Digital mapping

The digital revolution did not happen overnight. It has been more of an evolution that gathered pace in the 1980s and which continues today. Nearly all maps are now computer generated, including print maps.

Printed or paper maps are valued for their aesthetic qualities, for their tangible being and often for their practicability. However, once printed, a map becomes an inanimate object, a snapshot in time, a historical record.

Digital maps that are displayed electronically can be something else altogether. Today we make maps that can be readily updated, queried, analysed, manipulated and restyled. We make maps that are interactive and dynamic. We move through virtual 3D environments, map the temporal dimension, and display information in real time. And we share these maps by streaming them over WiFi and cellular networks.

Digital technology has given us a much broader and more powerful cartography. We now make more maps and we make them faster. We mine a wider range of more varied source data, we analyse it in greater depth and we present it in different ways to a much wider audience.

Digital technologies will continue to evolve and so too will the opportunities for innovation in the way we make and use maps. Cartography will become increasingly important in helping us better manage and develop our resources, our environment and our society.