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Careers in Cartography > Definitions of Cartography

Introduction :: Definitions :: Statements :: Disciplines :: Key skills :: Education :: View of Cartographers


Cartography is a term that is rarely understood. People say that they like maps or that they use maps, but very few know what cartography is.

Cartography (map-making) is 'the discipline dealing with the conception, production, dissemination and study of maps in all forms' (International Cartographic Association, 1995, p.1). Another description of cartography is that it is the 'Art, Science and Technology' of map making. This is an important definition in that it leads us to appreciate that cartography covers many disciplines and is so wide-ranging that it invites interest from a huge diversity of people. This results in a subject, be it commercial or academic, that includes people from all backgrounds and specialisms, making a career in cartography both diverse and exciting.

The lack of understanding as to what cartography is or what cartographers do is not helped by the fact that many courses relating to the subject do not contain the word 'cartography' within their titles. The reality is that cartography covers such a wide range of subjects, from remote sensing to the great explorers of the past, that it is difficult to label and therefore define.

The word 'mapping' is often used in conjunction with cartography, but is different in the fact that Mapping is 'the mental interpretation of the world' (Dorling and Fairbairn, 1997, p.3). That is how we perceive the world around us and interpret it spatially, often into a mapped form.
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