I was very pleased to be asked to speak at the EDINA Geoforum 2019 event last week. The blurb said: ‘GeoForum is a free all day event aimed at lecturers, researchers and support staff who promote and support the use of geospatial data and services at their institution. Throughout the day we there will be talks and demonstrations to showcase recent geospatial developments at EDINA and opportunity to offer your feedback on the services we provide and discuss geospatial issues with the EDINA team.’
I was presenting on OpenStreetMap data, which has recently been added to the ‘Global’ layer of the Digimap portal. I gave it the full picture; OSM project history, my involvement, the data, and how it might be useful to university students in many disciplines. The presentation seemed to go well, generated a pleasing number of questions, and I didn’t fall off stage (as per the recent SoC/BCS conference disaster).
There were two outcomes for me from the day. Firstly, in one of the networking sessions I was told by the Getmapping representative that as well as releasing their aerial imagery via EDINA they would also consider releasing it to OpenStreetMap – I had mentioned that Bing, DigitalGlobe, Esri and Mapbox had done so with theirs. So, if anyone from the OSM core/foundation reads this get in touch with me and we can pursue it (I will also put a post on the OSM forum sometime soon).
Secondly, in the discussion session at the end of the day I made a rash statement that I would ‘offer to speak with university students about OpenStreetMap’, at a research forum or another appropriate occasion. I would like to think that like-minded people in the project will join me in this outreach idea, especially if the call comes the North, Midlands or far South-West, so as to reduce my travel. It would be good to get more students involved and meantime also increase the amount of detailed mapping coverage right across the country.
The event was held at the Lancaster House Hotel, which is attached to Lancaster University, and is a fine establishment. The suite I was provided with was top class, and not exceeded in my experience in recent times, probably since Alex Kent obtained a First Class upgrade for us both at the Windsor Atlantica for the International Cartographic Conference in 2015. This included the full treatment, champagne on arrival and a separate dining room!
Ken Field’s ‘Cartography.’ [note the full stop] has now been published and copies are winging their way out to early purchasers. But, what is it really like, and is it worth the hefty price tag?
Disclosure: I made a small contribution [of a double page spread] and also was one of a small group of people who were asked to review a working copy of the book in its early developmental stages …… and I am a friend of Ken.
I always take the request to be a critical friend of someone’s work very seriously and duly I set about making notes, with suggestions for clarification and emphasis to (hopefully) enhance some of its 500+ pages. This produced a 1,000 Word file which went back to the author for consideration. One example will suffice to show the detail. There is a page on ‘map traps’ – deliberate errors included to try to catch copyright infringement. I suggested: Map traps – maybe an aside in this page about cartographers ‘signatures’ in maps. See page 105/6 in Mike Parker’s ‘Map Addict’ on OS names of surveyor in cliff drawings on IoW.
I hope the critiquing was useful, though I’ve not been back to see if any suggestions were taken up.
The most impressive thing about the book is the radical approach taken. Ken explains its different take on structuring the information on the mapping process. This is not likely to be a book that is read in a traditional way. Folk are likely (positively encouraged) to dip in and out, the layout has linked navigation aids. There is a colour-coded thematic index, and an alphabetical index, together with multiple ‘see also’ links on each double page spread.
What else is in there? A neat idea is the inclusion of 25 ‘guest spreads’, where emminent cartographers were asked to provide examples of maps that interest them, with short explanations of why. Seeing the names of Waldo Tobler, Mark Monmonier, Danny Dorling and Menno-Jan Kraak alongside my own gives me a quiet sense of pride. My contribution is a map of ‘Airspace: The Invisible Infrastructure’ commisioned by the National Air Traffic Services (NATS), which coincidentally one of my sons has just finished training with.
NB: It is a still from a video, so for best effect check the video it comes from: https://vimeo.com/110348926
One other thing that really pleased me was to see that Roger Anson had been asked to write the Foreword. He was the Senior Lecturer who ran the cartography course at Oxford Polytechnic/University who inspired me in my career, and obviously did for Ken too.
See what do I think of the book?
First off, may I say that I am very impressed overall with the book. I like the concept and the delivery.
These were the first two sentences of my feedback when critiquing the early version of it. When I saw a further iteration I pronounced it a ‘game-changer’, and I really think it is the best text on cartography in recent years.
But don’t just take my word for it . When writing about the book in the Bulletin of the Society of Cartographers, Chris Wesson concluded his detailed review:
What Kenneth Field has created here is a brilliant reference book on behalf of our field of cartography. Finally! A book that truly represents Cartography in 2018.
See his full review, which is thorough and considered, at this link [PDF].
Finally, is it worth the cover price, which is admittedly on the high side. I feel that it is, given the breadth of coverage and particularly the most excellent illustrations, many of which have been created especially for this volume. Buy it if you can afford it.
PRO TIP: and if you CAN’T afford it, then sign up for the next Esri Cartography MOOC, which I can guarantee will include loads of stuff from the book, as it is run by Ken, plus his colleagues at Esri who worked on putting the book together.
I have had conversations with two friends with books out in May and June about that long wait from write/edit to publication, and the notion of feeling divorced from the whole process during that time. When researching it seems all consuming, in my case a seesaw of pleasure and pain, and signing off the proof can be some kind of relief.
When you see the end product there is the tangible pleasure of holding a book, and thinking how much of you it represents. You are then embroiled in the round of publicity that is absolutely necessary if you want to get the book known about, and hopefully purchased in decent numbers. Some find that easy to do, and others less so. You have decide for yourself how blatant your self-publicity should be, and accept being called a ‘media tart’ if you manage some spectacular paper, radio, or podcast appearance.
You want reviews to appear, but can’t bear the thought of a bad one. I still cringe inside when I think of the worst book review I have ever had:
If you want a copy of xxxxx, mine is in the bin at Geneva airport.
Actually I find it funny now, and often relay the story when talking on the subject.
It is even possible to lose your connection with your own work. One of the friends mentioned above recently said,
I haven’t really looked at it since receiving the hard copies. It seems surreal that I ever wrote it.
I have had similar feelings, but usually after a somewhat longer time has elapsed. I do know that something can come to me and I will want to refer back to one of books to get the story. This can produce two strange situations. Firstly, I might not be able to recall which book it was in (oh come on Steve, they are similar but not that much so!); or secondly, when I find it and re-read it I think, ‘did I really write that?’.
These thoughts have arisen because I have recently been mulling over the possibility of writing Book 4, and have been trying to write the synopsis. Possibly starting the long haul of another book also took me back to something I wrote earlier on this blog about finishing one of my earlier books [https://itsahill.wordpress.com/2015/05/26/when-is-a-book-finished/].
So, who were those two friends? Well, they have
written books on subjects very close to my heart.
Jonny Muir’s ‘The Mountains are Calling’ is (as I have noted elsewhere) written a lyrical style that brilliantly evokes the emotions one experiences in what Boff Whalley called running wild. It is the story of hill running in Scotland, ‘charting its evolution …. heralding its characters and the culture that has grown around them, ultimately capturing the irresistible appeal of running in high places.’ Jonny also writes a very entertaining blog.
Ken Field’s ‘Cartography.’ is (in publicity speak): ‘an inspiring and creative companion along the nonlinear journey toward making a great map. This sage compendium for contemporary mapmakers distills the essence of cartography into useful topics.’ I was critical friend, contributed a miniscule piece, and think it is a game changer. Ken also writes an interesting blog.