Monday, 24 June 2013

Sharing or Showing can't have it both ways.

Interesting debate emerging today with the discovery that software games producers Naughty Dog have seemingly used a map from the interwebs without seeking permission or arranging for royalties to be paid to the owner of the work.  Check out the Tumblr and comments by the map-maker Cameron Booth (@transitmap) whose map it is below (reproduced under fair use...I think!):

Cameron built a new map to his design of the MBTA rapid transit system. Looks remarkably like an official map, takes a hefty dose of design cues from the official one and many others derived, ultimately from Harry Beck's iconic 1933 London Underground map (which of course, itself has design cues you can trace back even further that questions his own innovation or lack thereof).

Mr Booth is unhappy his map has been re-used without his permission or the exchange of money. On one hand I can very well understand his upset. It's his work. It's been stolen and re-purposed without anyone even having the courtesy to give him a call. On the other hand, isn't this a case of pot calling kettle black? His map wouldn't exist without those that went before it. He made his map and shared it, hoping for it to be picked up on a wave of internet 'likes' to either become something MBTA might want, as a showcase for his talents or just to prompt discussion on the design of transit maps. Presumably he enjoyed all the positive comments his very well crafted version elicited but when it's used in a way he hadn't envisaged the reaction is the exact opposite.

The simple point here is no-one is unique and if you put your work out there it's bound to get bad press and be mis-used from time to time even if it doesn't deserve it. No-one's work is that innovative it transcends all others so we have to be a little less precious about what we have a right to claim ownership of. We can recognize design elements from many different works if we look close enough in most maps. A good cartographer will learn what works, what looks good, what communicates and fashion something that brings together those elements in a clean, clear and well structured product.  Those not as capable tend to produce clumsy work, unable to bring together ideas from a range of sources. Then there are the blatant rip-offs. All work is a function of what has gone before and contributes to a continuum. We can normally see a very clear lineage in maps and only in very very rare cases can we genuinely look at something and say it's truly original. That being the case we need to apply the same caution when sharing our own work.

I also had a dose of this today. I've been preparing maps as part of my day job so that I can show those who use a certain software platform how to create high quality cartography, often going beyond the defaults and using custom tools and techniques (I'm not going to name them because this isn't a blog about my day job). I posted a screen shot of part of one such map and got what seemed a less than enthusiastic response from someone who appeared to be questioning my right to produce the map because it has a similar look and feel to one he had also created (again, no names because this is written without his input).  I happen to be an admirer of his work and yes, I had seen the map before....but does this mean I have blatantly copied it? No. Different data, different results and a different purpose.  Where they are similar is in their use of the same general technique (hex binning), the same colour background ( many maps) and a yellow-blue colour scheme for the symbols (again, like many maps). Their version is a single scale, mine a multiscale. They wrote a blog explaining how it was built using a certain set of tools. I'll be using my map to demo a different set of tools.

No-one holds the rights to cartography and by demonstrating how such maps can be created I take the view that I'm sharing 'best practice'. I give shout-outs to other work that I consider to demonstrate best practice in cartography (whether they use the same software stack or not) and encourage people to look at such examples to develop an appreciation of the current cream of the cartographic crop. I could have used a different colour scheme and maybe that would have been sufficiently different not to cause a reaction but where do we draw the line? Should I never again create a choropleth map using an orange sequential hue scheme again (actually...probably not but for other reasons!)?

It seems to me that the internet is breeding a mindset which on the face of it seems open and sharing but when you appear to get too close to what someone else has shared it can easily kick off. Cartography isn't copyrighted. Neither are white backgrounds or colours. Neither are I've had to write about before. Give credit where credit is due and cite your inspiration and ideas. By sharing best practice we're encouraging people to work towards making better maps which does a service to cartography as a whole.  By having choice they can make use of a variety of software stacks and do their work in a way that suits them. But we cannot take the view that having publicised a map and a technique that we then get irked if someone else benefits from the work. I wonder sometimes if the Open Source movement are partly to blame for this cultural mindset. The idea of sharing (normally for free) is fantastically altruistic but ultimately we all survive off the quality of our own work and while striving to be seen above the crowd we can often get caught up in our own hype. Do good work. Share it. Be happy if people like it and make use of it for positive reasons. If you share your work and its good, don't be surprised when others find it useful and make use of it for the benefit of others. If you feel like your work has been ripped-off then step back and wonder if it's possible that the ideas can actually be traced a little further back. Chances are you weren't the first...and I won't be the last. We simply cannot have it both ways.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

3 billion tweets on a map

It's been hard this past few days to find anyone willing to say a bad word about the new Locals and Tourists map from that magic combination...MapBox, Eric Fischer and Gnip. All capable of producing cool stuff. This is broadly what you get from their collaboration...a multiscale cached map of the world showing 3 billion dots each one red or blue:

The MapBox blog explains it in more detail but essentially it's every geotagged tweet since September 2011, categorised as either red to indicate a tweet from a tourist and blue, a tweet from a local.

