Key Terms

Relating to my domain and area of interest:

  • Cognative Mapping:
    A participatory and qualitative research method where by subjects are asked to visually create a map of their environment. This typically includes places of importance, routes traveled and may include both localities and foriegn places in the same map, ie not drawn to scale.

  • Counter Mapping:
    Using the mapping process “to contest dominant power structures [in order to] further seemingly progressive goals [1].” This process was originally used in developing countries to promote land rights and resource uses of indigenous peoples but has recently been used in developed countries for practices such as mapping community assets in urban areas. Counter maps are typically used to adovocate for policy change in a “bottom up” manner and/or to “make the invisible visible.” An example of the latter would be a map of the oil infrastructure, corporate leasing of water rights and oil spills in the Gulf Coast; features which are not mapped on normative maps of this region.

  • Coordinate Reference System (CRS):
    A method or model for aligning spatial data to the real world. The most common CRS is WGS84 which uses latitude and longitude, however potentially thousands of other types of CRS exist. This relates to the need of “projecting” data (see Map Projection) and limiting distortion of the data’s geometry in a specific location and at a specific scale.

  • Critical Cartography:
    New mapping practices that use cartography’s subjectivity and bias in an explicit fashion to create maps that are non-normative. This is of importace in relationship to both Cartography’s legacy as a political tool of nation-states to assert territory claims and borders. Maps historically were not explicit about their (map maker’s) intentionality but rather hidden under the “mask” of objectivity, science and accuracy [2]. CC is grounded in critical theory in the sense that the techniques used attempt to link geographic knowledge to power and political issues [3]. Also commonly refered to as “Radical Cartography.”

  • Geographic Information Systems (GIS):
    Computer software (also may refer to the area of speacilization often distinguished from the software as Geographic Information Science) utilized for inspecting, visualizing and analyzing geospatial data. GIS software may be used to model and problem solve real world environmental scenarios in professions such as urban planning, environmental science and market research. More recently GIS software has migrated from desktop computers to the web allowing internet users to interact with geospatial data through web applications such as those offered by government organizatons (the USGS National Map and NYC Open Data Portal for example) and commercial (Google Maps) platforms. Speacilized software is necessary as geospatial data is often stored in esoteric formats such as the ESRI Shapefile that often cannot be read by other applications.

  • Geospatial Data:
    Data that contains a location information attribute such as latitude and longitude coordinates or street addresses. Geospatial data predominantly falls within two categories: vector data stored as point, line and polygon geometry types and raster data stored in a pixel based format such as a GeoTIFF. Geospatial data can be rendered visually in an x,y coordinate plane as well as be inspected for its attribute information. Common geospatial data formats include CSV, ESRI Shapefile and GeoJSON.

  • Geotag / Georeference:
    The process in which data is given a spatial reference to the physical world. The most simple method is giving a point a latitude and longitude coordinate but other geometric data may also be georeferenced such as lines, polygons. Many historical paper maps that were created prior to the advent of GIS have been georeferenced to be aligned in a CRS.

  • Interactive Data-Visualization:
    A method of descriptive stastics that allows for viewers to visually inspect different aspects of multidimensional datasets interactively. Interaction in data visualization has been made increasingly popular in the past decade through advancements in web technology such as in modern web browsers and computer programming libraries such as D3 JS. A significant portion of this field overlaps with digital cartography where thematic maps are made to be dynamic and/or interactive.

  • Map Projection:
    is a systematic transformation of the latitudes and longitudes of locations on the surface of a sphere or an ellipsoid into locations on a plane. Map projections are necessary for creating maps. All map projections distort the surface in some fashion. Depending on the purpose of the map, some distortions are acceptable and others are not; therefore different map projections exist in order to preserve some properties of the sphere-like body at the expense of other properties. There is no limit to the number of possible map projections. [6]

  • Map Tiles:
    Refer to 256 x 256 square pixel images that form the basis of slippy maps (zoomable and panable web-maps). Map tiles are traditionally in raster format but new technology has allowed for vector tiles for improved rendering speed.

  • Open Data:
    Data that is publically available and accessible with varying licenses to either the public domain or creative commons. Such data typically comes from government agencies at various levels (city, state, federal) but may also be released by other organizations and companies.

  • The OpenStreetMap Project (OSM):
    A mapping platform that allows for mapping the world through the contribution of geospatial data from anyone with access to the web. OSM is often compared to being the “Wikipedia” version of “Google Maps.” What differentiates it from Google Maps is that all of its geospatial data is downloadable by anyone for free under a Creative Commons Open-database license [4].

  • Para-Empiricism:
    A term coined by Annette Kim of MIT’s Sidewalk Laboratory (SLAB) [5] which states that no data is free from bias, subjectivity or human influence. Thus data should never be viewed as completely objective or empirical. Kim advocates for “on the ground” and often participatory research to accompany statistical data.

  • Participatory Mapping:
    Mapping processes that involve empowering non-experts and/or community members to contribute to the mapping process using either analog (ex: Field Papers) or digital (mobile, GPS) techniques. This technique may also be refered to as Public Participation Geographic Information Systems.

  • Reverse Geocoding:
    The process of determining the place name(s) from a coordinate position on the globe. For a set of latitude and longitude coordinates determine what the name of each level of geography this point is contained in (eg: neighborhood, city, county, state / province, country). This is a common technology used by social media companies such as Four Square to determine a user’s location when they “check in” at a given venue or by Flickr when a user’s photo is geotagged.

  • Slippy Maps:
    The term coined by Cartographers that was originally given to the first web maps that were capable of providing a user experience of seamless zooming and panning. The first “slippy map” is credited to Google which improved upon web mapping technology from Map Quest. The previous technology limited user experience such as requiring a full page refresh when zooming and panning.