University of Wisconsin–Madison

Geography 575

Interactive Cartography & Geovisualization

Faculty Contact: Robert Roth, PhD


office: 375 Science Hall

student final projects

Spring 2017

Course Overview

Geography 575 (G575) provides a comprehensive overview of topics related to dynamic mapping, topics typically considered under the cartographic research thrusts of Interactive Cartography and Geovisualization. G575 focuses on the design and development of user interfaces to geographic information and associated map-centered representations of these information, drawing from research and practice on Human-Computer Interaction, Information Visualization, Usability Engineering, and Visual Analytics, perspectives that you are unlikely to receive in other GIS courses. Specifically, G575 emphasizes mapmaking over map use (compared to G170) and the design of interfaces to maps rather than the maps themselves (compared to G370 and G572).

The lecture component of the course covers the extant cartographic theories and prior cartographic success stories that are important for thinking critically about the design and development of interactive maps. Lecture material is presented as a series of cartographic best practices and associated examples illustrating the range of potential interface design solutions. Lectures are discriminated by largely theoretical topics related to cartographic interaction—defined as the dialogue between a human and map through a computing device—and largely applied topics related to the design of cartographic interfaces that provide this interaction. As you will see as the course progresses, our understanding of cartographic interaction and cartographic interface design remains incomplete, meaning that the course will be organized more around discussion of the larger questions facing Interactive Cartography and Geovisualization for the next 5, 10, and 50 years, and less around direct description of time-tested conventions or guidelines (as with G370).

The laboratory component of the course emphasizes the practical skills needed to design cartographic interfaces. Following an introduction to the programming environment, each lab assignment requires you to grapple with topics previously discussed in lecture, with the final map deliverable representing your critical thinking and cartographic creativity regarding the topic. The labs leverage the JavaScript programming language and the Leaflet open source mapping library; by the end of the course, it is expected that you will have operational-to-proficient knowledge of JavaScript and the Leaflet mapping library, as applied for web map design, and that you can indicate such on a résumé. Following the series of lab assignments, you are required to work in small groups on a final project map application on a topic of your choosing. Creativity and ingenuity are strongly encouraged in the conceptualization and execution of the final project map application.