Policy Issues in Modern Cartography

Edited by

  • D.R.F. Taylor, Director, Geomatics and Cartographic Research Centre, Department of Geography, Carleton University, 1125 Colonel By Drive, Ottawa, Canada K1S 5B6

Modern cartography, as the two earlier volumes of this series on Geographic Information Systems: The Microcomputer and Modern Cartography (Taylor, 1991), and Visualization in Modern Cartography (MacEachren and Taylor, 1994) illustrate, is deeply interested in the technological advances of the information revolution and their impact on the discipline and profession. The vast majority of the growing literature in recent years has dealt with some aspect of technological change. The driving forces of the information era are developments in computer technology and related developments in satellites and telecommunications and these forces have had a fundamental impact on all aspects of cartography. It is understandable that the attention of cartographers has been focussed on technological change, especially in a situation where the speed of that change is so rapid. The half life of knowledge in some areas can now be measured in months, rather than years, and cartographers have been fully occupied with the struggle to adapt to rapidly changing technological circumstances. Computer technologies are now so all pervasive that there is little cartography without them and earlier terms such as digital cartography, automated cartography or computer assisted cartography which emerged in the 1960s and 70s are now anachronistic.

What can be described as obsession with technological change has, in the last two decades in particular, led to a relatively narrow "technologized" normative and formalistic approach to cartography and to the relative neglect of the consideration of a wide range of policy issues which are imbedded in the societal context in which modern cartography finds itself.
It is to a discussion of policy issues that this book hopes to make a contribution. As with the technology of the information revolution, the policy issues involved are not unique to cartography but several key policy issues are of special interest to cartographers. Some of them, such as copyright and intellectual property rights, are not new but take on new significance as a result of technological changes.

Modern cartography has largely come to terms with the technological developments of the information revolution and the considerable adaptations required have been made although in some instances not without considerable difficulty. The same cannot be said, however, for some of the key policy issues discussed in this book. In many instances we are simply at the stage of defining the nature and extent of the problems which is a necessary first step in determining solutions. There are differences in opinion as to what the key policy issues are and how they should be approached. The various chapters of this book reflect these different perspectives.

In selecting authors to contribute to the volume an attempt was made to ensure that the major policy issues were dealt with from a variety of different perceptions. An attempt has also been made to achieve a comprehensive discussion of major topics such as the pricing of digital spatial data, copyright and intellectual property by having several authors define and examine the key issues involved. As cartography increasingly moves from a supply driven approach to a demand driven one, producers must deal not only with the technical changes required by this fundamental shift but also with the policy issues involved. In several instances major cartographic producers, such as national mapping agencies, have responded superbly to the technological challenges of producing maps on demand in response to the specific requirements of individual users including maps on the World Wide Web thus making high quality cartographic information available in ways which have never before been possible. At the same time, however, the accessibility, pricing and copyright policies of the very same agencies are perhaps limiting access and creating new barriers to the utilization of the products they are creating. Unless these contradictions are addressed new problems may well be created. The situation is compounded by the neo-conservative fiscal policies of many of the governments of the industrial world which are reducing public spending on mapping and shifting costs to the end user.

This volume contains the views of national mapping agencies, legal scholars, the library community, the private sector and academia on these and many other important issues. The book begins with perspectives from national mapping agencies in Britain, Canada and the United States followed by a survey of the situation in Asia. The next three chapters deal primarily with legal issues such as copyright and intellectual property from both North American and European perspectives. Chapter 8 presents an important perspective on the key issues by a representative of the private sector followed by six chapters written primarily by academics including an important contribution by a map librarian. The volume concludes with an assessment of the challenges remaining.

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For scholars and practitioners in geography, cartography, and others in the mapping sciences as well as people working with geographic information systems. It will be of interest to national mapping agencies and to international organizations.


Book information

  • Published: August 1998
  • Imprint: PERGAMON
  • ISBN: 978-0-08-043111-6


... The book clearly lays out the pros and cons.
D. R. Fraser Taylor, Euro Abstracts, Vol. 37, no. 1, 1999

The general focus of this collective study is the impact of the information technology revolution on modern cartography including such topics as publication and information distribution policies, incorporating author rights and intellectual property issues. There are very different approaches to these problems and this is what the editor of the publication wished to illustrate by inviting specialists from various countries to participate. These people offer a vision of the majority of the great established policies concerning cartography as much from a government point of view as from that held by a private company or academic organisation.......The publication is very well edited.....This work really makes one reflect on the future not only in terms of the subject matter and approach of cartography, but also in terms of the use of data itself.
Jean-Marie Dubois, Canadian Geography, 1999

Table of Contents

National mapping as a business-like enterprise (D. Rhind). Spatial data policy and pricing in the United States (S.C. Guptill, D.F. Eldridge). Digital data, copyright, commercialization and related issues - a Canadian perspective (M. Corey). Availability and pricing of georeferenced data in Asia Pacific (A. Gar-On Yeh). Copyright law issues in modern cartography (L.E. Harris). The protection and availability of digital cartographic information and products (L. Aslesen). Legal protection of geographic databases: the viewpoint of the Institut Geographique National, France (J-P. Grelot). A private sector perspective (E. Kennedy). Tragedy of the information commons (H.J. Onsrud). Availability of geospatial data through libraries in the United States (M.L. Larsgaard). Modern cartography, policy issues and the developing nations: rhetoric and reality (D.R. Fraser Taylor). Professional responsibility and ethics in the spatial sciences (N.J. Obermeyer). The three R's of GIS-based site selection: representation, resistance and ridicule (M. Monmonier). Why GIS needs postmodern social theory, and vice versa (L. Yapa). Conclusion. Some remaining challenges (D.R. Fraser Taylor). Index.