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The Issues

Dynamic mapping tools


Alternatives to choropleth maps


Future directions



Case Studies Index

Maps of the Census: a rough guide

6. Conclusion

Although laid out as a 'how to do it', Rough Guide to mapping census data followed by an introduction to a specific software system, this Case Study has in fact attempted to develop an important argument about traditional cartography and visualization. Our basic argument is that dynamic mapping provides the potential for engagement with data and exploring information in a way that pre digital mapmakers and users could only have dreamed about. It has been said that computer software and the availability of digital spatial data have given everyone the equivalent of a cartographer on the desktop. If this were all that it had done, then the issues raised in Section 2 of this Case Study would be most important. Mapping software finds use as a means of reducing the labour involved in drawing maps of census variables, but the traditional attitude would have been to use it to search for some optimum, single map representation of the data. Such maps clearly have a role in communicating to others a research result, and producing and 'reading' such maps still requires careful consideration of the issues we outlined in that section.

However, this isn't all that the cartographer on the desktop has allowed. As Sections3 and 4 have demonstrated, some of the traditional cartographic problems can be overcome by using dynamism, linking, and the careful use of colour. The techniques can be used to search for the 'best' way of displaying a distribution to demonstrate a known research result, but, as we have illustrated in Section 4, they have even greater utility in a visual approach to spatial data exploration.

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