And now there is Neocartography..

In the past I have been unfairly accused of “disliking” cartographers, this has never been the case.

I have however been critical of the  discipline of Cartography concentrating too much on the processes and techniques of “paper mapping” not recognising the potential of new techniques which make use of the dynamic nature of onscreen display. Most maps used today are displayed on screen  be that on a MFD in a aircraft, a desktop screen or of course on mobile phones.

I am therefore pleased to see that the International Cartographic Association, the international body that represents cartography in looking at establishing a commission  into Neocartography, that is map making that is happening outside the community of professional map makers.

The details of the proposed commission are here, and I have posted the proposal below for convenience as it’s a word doc on the site.

Proposal to establish an ICA Neocartography Commission

Many examples of new and innovative mapping are being produced outside the normal orbit of existing cartographers or map producers. The term neocartographers is being used to describe map makers who may not have come from traditional mapping backgrounds, and are frequently using open data and open source mapping tools. Another difference is in the blurring of boundaries between map producers and map consumers. The availability of data and tools allows neocartographers to make their own maps, show what they want, and often be the intended audience as well – that is to say they may make the maps for themselves, just because they can. There is a real need for a discipline to be established to study this essentially undisciplined field of neocartography.

This proposal for a new commission would stimulate and bring together research in this area. The aim would be to connect ICA and researchers (and practitioners) involved in this new style of mapping who are not currently interacting with the organisation. The idea would be to develop a commission that would seek wider involvement from these cartographers (who may not even think of themselves as such).

Membership and interest

Many of the potential membership are not already involved in ICA, and as noted don’t even think of themselves as working in the mapping domain. However, there is already a strong basis of publication in the field from such researchers as Muki Haklay (UK), Sarah Elwood (USA), Andrew Turner (USA), Alexander Zipf (Germany) and Joe Gerlach (UK).

There is not currently a significant presence within ICA that represents this fairly recent field. A trawl of papers from ICC2009 in Chile shows a mere handful of presentations that could be considered relevant. However, there are increasingly frequent and popular events appearing globally in the conference calendar. The following are just some examples which were either specifically targeted to this field, or had significant sections that did, and all took place in 2010: Where2.0 (USA), State of the Map (Spain), Society of Cartographers (UK), FOSS4G (Spain). Furthermore, much significant activity takes place at so-called ‘unconferences’ (often free, freeform and self-organised by the contributors). Examples of the latter from 2010 include: W3G (UK), Wherecamp (USA and UK).

Terms of reference 2011-2015

This Commission would be both academic and practical.  The aim is to encourage a more active engagement between cartographers and other individuals/groups in society engaged in new (and often ephemeral) mapping activities.

In 2011-2015 we would

  • investigate the emergence of Neocartography and develop a web site to act as a shop window and reference point for researchers and practitioners in this area
  • organise sessions at future ICA conferences (commencing with ICC2013 in Dresden) and collaborate and with representatives of other disciplines and ICA Commissions in meetings and seminars (eg Maps and Society)
  • organize specialist conferences/workshops on topics related to Neocartography. These would be local meetings to encourage ICA participation from groups who might not normally do so
  • encourage publication in this area, specifically publication in what may be considered traditional cartography journals – such as the Cartographical Journal, Society of Cartographers Bulletin, and Cartographica
  • support research into, creation of, and dissemination of information about appropriate web-tools
  • hold joint meetings with mapping and allied communities. In the first four years these might focus upon participatory community mapping and map design.


The British National Committee for Cartography is proposing this new Commission and is nominating Steve Chilton (Middlesex University, UK) as its first Chair.

We understand that Manuela Schmidt is happy to act as Vice Chair
[seeking a possible 2nd vice-chair].

This is great to see, I’m sure there is much that both communities can learn, Kudos to Steve Chilton and Manuela Schmidt for starting this process. Many will not like the “Neo” term, but as in Neogeography the term is a useful device to recognise the democratising effect of technology increasing the number of active participants in the community.

Written and submitted from the UN Campus, Bonn, Germany (50.7193N, 7.1272W)

7 replies on “And now there is Neocartography..”

Neo (of Matrix fame) would be pleased we preface cool new developments with his name… Indeed if we blur the boundary between what we see on line, with heads-up displays and with our own eyes (not yet bionically enhanced), then who knows if we’ll ever see when we step off the real (analog) into the virtual (digital)?

Thank you for the item on Neocartography. I personally wish this had happened 15 years ago so the discipline would have come further by now. I am happy to see this new initiative.

good write up Ed, nice to see the ICA recognise that cartography can be more than a published paper map. There are some cracking examples of neocartography from the UK academic sector, i take it you have seen the stuff that Jason Dykes over at City University has been doing with visualising spatial data. I see that Jason is co-chair of the ICA commision on geovisualisation:

I am writing an article on Neocartogrphy for our newsletter, I am unable to get lot of information on this. Is it possible to share some notes/article/pdf on this topic ? It will be very helpfull.

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