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Cartography and Artificial Intelligence

12 November 2005
Denise Pumain
Cet article est une traduction de :
Cartographie et intelligence artificielle

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1The complex world in which we are evolving is also a paradoxical world:  therefore, what can we predict about the distribution and spread of the expertise of the geographers in respect to cartography and the visualisation of geographical information?  We see the emergence of more and more instruments and more and more occasions to orient ourselves and to admire images of the earth, but it is hardly certain that this is causing the public to advance in the knowledge of maps and how to interpret them.

2Take for example the location of sites by means of GPS and Galileo:  if these tools simplify the work of geographers in the field and taxi drivers on the road, thanks to systems of navigation, they also represent a threat to the practice of map-reading.  Will topographical maps and road maps become superfluous before long?  Will we even forget how to read them, when increasingly intelligent onboard systems will tell us to turn left, and then take the second turn to the right, or to go around the first ridge before beginning to climb the glacier?

3Systems of geographical information are also gaining in intelligence:  with expert systems and multi-agent systems and numerous other simulation models, we create decision-making tools that make the maps speak.  The user no longer needs to learn to read and understand the message of a map; it is by means of a whole battery of additional elements (clicks, magnetic bubbles, animations) that the information he/she needs is transmitted.  Will the whole beautiful semiology set in place so laboriously by generations of cartographers, the sketches of regional syntheses and other graphic models, survive the irresistible rise of interactivity in cartography?

4We have become accustomed through television to seeing the earth, at least underneath the weather map; the Internet gives us satellite images of all the corners of the world, on condition that someone authorises their distribution, perhaps filtering useful or previously unpublished or released material they contain, etc.  More than ever before, geographical and cartographical knowledge is one of the components of democratic freedom, and we should make every effort to maintain it through education, to prevent an even bigger gap from developing between the producer and the user of geographical information.

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Denise Pumain, « Cartography and Artificial Intelligence », Cybergeo : European Journal of Geography [En ligne], Éditoriaux, mis en ligne le 12 novembre 2005, consulté le 22 juin 2018. URL :

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Denise Pumain

Université Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne,UMR Géographie-cités,

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