Academic journal article Cartography and Geographic Information Science

Towards Ubiquitous Cartography

Academic journal article Cartography and Geographic Information Science

Towards Ubiquitous Cartography

Article excerpt


Maps can now be created and used by any individual with modest computing skills, from virtually any location on the Earth's surface, and for almost any purpose. The ubiquitous nature of what is, essentially, one-off cartography is indeed a world away from the pen-and-ink era of map-making where highly skilled crafts people labored long hours to produce general purpose maps that were reproduced in large numbers. In this new map-making paradigm users are often embedded at the location of interest and produce maps that address needs that arise in real time. Cartographic material may be delivered to the user in finished form, or it may be constructed by the user in situ. These users are often untrained in cartographic methods and interested in context-specific spatial and a spatial information. A query might, tot example, produce a map of all Italian restaurants within one kilometer of a user's current location, create a route linking all museum exhibits that share a common theme, or produce links to online repositories of maps, images, documents, or data that provide a user with a deeper understanding of the phenomenon that he or she is observing. The technological developments that make such map-making activities possible require the cartographic community to rethink traditional cartographic bounds of scale, content, context, media, and use.

This revolution in populist map-making has been made possible through the development of telecommunication infrastructure (e.g., wireless communication networks), spatial positioning methods (e.g., global positioning systems (GPS) and radio frequency identification (RFID)), and mobile computing systems (e.g., PDAs that support mobile input and output devices, "thin" client-side cartographic displays, and access to "thicker" server-side spatial analytic and cartographic software). While significant progress has been made over the past decade on the design and implementation of mobile map production, many practical and basic research questions remain unanswered. In this special issue of Cartogrophy and Geographic Information Science, we present five research projects focused on the emerging field of ubiquitous cartography. These projects were selected, in part, because they are representative of key challenges that face the cartographic research community.


Morita (2005a, p. 1) uses the term ubiquitous mapping to refer "to the use and creation of maps by users anywhere and at anytime" and notes that it "... is strongly influenced by advances in information technology, such as the development of wireless systems, high-density data storage and broadband communication, which can be seen as stimulation and facilitation of dynamic and personalized mapping." By extension we can define ubiquitous cartography as the study of how maps can be created and used anywhere and at any time. Underlying this definition is the assumption that there is something special about real-time, in-situ map production or use that differentiates it from more traditional cartographic activities. As it is often the case with rapidly emerging technologies, a generally accepted ontology that clearly defines what ubiquitous cartography is and what it is not has not been developed. From Morita's definition, however, we see that context--a unique combination of place, time, and user--drives in situ map production and, thus, we can view ubiquitous cartography as an umbrella term for several related technologies, including location based services, TeleCartography, and mobile cartography.

A system can be considered a location-based service (LBS) when the spatial positions of mobile devices, and therefore the positions of their users, are important and integral elements of the information system--spatial context is of paramount importance in LBS. Applications developed for LBS can range from simple text-based applications that use cell boundaries within a telecommunication network to provide a rough approximation of a user's position in two-dimensional space and generalized information about local context (e. …

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