t cut it if you don’t know the third.” Perhaps it’s time that we changed the strapline to our logo!
ICA Commission on Map Design
For your "daily fix" of great cartography, look no further than the ICA Commission on Map Design website Map Carte, showcasing a new map every day of the year. If you haven’t already found this little gem you have only 31 days to catch up, so shouldn’t take you too long. To quote from the website,
“In 2014 we will be publishing a short daily blog post titled ‘MapCarte’ to showcase examples of map design that we feel represent some of the very best in classic and contemporary cartography. The intent is to build a repository of 365 maps that cover the breadth of cartographic practice to illustrate and emphasize the importance of map design. We believe there is no other similar repository.
By the end of the year we will have created a compendium that can act as a reference for high quality map design. Some of the maps you’ll have seen before…some possibly not. We’ll include both traditional print cartography and the very best that the internet has to offer. Each map will be illustrated and accompanied by a brief comment or two on why we feel the map exhibits great design.
Hopefully the maps we’ll showcase will provide a barometer for modern map making, inspiration for those who seek ideas for how to map their data and also to improve the public’s appreciation of and demand for quality in maps.”
I’m not sure that I would characterise MapCarte 18/365: Diagram of the Causes of Mortality by Florence Nightingale, 1858 as a map, but the whole concept is very subjective and what one person likes, another will probably hate. That is one of the challenges that always faces us when trying to assess the quality of a map. There are few hard and fast rules, and rules are just there to be broken after all, so it is very much a case of the "eye of the beholder".
My favourite to date is a close call between MapCarte 26/365: Alluvial map of the Lower Mississippi Valley by Harold N. Fisk, 1944; and MapCarte 20/365: Seafloor map of Hawai’i by Tom Patterson, 2012; with a very honourable mention to MapCarte 16/365: Hong Kong Street Map Series, HKSAR, 2010, which does a fantastic job of conveying great detail in monochrome. In fact I might even change my mind and plump for the Hong Kong map as it’s where I cut my cartographic teeth back in the early 1980s, working on Cordon Point Mapping of Hong Kong when it was still a British possession. Back then I was always impressed with how clear the maps were given the crowding of the island and the immense amount of detail to be shown. I also struggled with translating Mandarin into English to work out road names and key installations although with practice I soon began to recognize the key "radicals" that made up the characters.
If you are considering submitting a paper for this year's symposium, don't forget that the deadline is 10th February, full details on the BCS website.
Congratulations to Ann Sutherland who won last month’s quiz by correctly identifying the character as Solomon Gills from Charles Dickens’ Dombey & Son. Ann has kindly indicated that she will be donating her prize to charity.
This month’s quiz involves identifying the image below. It’s not going to win any awards for good cartographic design, but what does it show?
All correct answers received by e-mail at the address below by no later than Friday 21st February will be entered into a draw to win a copy of "On the Map" by Simon Garfield.
Only Connect (clue 1) : Surname of celebrity winner of second series of "Strictly Come Dancing". More clues in upcoming bulletins, save your answer until Symposium.
Pete Jones MBE FBCartS CGeog