The Invention of Today’s Cartography Techniques

 

View an Interactive Timeline

Introduction

Compare with other forms of information visualization, cartography has a considerably longer history. Its history can trace back to the paleolithic era. However, the map we use today is almost nothing like the one our ancestors have used. There are dozens of varieties of maps have been developed as well. These different types of maps are not just let people find the route to somewhere, but also help human to record and communicate with each other on geological related information. More importantly, with the embed of other data such as economical or census data, it can also help people discover the patterns, spot trends, and identify outliers [1]. These changes won’t happen without the invention of different mapping techniques. In this timeline, I retrospected the history of cartography and marked out the invention of different mapping techniques.

Materials

TimelineJS: An opensource tool that I used to generate the timeline.

Google Spreadsheets: A web-based software to input the dataset and connect to TimelineJS.

HTML: TimelineJS supports HTML syntax, I used some HTML technique to add bold text and breaks.

Milestone Project: A data visualization history research project by Michael Friendly and Daniel J Denis, I used their timeline as the base of this project.

Methods

  1. With the Milestone Project’s data, I created a basic timeline of important inventions in Google Spreadsheet as a table;
  2. After some general researches with Google and Wikipedia, I removed some suspect events from the timeline;
  3. With HTML tag <b>, I added the author information in bold texts;
  4. I also changed some events’ description when I found more reliable sources;
  5. With Google Image search, I added the appropriate image for each of the events;
  6. Add the cover slide with TimelineJS’s title function;
  7. Generate the Google Spreadsheet to a timeline with TimelineJS.

Result & Interpretation

Dataset on Google Spreadsheet
Screenshot of the Timeline

Reflection

On the technique side, I’m pretty satisfied with where I have reached. This project is my first touch on TimelineJS. This is a relatively easy tool to use. Although I haven’t tried the thumbnail function, due to the size limitation, I think I pretty much understand the usage of this widget. However, it is also being said that experts can use JSON to unlock more advanced customize settings to the timeline. It would be nice to try it when I have more advanced programming skills.

On the research side, I think the project still a lot of potentials. During the research, I found some glitches of the Milestone Project’s data. For instance, instead of Howard Taylor Fisher, multiple sources indicate that Roger F. Tomlinson is actually ‘the father of GIS’. What’s more, there are some repeated ‘first time’ of some new techniques. Therefore, I spent a lot of time investigating and verifying the data. I think there are still some flaws needs to be fixed on this map. Since I’m not a professional researcher of geographic history, I believe there are also some important events that are not included in the Milestone Project are neglected in this timeline. I think this project, for now, remains open-ended. It would be nice to leave it here as a notepad and I can add other related events into it in my future study.

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