It's impressive in scale and scope. It looks beautiful. The crowd on the interwebs are going gaga for it. I like it as a piece of map porn along with the multitude of other such works I'd put in that category.

Where I perhaps differ from some, though, is in casting a critical eye on the actuality of the map and bypassing the hype and rhetoric so here's a few thoughts...

The map claims to show 'incredible new detail', 'demographic, cultural and social patterns down to city level'. It apparently allows you to 'explore stories of space, language and access to technology'.  OK, if they'd left it at "here's a cool looking map, whaddya think" I'd have bought it but c'mon.

The points are just geotagged tweets. Best estimates suggest only 1% of tweets are geotagged. Some 13% of them don't have exact coordinates. It might be reasonable to suggest we're looking at a sample of all tweeters but is the sample the same or sufficiently similar across all places to make the assumption we can compare like for like? We don't know.

And what of the demographics of Twitter Use? 67% of all internet users use social media. People who live in cities spend more time on social media. Only 16% of those who use social media use Twitter and they are most likely to be adults aged between 18-29...and male.

In short, the data itself is full of error, bias and uncertainty. You can't make any sensible inferences from a map like this. You certainly cannot claim to be able to explore the map in the way suggested.

And then we get to the classification of the data. Tweets are red if the user has posted for one consecutive month in the same place and blue for users whose tweets are normally elsewhere. And from that, they've decided they are able to identify locals and tourists. Spurious to say the least. There are probably hundreds of ways that this rule can be broken and someone move from the red to the blue or vice versa. It may be a convenient hook for the map title but as a classification it is based in fantasy.

Finally we get to the map...take a look and check out places you are familiar with. Does it stack up? More likely than not the answer is no. There appears a much larger element of so-called 'tourism' in places you'd hardly classify as tourist spots and where there are tourist honeypots or towns...there's no discernable difference. Roads are predominantly comprised of red dots as are motorway service stations and anywhere else that people travel through.

The map is largely empty in areas you'd expect there to be lower levels of mobile phone usage (most of the developing world) but we know this already. The map doesn't tell us anything new. Does it give us an insight into large scale city level detail? Not's patchy at best and why not just use a decent street map if that's what you need to find out.

Finally, I was curious about how the red and blue dots were displayed. Having just spent quite some time making a dasymetric dot density map of the 2012 Presidential election results I'm quite familiar with the problems of representing a lot of blue and red dots in close proximity. In order to give equal visual weighting to each colour you have to do a little bit of processing of the data (well, quite a bit actually). So what have they done with the twitter map? I re-engineered the map and played around with the tiles and it's clear that they've just overprinted the blue dots with the red dots. One layer on top of another. In visual terms, then, the map gives far more prominence to the red 'tourist' dots which, of course, makes for a more interesting map. Here's a quick comparison:

Two completely different maps. Two completely different impressions of the data...but users of the map don't get that choice; they get the map on the left and base their interpretations on that...incorrectly.

Let's get one thing a piece of map porn it's spectacular. It also demonstrates that technologically, the mapping world is really at the cutting edge of handling large data sets (not 'big data' per se...this is just a lot of data). The point of this blog, though, is to counter the common perception of this sort of work. There are big questions regarding bias, error and uncertainty and how we represent this sort of data for mass public consumption. Is it useful? Can we really find anything out from it? Or is it just 'art'? Maps have always lied it's true but far more eyes are cast over work these days simply because of its accessibility online and the way social media itself transmits the latest and greatest ideas...but the internet has no quality control, no quality assurance and as with everything out there, if you consume it without taking a moment to think about what it is you're looking at you just drink the Koolaid.

Enjoy it for what it is but don't be taken in by the rhetoric. It is what it is, nothing more...despite what the label says and what all those 'likes' and re-tweets infer.

