A reader recently asked what he needs to know to be a digital cartographer. It’s a potentially complicated answer because there are a lot of emerging technologies in this space. What I might recommend now could be superseded by something else as soon as 6 months from now. Given that, I wouldn’t hard-code (so to speak) the advice that follows. Instead, keep your learning flexible and explore all paths that it leads you down. For now, here are some tools/technologies you can familiarize yourself with as you seek to become a digital cartographer extraordinaire.
Note that I’m not getting into a myriad of datasources and haven’t even touched on the design portion of cartography, which in no way diminishes the importance of those. Also note this is just one pathway of many possibilities.
The list is particularly heavy on OpenSreetMap but the associated tools are good to know regardless. A combination of these tools could be used in a classroom exercise. In no particular order:
- Cascading Style Sheets: CSS. Check out the w3schools tutorial* and the MapBox CartoCSS reference
- OpenStreetMap: OSM. Check out the map, go to the conference, look at how CartoCSS is used to style OSM road data in a map style called OSM Bright
- Structured Query Language: SQL. Check out the w3schools tutorial* and look at how SQL is used to query OSM data in a map style called OSM Bright
- Check out imposm, an importer for OpenStreetMap data
- Use TileMill to make your first map and serve it up with MapBox
*There is some controversy surrounding these tutorials. However, I’ve still found them to be useful. If you have alternative tutorial suggestions please post them in the comments.