The analogy between traditional analog telephone service and traditional paper maps fosters a useful exploration of the importance of standards and the emergence of hybrid products facilitated by new technology but bound by inertia or circumstance to past practices. Compared to telecommunications, in which protocols of all types have been indispensable, few universal standards have emerged for mapping. Although the increased demand for interoperability and flexible exchange formats is impelling a greater standardization of geospatial data, the "standards" discourse of recent decades has largely ignored graphic quality and visual effectiveness. Particularly ominous for cybercartography is a failure to adopt the graphic logic embodied in prominent exemplars like the US Bureau of the Census's recent statistical atlas of racial diversity. Available in both paper and electronic formats, the Diversity atlas illustrates a number of highly effective conventional practices likely to survive the transition to cybercartography. By contrast, the Census Bureau's American FactFinder Web site suggests that authors of cybercartographic products readily ignore well-established, more traditional practices, as well as promising innovations that could make map use more engaging and informative. Since governments and other organizations that establish standards for geospatial data are likely to remain focused on data quality and interoperability, it is up to educators and authors of critical reviews to raise the public's awareness and expectations.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Geography, Planning and Development
- Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)