Defining the Map: Utilizing Classical Categorization and Prototype Theory

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Alejandro Molina (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Jeffrey Patton

Abstract: Psychologists in the 1960s and 70s postulated the concept of prototypes as fundamental to an individual’s ability to organize and categorize information. Cartographers in the 1990s attempted to determine what constitutes the map prototype and what graphic elements move objects “nearer” to that prototype. It has been suggested that the rise of Google Earth, greater familiarity with satellite imagery, and web mapping services may have altered the current map prototype.This study presents findings from two experiments. The first replicates earlier cartographic studies to determine the relative importance of select graphic elements (labeling, cartographic iconography, verticality of perspective, etc.) in establishing the map prototype. The subjects for the study were undergraduate students who were shown a series of images and asked to rate “how map-like” the image was on a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 indicating nothing in common with a map and 10 being totally map. Results indicated that graphic representations that were most map-like were road atlases, online street maps, and reference maps. Characteristics that were considered to increase mapness included verticality, labels, real, urban and drawn. Recorded satellite images did not influence level of mapness.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2017
Geographic Thought, Map Elements, Map Functions, Perception, Prototype Theory

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