Web Cartography: Map Design for Interactive and Mobile Devices

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Book review

WebCartographyMuehlenhaus, Ian.
Web Cartography: Map Design for Interactive and Mobile Devices.
Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 2014. 240 p. $89.95. LC: 2013024769. ISBN: 978-1-4398-7622-0

Web Cartography is written in such a way that it can easily be used as either a textbook for undergraduates who need to learn from the ground up or as a refresher text for those who are familiar with mapping on or off the web. The orderliness is excellent as the author moves through the text from the basic notions of maps as communication devices to the essentials of map design. Muehlenhaus then goes into the overlapping areas where print maps and web maps have similar needs and then on to the unique aspects of web mapping.

Each chapter is well organized using the tried-and-true pedagogical techniques of telling the reader briefly what the chapter will cover and then following that plan in a well-organized and easy to read form. He ends each chapter with a review of those key concepts along with further resources including both readings and websites. He is generous in providing URLs to the tools, APIs, and tutorials that he discusses in the chapter. In addition there is a website associated with the text that also has the book’s resources in one central location as well as additions that he will make as he becomes aware of further resources (http://www.ian.muehlenhaus. com/webcartography).

Mr. Muehlenhaus’ style of writing is quite readable. He is not afraid to express his opinion on various software tools or mapping design issues but always clearly makes them known as opinions. He justifies his choices but never makes the reader feel forced toward a specific approach. In fact his mantra is that the most important issue is, “Does the map communicate the intent and purpose of the mapmaker effectively and clearly?” – not “What type of technology did you use?” For those who intend to use this as a refresher or are above beginner level in map making, do not ignore the chapters that are related to basic issues such as color use and typography. While they are to some extent basic issues that you may have learned about as undergraduate cartographers in the making, they do provide a discussion about how print and web maps are alike. The rules do still apply to some issues and Muehlenhaus makes that clear as well as writing about how things are different on a web map. In the last three chapters of the book Muehlenhaus moves into the areas that are unique to maps on the web and on mobile devices. These are the animation, sound and touch, and web production aspects. The only small surprise in this section was that there was no direct discussion of the use of voice files as part of an interactive map. To integrate for example an oral history recording with a map of the area under discussion seems like a natural mix. But you cannot cover all aspects in any single book. The last chapter may be of the most use to those who are on the verge of joining the web map world but need some guidance in what tools to learn such as HMTL5, CSS and JavaScript. Of course we cannot learn it all at once but Muehlhaus does encourage us to start learning certain tools. He also reassures us that, one, we do not need to learn everything at once (or even ever) and, two, there are lots of places that we can go to “borrow” chunks of openly available code to drop into our own work. With this reassurance he then adds lists of places where we can do this. The book is very well illustrated with colorful maps, symbols, fonts, and websites that give us the show part of the “show and tell” and make things even more clear. Muehlenhaus writes with knowledge, experience, and humor which further makes this an excellent text for undergrads to those who have started cartography with pen and ink.

Rebecca Lowery
Map and Data Services Librarian 
The University of Illinois at Chicago

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