Interactive maps: What we know and what we need to know


  • Robert E. Roth


cartographic interaction, interactive maps, geographical user interfaces, science of interaction, interactive cartography, geovisualization, geovisual analytics


This article provides a review of the current state of science regarding cartographic interaction, a complement to the traditional focus within cartography on cartographic representation. Cartographic interaction is defined as the dialog between a human and map, mediated through a computing device, and is essential to the research into interactive cartography, geovisualization, and geovisual analytics. The review is structured around six fundamental questions facing a science of cartographic interaction: (1) what is cartographic interaction (e.g., digital versus analog interactions, interaction versus interfaces, stages of interaction, interactive maps versus mapping systems versus map mash-ups); (2) why provide cartographic interaction (e.g., visual thinking, geographic insight, the stages of science, the cartographic problematic); (3) when should cartographic interaction be provided (e.g., static versus interactive maps, interface complexity, the productivity paradox, flexibility versus constraint, work versus enabling interactions); (4) who should be provided with cartographic interaction (e.g., user-centered design, user ability, expertise, and motivation, adaptive cartography and geocollaboration); (5) where should cartographic interaction be provided (e.g., input capabilities, bandwidth and processing power, display capabilities, mobile mapping and location-based services); and (6) how should cartographic interaction be provided (e.g., interaction primitives, objective-based versus operator-based versus operand-based taxonomies, interface styles, interface design)? The article concludes with a summary of research questions facing cartographic interaction and offers an outlook for cartography as a field of study moving forward.