Monday, 10 June 2013

Choropleth totals: one more shot

Regular readers might have come across a few comments I've made about the problems of mapping totals using choropleth maps here and there. I bore myself silly sometimes but in a week that's seen the all-knowing National Security Agency PRISM tracking tool report surveillance in one of the worst culprits I have ever seen it's worth giving it one more shot to try and banish the erroneous practice.

The Guardian's reporting of the recording and analysing of voluminous data included a few screen shots of the maps used to show countries' exposure to surveillance. Here's one for the purposes of discussion:

The colours range from green, those with the fewest number of items of surveillance, to red, the most. Putting aside the fact the colour scheme is not easy to interpret (is light green least...or is it dark green?) and that the use of a Mercator projection distorts the size of areas giving false prominence to more northerly and southerly latitudes...let's focus on the data.

So there have been 2,892,343,446 pieces of intelligence data gathered from US computer networks over a 30-day period ending in March 2013. The US is shown the same as Germany, Saudi Arabia, Kenya and Iraq.  The map quite clearly leaves readers with the impression that surveillance is pretty similar across these countries.

Let's assume that each of these countries has 3 billion pieces of information collected (a fair assumption of the mapping of totals above). If we calculate the number of pieces of surveillance data per capita we get an entirely different picture

USA, 313 million people = an average 9.5 pieces of surveillance data per person
Saudi Arabia, 28 million people = an average 106.8 pieces of surveillance data per person
Kenya, 42 million people = an average 72 pieces of surveillance data per person
Iraq, 33 million people = an average 91 pieces of surveillance data per person

Mapping these rates would give an accurate picture and one which, crucially, allows us to visually compare one country against another across the map.  Without normalising our data to a consistent denominator the map is utterly useless. We can't make any sensible interpretations of the information. So, as it turns out the level of surveillance in the US is an order of 10 times less than Saudi Arabia. That is not a story the above map even vaguely illustrates. So it's worrying if these maps are genuinely being used to inform national security don't you think?

In trying to come up with a way for mere mortals to understand, my better half Linda Beale (@lindabeale) came up with a great analogy.  We spent some time over the weekend making some slides to explain the issue...using alcohol, conveniently colour coded green to match the NSA map.  It struck us that if we cannot use logic to explain it then let's dumb this down to something most people can identify with...size of a drink.

So here goes with one more shot...have a look at the following picture:

Two glasses of the same size. It should be fairly easy to see that the glass on the right is holding double that of the left. In fact, the right glass is filled with two shots of Creme de Menthe and the right one has only one (or...his and hers if you will!). Now let's look at adding a third glass:

The glass on the right is a different size and shape so how much Creme de Menthe does it hold? Trickier question eh? Is it one shot, two shots or somewhere in between? In fact it's one shot but it doesn't look the same as the glass on the left and it looks significantly less than half of the glass holding the double. Now let's take an aerial view:

Hmm...they all look quite similar but one's a hexagon. Here then is the problem...a choropleth map is a container for data. Looking at a choropleth map is similar to looking down on a whole array of glasses filled with liquids of different quantities and it's impossible to make any sense of the amount of liquid...the totals are a function of the size and shape of the vessel in which they are contained. When the sizes of areas vary substantially the problems of estimating quantities gets even harder unless you adjust for the differences caused by the containers so you can make a sensible assessment of the relative amount of liquid in each glass:

In this example, the top left glass contains one shot, top right, two shots. Both these glasses are the same size so we have a consistent basis for comparison and the darker colour suggests more liquid...a correct visual interpretation. What about the big glass? Actually it contains one shot but because it's spread out across a much wider area the colour is diluted and it appears that the glass holds far less than either of the other two. This would be an incorrect assumption. It's the same as the top left glass and for us to interpret that correctly we need to see the colours the same. In map terms, we need to show similarity of the character of areas using similar symbols so our eyes and brains interpret things properly.

Let's be clear, this isn't some sort of quirky thing that cartographers do to finesse a map, it's not just 'best practice'. It's fundamental data analysis to support proper mapping of data. It's non-negotiable (and it's not even hard to do...). Your map will, quite simply, be utterly meaningless without your data being normalized.  

Consider John Snow's famous map of the 1854 cholera outbreak in Soho, London. His map is widely regarded as a classic. He mapped deaths as dots and was able to make an inference as to the potential cause of the cholera outbreak. If he had mapped the same data as totals on a choropleth the map would have been one of the most useless maps ever made; it's unlikely he'd have made any reasonable assumption about the mode of transmission of cholera or had the foresight to trace it to the Broad Street pump.  So why do so many people persist in making their maps useless? It strikes me as an odd thing to do but hopefully this little explanation will help those who can think about their mapping in a slightly different way.

