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Communications of the ACM

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Information Cartography

Information Cartography, illustration

Credit: Alberto Antoniazzi

"Raise your hand if you don't quite understand this whole financial crisis," said David Leonhardt's New York Times article, March 2008. The credit crisis had been going on for seven months and extensively and continuously covered by every major media outlet in the world. Despite that coverage, many readers felt they did not understand what it was about.

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Paradoxically, pervasive media coverage may have contributed to the public's lack of understanding, a phenomenon known as information overload. Recent technology advances allow us to produce data at bewildering rates, while the surge of the Web has brought down the barriers of distribution. Yet despite this accelerating data deluge, knowledge and attention remain precious and scarce commodities. Writers, researchers, and analysts spend countless hours gathering information and synthesizing meaningful narratives, examining and inferring relationships among pieces of information. Subtleties and relationships in an evolving story are easy to lose in an echo chamber created by the modification and reuse of content, as fueled by incentives to attract indexers, eyeballs, and clicks on advertisements. The problem of automatically extracting structured knowledge from large datasets is increasingly prevalent.


Guillaume Touya

It is of course very interesting to use cartography principles to visualize information, but it is really a pity that there is no reference to researchers in cartography or to international journals in the field of cartography. Cartography is a very lively research field, that crosses computer science, geography and cognition. I recommend to every computer scientist interested in maps and cartography to have a look at the work of the International Cartography Association and its biannual conference ICC, and also journals such as Cartography and Geographic Information Science, Cartographica, or the Journal of Cartography, or more generally journals on geographic information science, such as IJGIS, Transactions in GIS or JOSIS.

Of course, the fact that cartography research is not known by most of computer scientists is also due to the feebleness of researchers in cartography (including myself): we should publish our research in information visualization conferences and journals, that's how science advances!
2015-2016 is the international map year (see so we should all promote maps and cartography.

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