Web cartography in Australia

Web cartography in Australia

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William Cartwright
William Cartwright
School of Mathematical and Geospatial Sciences
RMIT University, Australia
[email protected]

The cartographic profession in Australia has changed to one that is supported by contemporary digital production, storage and distribution devices and communication resources. What has also changed are the organisations that conduct mapping programmes and ‘build’ repositories of geographical knowledge and digital material

With the arrival of the Web, and the use of Berners-Lee’s browser-driven information displays a different, graphical access method to information was made available. The first browser was not all that dissimilar to today’s Internet Explorer, and a current-day user of the Web could easily adapt to this original manifestation. Many simple map access sites were developed and, whilst powerful media access tools were provided, the reliance of just scanned maps somewhat limited their effectiveness. Problems with scanned maps were identified to be image quality degradation, warping from improper scanning, coarse scanning resolutions and over-reduction that render many maps unreadable. Users have accepted these products due to two factors: lower cost (or free) and time (almost immediate delivery of products (Peterson, 2001a).

Some of the early Web mapping packages used text-heavy interfaces to list the available mapping inventory. Once the HTML file was ‘clicked’ the usual means of viewing geographical information was via a collection of scanned maps. The CIA World Fact Book, for example, made available maps of almost any part of the world. And, whilst the shortcomings of scanned maps must be acknowledged, this site made available, and still continues to do so, a plethora of geospatial artefacts and general geographical information.

The Web changed map publishing forever. More maps were made available for free or at modest costs. And, collections of valuable maps, once only accessible by a visit to a library or map collection, were now made available to researchers and general map users. Web publishing has become prolific and, Peterson (2001b) noted that even by the mid-1990s a single computer operated by Xerox PARC research facility processed over 90,000 Internet requests for maps every day.