A Disquisition on Cartographic Style and Taste: with Attendant Remarks upon Aesthetics, Clarity, Design, and Mapicity

Mark Denil



The discussions and findings of the 2012 NACIS Conference Aesthetics of Mapping sessions both turned and stumbled upon the definition of terms like aesthetics, clarity, and style. This paper attempts to situate these key concepts, along with others such as design, taste, and mapicity, in a broad and flexible theoretical framework that will facilitate a useful and applicable understanding. A structure is proposed wherein a map, a rhetorical object which exists under the aegis of mapicity (which is that quality of map-ness that makes a map a map), is brought into being through an aesthetic act of design. Design, which has both theoretical and craft aspects, governs the form of the artifact through adherence to conventional practices identifiable as styles. The balance between the choices available is a matter of taste, wherein the schema of mapicity is manifested judgmentally. Clarity, currently seen as a desirable attribute, is one of a range of aesthetic attributes contingently defined by the cultural interpretive community that provides the schema of mapicity.

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