Smathermather's Weblog

Remote Sensing, GIS, Ecology, and Oddball Techniques

Going deeper into web cartography: future=past? (and Swiss cartographic genius)

Posted by smathermather on May 12, 2012

My favorite cartography book is Eduard Imhof’s Cartographic Relief Presentation.  A few years back I picked this book up (translated to English) from ESRI press for $75 if memory serves me.  Now it can be gotten for much cheaper.

Not created in GeoServer (nor TileMill– from Imhof’s book)

Imhof spends a lot of time on feature simplification and separation, a problem which keeps me up at night.  For example, if you have a lot of overlapping and/or touching contours, what are the local distortions and simplifications that can be done to enhance map readability?

Cartographic representation choices with overlapping and tightly packed contours, also from Cartographic Relief Presentation

This problem applies to other overlapping features, such as a road following a river, where at a given scale one might not distinguish between the two, so we exaggerate their differences, in this case, while maintaining their basic topology.

I’ve played with this problem before, but now I’m considering a new approach.  I pinged Martin Davis of JTS fame for some advice.  He suggested using force directed layout to solve this problem, much as he does in JTS Test Builder for magnifying/investigating topology.

I don’t know yet where or how (if) I’ll implement this, but it’s an interesting an potentially solvable problem.  Now where to work on this in the stack– in PostGIS, because I know it best, in the renderer (GeoServer) where I’ll be swimming in Java of a level I don’t have a chance, or in the browser/client, where there are already some examples written in Javascript… .

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