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#16
David Medeiros

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*I'm not trying to be derogatory towards those with a GIS education...in my GIS program we had one course on cartography, therefore everything else must be "GIS" whereas this one course which focused on text placement and the use of color was "cartography". Luckily for me I had been around a bit beforehand and knew this wasn't all there was to it...and I found Cartotalk!


Same experience with my GIS course work... one Cartography class that was of zero value to the students. After my review of the course to the program head I was asked to teach the following years class!

I think you're absolutely correct that this is often a GIS students only exposure to cartography. To take that issue one step deeper... the GIS program may be their first exposure to Geography itself as an academic field of study. Something of a double whammy in my opinion. I know this kind of talk gets GIS users hackles up a bit and does nothing for settling the turf war that currently exists but maybe a new approach to GIS education can help close that gap in the future?

GIS Reference and Instruction Specialist, Stanford Geospatial Center.

 

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#17
ArcMapper

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"I suppose GIS is really the path to take? But that's not quite as 'fun' as making pretty maps!"

This is what sparked the discussion here. I sort of (erroneously) implied that someone is either doing "GIS" work or making "pretty maps." I was kind of thinking of two types of people. The scientists doing research about how weather patterns work, or how gases disperse in the air, or global warming models, or network analysis, or whatever. Then there's people making MAPS (which obviously involves GIS). Since this is cartotalk, I assumed most people here would fall into the "making maps" category and not the "scientist" category.

Hence, making pretty maps.....versus computer modelling/data mining/etc. I think in the context, it was ok. it wasn't pretty maps vs. accurate maps, it was pretty maps vs. complex computer modelling.

#18
Mike H

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Thanks for the kind words, Nat. I think it depends on the person or context; for me, I don't mind it when people suggest my maps are pretty. It's probably the most common term I hear from the general public. In academia such a descriptor is rarely used, but the academy develops it's own language to avoid common words - to their detriment, I believe.

The other term I get criticized for using is the title of mapmaker as opposed to cartographer, or some variation of. I've had complicated titles of Digital Cartographic Specialist, Cartographic Designer, Senior Cartographer, Lead Cartographer, Lead Designer: but I prefer the vernacular mapmaker. I think it pays homage to the craft behind the interface or medium. Most people don't know what cartographer means, and I don't like the ivory tower connotation. I think of myself more as an artist- mechanic that works on maps.

I suppose there are engineers at Ferrari that would rather hear their automobiles are elegant and beautiful, but many people just smile and say "Wow, that is a pretty car" .

Every so often I run into someone who simply says "Your maps are really F-ing cool" and I take that as one the highest compliments as well.
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#19
Charles Syrett

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Mike, I don't think anyone bristles at the term "pretty map" unless it's being used by someone in a deliberately condescending manner, to distinguish well-designed maps from some kind of default display in a GIS. Coming from most people, "pretty map" is a compliment. Coming from other professionals, it's often (but not always) a kind of sneer, based on ignorance. BTW, I like your maps too! B)

Charles Syrett
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#20
Esther Mandeno

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I’m sorry, Mike, that someone may have unintentionally insulted your work by calling ‘em “pretty”, and I’m sure as ArcMapper explained in his post above that he was just trying to distinguish between hard modeling and putting together data for a general map, but I’d like to get back to the wider implications of that phase: a pretty map.

I think MappoGirl hit the problem head on. GIS course work does very little to introduce students to Cartography and its principals. Hopefully, this will be remedied in the very near future.

But there is still the case that many experts as well as the general public have very little idea of what we do (either traditional cartographers or GIS folks). A couple of years ago, I got tired of telling folks that I ‘do GIS’ and receiving blank stares. I started going the route of saying: I work with spatial databases, sort of like cartography. Then they’d say: Oh, you put labels on maps.

My eyes nearly popped out of my head.

Needless to say, I stopped saying that. Now I just say I work with spatial databases that sometimes produce maps. Not very good, but folks nod and the conversation moves on.

What I’m getting at is that most folks don’t have a clue what we do. What’s the best way for me to explain it all succinctly to both clients and the lay person? Without denigrating one field or the other?
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#21
David Medeiros

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What I’m getting at is that most folks don’t have a clue what we do. What’s the best way for me to explain it all succinctly to both clients and the lay person? Without denigrating one field or the other?


This seems to be a frequent lament of cartographer and GIS folks alike. Perhaps I'm more patient than most or just haven't had to explain myself enough yet, but I rather like telling people what I do. I find that once you get past the first vacant stare they actually do understand it more than you think and you can get quite a few well informed questions (usually about GPS and web mapping but in the correct vein none the less).

Some of the responses are crass and totally uninformed but it usually just makes me chuckle.

Getting back to the specific term, "pretty maps" I wanted echo what Charles said above, that it's not the compliments we receive from well meaning customers or general public that offend but the occasions where the term is used to draw lines or diminish the roll of cartography in GIS mapping. This coming most often from a colleague or GIS professional (and even educators). And to be honest, I'm not as offended as I am confounded by the lack of understanding of their own work that using that phrase reflects.

Arcmapper, don't sweat your comments, everyone here knows what you meant it just sparked what is a long standing debate over the perception of modern and traditional cartography in the GIS community.

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#22
Brian Moran

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I've heard the term "pretty maps" tossed around in a few different contexts. I've worked in situations where I was supporting scientists with GIS analysis and cartography, and in that context the term "pretty maps" was used by scientists to describe what kind of results/presentation they wanted. Making "pretty maps" meant "break out the Illustrator and make this conference poster-worthy", and "no pretty maps, please" meant "display the results in ArcMap and export me a PDF". I never took it as condescending, because they were at least acknowledging that pretty maps were distinctly different from quick ArcMap displays, and when they had the time/budget they would request them.

I've also heard the term used in a slightly less benign context. A friend of mine works at an environmental non-profit, doing GIS analysis, although she has a cartography background too. She asked if they would get her a copy of Illustrator, and the answer from management was "no, we don't want you spending time making pretty maps." However, when a major results paper was due and she was tasked with the maps and graphs, she was given Illustrator to create more effective graphics-- flow charts, bar graphs and pie charts. Unfortunately the irony was lost on them, but it illustrates the problem that we're talking about here: scientists often fail to make the connection between "pretty maps" and effective maps. And the ancillary point to that: no one likes looking at ugly maps, so pretty maps- whether they are more effective or not- draw a larger audience.

I guess the only solution is to fight the ignorance with education. In GIS education, I'd like to see more of a holistic approach to cartography and analysis. It seems like many GIS education programs treat the two completely separately, which propagates the idea that analysis is powerful and important, while cartography is cute and idealistic. If some basic cartography was taught as a component of analysis, as sort of the last step where the final result could be targeted to your audience and presented clearly and unambiguously, maybe that could start the ball rolling.

#23
Esther Mandeno

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Ha. An interesting twist on an evacuation project I'm working on, I've just been asked to make 'pretty maps' with the results. Classic! :)
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#24
natcase

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Every so often I run into someone who simply says "Your maps are really F-ing cool" and I take that as one the highest compliments as well.


Best compliment I think we've ever gotten was from a railfan who was using the Iron Range inset on our Duluth map:

"This map kicks ass!"

And I quote.

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#25
Charles Syrett

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Good one, Nat. Best one we ever had (in writing, from a client) was: “Hot damn! I think the map is absolutely drop-dead gorgeous!” And I quote. :)

Charles Syrett
Map Graphics
http://www.mapgraphics.com

Best compliment I think we've ever gotten was from a railfan who was using the Iron Range inset on our Duluth map:

"This map kicks ass!"

And I quote.






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