Got it? Cheers, it was fun...

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Cartographic Identity Disorder

I have CID. There you go...I've admitted it. I can stand up in a circle of fellow sufferers and be open about it. I have Cartographic Identity Disorder. It's characterised by multiple identities; dissociated personalities that control what I do and how I do it. The problem is I don't know what to call what I do...but then again, I don't know that I ever did know and that might be the first step to understanding the problem. I don't mind this disorder. I'm quite happy.

My good friend Georg Gartner just published a blog titled How do we name what we do? as ICA President (that's International Cartographic Association for those that don't know...yes, there is such a thing). In it, he ponders the use of the term cartography its relevance in today's mapping landscape. Georg's blog got me pondering life over my corn flakes this morning and I think I had a moment of clarity. They don't happen often so here it is...

I have never been a cartographer but much of what I have done and do might bear resemblance to the work of a cartographer because I am involved in cartography. Clear as mud...

I grew up with a love of Geography and maps. My favorite classes were always Geography and my favorite teachers were the Geographers. Trouble is, when it comes to making a life out of a subject you enjoyed or were good at, the choices are somewhat limited. Unless you moved into teaching there was no such thing a 'geographer'. I was good at Physics as well...and Biology and both those sciences seem, with hindsight, to have more substance. As a kid I wanted to be a footballer, astronaut, surgeon and even a California Highway Patrol motorcycle officer (too much time spent watching CHiPs). I was never fast enough or skilled enough to be a footballer...I didn't particularly enjoy Physics (maybe the occasion of our teacher spilling a beaker of liquid Mercury across the classroom affected my disposition) and though I loved Biology I was rubbish at Chemistry so no hope of going to medical school. I also lived nowhere near anywhere where I could be an astronaut or California Highway Patrolman. The school careers advisor's computer told me I should be a photographer or dental assistant., I found a degree course at Oxford Polytechnic all about maps instead. It was called Cartography....and I found I was actually quite good at it. I could extend my love of geography and maps into a degree...perfect; that'll delay the inevitable even further!

I spent 3 fantastic years in Oxford studying (if that's what you can call it) cartography. The lecturers were great, mostly because they weren't really your archetypal lecturers. I met and made some great friends and it turned out I was on a course that seemed to feed the UK cartographic industry. So I went to the British Geological Survey in between my first and second years to spend 3 months being a cartographer in their drawing office.  This was 1990. 10 people in a room huddled over their prized personal light tables wielding Rotrings and getting excited over the nuances of a line drawn with consistent width. The morning coffee break at 10.30 (radio on, magazine out) lasted 20 minutes. Then lunch (always midday, always the same) and then home. For a couple of days I got to play on an Intergraph workstation with a digital table and a clicky thing that allowed me to turn movements of my right forefinger into bright dots and lines on a computer screen...this seemed quite interesting but it was serious equipment for serious people...not the work experience kid, so it was back to the drawing room for me. I had some of my work published in BGS materials but overall I hated it and vowed NEVER to be a cartographer. So back to University to finish my studies and then what...

When I graduated in 1991 I'd just taken a new course in something called GIS and I applied to be a researcher at Nene College Northampton to work on GIS related 'stuff' (it was poorly conceived as I later found out, because they didn't really know what it was). I was given the best computer on campus...a magnificent IBM floor standing unit with a massive 4Mb hard drive...enough to install PC ArcInfo and do some GISing. What I slowly began to appreciate at the time is this thing called GIS was rapidly killing professional cartography. Great! It was boring what about this new thing. Hmm...two years into the research it became clear I was on my own. No-one else knew anything about GIS. I learnt a lot, self-taught, started a PhD, met some people I later found out were quite big in this GIS thing and then landed a lectureship.  Without even planning it I had gone from my love of geography and maps into...teaching. Dammit.

So I spent the next 10 years or so developing courses in GIS and digital cartography at Northampton. We did well. We expanded the course and students loved it. We got fancier clicky things and did more and more. I was the first person in the UK to teach using ArcView 3 and was delighted that I could finally get away from trying to get people to make maps using commands like "display999" and "polygonshades". Trouble was impossible to make maps anywhere near as good as that boring lot in the BGS drawing office with their slide rules and pens. We were constrained by technology. I completed my PhD; proudly squeezing in 121 maps into my thesis which, by the way, contained a data fudge as several years into processing the data I realized I'd got one tiny thing wrong...I think it's time I admitted it and I apologise to the residents of Towcester to whom I incorrectly ascribed 'poor relative access to healthcare'. It seems Mark Monmonier was right after maps lied.

