TLDR: Cartography is the study and practice of making maps. It combines science, aesthetics, and technique to create maps that effectively communicate spatial information. Traditional cartography aims to set the agenda for the map, represent the terrain accurately, eliminate irrelevant details, simplify complex characteristics, and design the map to convey its message effectively. Modern cartography is closely linked to geographic information systems (GIS) and uses advanced technology like satellite imagery and GPS to create accurate and dynamic maps. Throughout history, cartography has evolved and been influenced by different cultures and technological advancements.
Cartography has a long history, dating back to ancient times. The earliest known maps are from ancient civilizations like Babylon, Greece, and China. These maps depicted the known world at the time and were used for navigation, trade, and exploration. During the Middle Ages and Renaissance, maps became more detailed and accurate, thanks to advancements in technology like the printing press and the use of new map projections. In the modern period, maps have become even more precise and accessible, thanks to aerial photography, satellite imagery, and digital mapping technologies.
Maps can be biased and influenced by the agenda of the mapmaker. Deconstructionism is the study of bias and influence in maps, and it asserts that maps have power and can be used for political and imperialistic purposes. For example, maps of Africa during the colonial period were used to facilitate colonization, trade, and resource extraction. Deconstructionism also examines the cultural and technical aspects of mapmaking and explores the metaphor and rhetoric in maps.
There are different types of maps, including general maps that are made for a general audience and contain a variety of features, and thematic maps that focus on specific geographic themes. Thematic maps are used to interpret spatial, cultural, and social data. There are also special purpose maps, like orienteering maps, which are used for specific activities like hiking or navigation.
Overall, cartography is a fascinating field that combines science, art, and technology to create maps that help us understand and navigate the world around us.