My move into academia was complete. I was a lecturer, course director for Geography degree programmes, I had PhD after my name so I had the academic badge that meant I must be clever and I taught cartography and GIS classes using the currently in vogue tools so I was at the cutting edge of technology. I then had an opportunity to move to Kingston University...excitement unbound because Kingston was the first University in the UK to embrace GIS in 1989 as they delivered the world's first ever Bachelors course in GIS. I couldn't believe I had been appointed as a Senior Lecturer and soon after became Course Director for GIS, developed new Masters programmes and brought back a large proportion of cartography into the courses. I renamed them from names like 'cartographic techniques', 'topographic science' and 'introduction to GIS' to 'digital mapping', 'geovisualization' and 'digital Earth' and they became more popular! The first half of my time at Kingston was fun but we were always far more respected outside the University than within. We weren't a 'proper' subject apparently. During this time, the course at Oxford closed, others went the same way. We began struggling to recruit students at Kingston but with one or two careful appointments we rode a wave of innovation, won some prizes for our work and pedagogy, did some pretty cool stuff and, importantly, many of our students went on to become involved in the UK geoindustry. I began getting involved with the British Cartographic Society, Society of Cartographers, International Cartographic Association etc...all the things my Oxford lecturers had done I was now doing. I became Editor of The Cartographic Journal. I gave conference papers, wrote up research and...maps. Hmm...I'd become one of those people who happily talked about maps and cartography but when someone asked where my work was I had a fairly empty portfolio. Sure, I'd done a few bits and pieces but nothing particularly spectacular. So I'd become a cartography and GIS lecturer but without any maps to show for it. What's that about teachers only becoming teachers because they can't actually do the job?

I committed to undertaking at least one large map project a year. Not easy because as I found out, there wasn't much appetite for supporting academic work whose main output was a map. Along with a colleague I formed a new Journal...The Journal of Maps as a publication dedicated to publishing...maps and that went well for a time. I got involved in seminars and workshops encouraging better mapping and my maps started winning awards. Hmm...turned out I was actually able to turn what I said week in week out into decent products. I became Principal Lecturer and had risen to quite a high position...and students could see I actually knew what I was on about because I could do it as well. Kudos!

The clock was ticking at Kingston. Without getting into the details it became clear that internally there were agendas that were going to be impossible to turn around. Five GIS staff but the work was done by two of us. Pretty inept management (mostly geologists of the old school variety) and people in key positions that just sneered at what was openly called 'colouring in with computers' (Dean of Faculty!). I recall trying to get a teaching set of iPads to do some mobile GIS work but was told they were a passing fad, just a toy and a waste of money...and that was the decision of a committee of people...genius eh! You cannot work in that environment with people like that forever. I left, quite bitterly, because we were still hugely respected outside the walls of KT1 2EE and with proper support the future was incredibly bright. Internally everything was imploding becasue too many key people just didn't 'get it'. I feel that the two of us who passionately worked our backsides off did a good job ensuring students were kept shielded from much of this. We kept innovating; we kept the students well tooled and it is a constant source of pride that everywhere I go, ex-students turn up and say hi and thank me (and Dr James O'Brien) for giving them a path into something they love doing. All that I said about Kingston and GIS to senior management subsequently came true. GIS is now gone as a separate subject at Kingston after 23 years. They killed it. I am proud to have been a part of the Kingston story and to have followed some key people through that University...all of whom eventually left academia to join various mapping/geo industries. Time to leave and do the same.

I got a call from Esri and figured it was time to do something different. 20 years of marking and dealing with the increasingly bureaucratically driven consumer focused University system was enough. I packed my bags and headed to sunny California and began working on the Mapping Center team. New life. Fresh start at something new. The brief was simple...make maps, develop workflows for cartographic techniques using Esri software, support users in their own work and help solve their cartographic problems, deliver workshops and write about maps and mapping. Technically, I was called a "Senior Cartographic Product Engineer". For the first time in my life I had a business card with the word 'cartographer' on it....despite vowing never to become a cartographer. But let's not get too bogged down in that...the job title also has the word 'Engineer' in it. This was no drawing office though. My job was just like being a lecturer except there was no marking, no pressure to submit spurious research proposals for unlikely funding, no need to publish papers just to meet the requirements of a research assessment exercise; and most people I came into contact with really wanted to learn (unlike most students) and I loved it.

After two years in that role I recently moved into a new role on the Mapping Systems team where in addition to the above I get involved in the development of software. Now before anyone gets too concerned, no...I'm no programmer. I help with ideas, designs, testing and suchlike. My programming history has taken me through Turbo Pascal, Commodore Basic, GIMMS, AML, Avenue, ArcObjects and now a smidgen of javascript and suchlike. I dabble. I help the development guys figure things out and make daft suggestions about what map-makers might want to be able to do but they do the hard work. It's great...I love my job and I work with some really cool people. Serendipitously I made it to California but not as a motorcycle patrol guy. I a cartographer? Nope. I know about cartography; I teach it; I write about it; I blog; I make maps; I tweet; I edit journals; I sit on various national and international committees; I advise; I evangelize...but I have never actually called myself a cartographer. To me, that term died out in terms of popular use when the BGS drawing office closed and the Oxford polytechnic degree course folded. Cartography as a term did die a long time ago and yes, it is viewed as old-fashioned. It gives rise to the view of an industry from yesteryear; of people bemoaning technological progress; and of a person whose skillset is narrow. But...cartography DOES exist in what I do. I am a cartographic expert, a man of maps, a carto-nerd. I have knowledge and experience in a wide range of cartographic concepts, techniques and practices. What I do is certainly grounded in some of what cartography is about but the definition is no longer adequate to define what it is that people who work with maps do. GIS brought along a much wider array of requirements to add to the cartographer's toolbox. Democratised mapping and cloud computing has taken things further. We are certainly in a new golden age of cartography...but it seems we need to call it something else in order to remain relevant. If the term cartography and cartographer is to retain any modern relevance then it needs to be re-imagined and quickly. People used to call themselves cartographers when it commanded respect. As the value of the label has declined so we find other ways to describe what we do to avoid the sneering.

Calling yourself a cartographer does you no brings with it such baggage that makes it hard to persuade people you have something to offer in the modern mapping landscape. I see this myself. Calling yourself a designer or a coder is currently good currency. It's seen as progressive and there is far less baggage associated with those terms. I design, I also dabble with some code. I recently made a map that I called an InfoMap that, ironically, didn't have much of a map component to it at all but people loved it. What I did do though, was recognise what it was that was going to capture attention and how to create something map-based that would work for the audience it was targeted towards. I used my cartographic knowledge and experience along with a few other skills you wouldn't necessarily associate with the job of a cartographer. I used cognitive science...something we learnt in Oxford many years ago and a branch of cartography that is rarely uttered today. This is where the work of the modern cartographer can set us apart from mere map-makers. We 'know' how to make maps work...and make them work well. Assuming a consistent knowledge of the technology, giving me one hour of work with the same data as someone without my type of background will yield a better map. I don't advocate map-smithing the map to within an inch of its life and taking forever to perfect things (though I have done this on occasions when I'm not satisfied with the product) but there's a wealth of 'stuff' that I can draw upon to make what I do work and work well. I also come at my work from a tangent. I rarely accept defaults. I always stretch the tools at my disposal to the point of breaking to get what I want done...and I use the right tools for the right job.

So I have Cartographic Identity Disorder. Yes, my life with maps and my work with maps clearly means I engage with cartography. But to talk about them, write about them, do research, publish, present, design, code and so on requires so much more than what people might think I am capable of if I call myself a cartographer. I have been a student of cartography, I have taught it formally, I have developed courses in it, published about it and been asked to deliver keynotes and advise on it. I've held a number of academic posts and I now work in the geo-industry as a cartographic expert. If I could persuade my employer to put the term "Map Man" or "Cartonerd" on my business card I probably would. Cartography just doesn't cut it...or if it does we somehow need to overcome the stigma associated with the term. Cartography continues to see profound changes as a result of massively disruptive technological shifts but the term is still languishing behind. It never developed sufficiently to describe what it is we do. It got lost. Can we reclaim it and persuade people it is a good, solid term to describe what I, and others, do? It's a great word of that there's no doubt but that's the challenge. If not, I don't mind particularly. I'll continue to morph, chameleon-like through my career calling myself whatever might work from time to time. I do what I do. You can call it what you like. My daughter calls me a 'handyman when it comes to maps' which probably isn't far off the truth. I'm content with it that way.

I'm Ken and I have Cartographic Identity Disorder.