The Map’s Changing Role: A Survey of the Annals of the Association of American Geographers

  • Fritz C. KesslerEmail author
  • Terry A. Slocum
Reference work entry


Recently, researchers have lamented the decreasing use of maps in refereed journals. Yet, what might have replaced the map if in fact it is less frequently used has not been offered. New theoretical perspectives (e.g., critical cartography and deconstructionism) have called into question the role that maps play and thus may have spurred on a greater use of text. But substantial developments in geographic techniques have taken place: in cartography itself and in geographic information systems (GIS), remote sensing, quantitative methods, and qualitative methods. The basic question this study asks is what role have these developments played in map use? In this chapter, the authors perform a detailed content analysis of the role that these various techniques have played over the 1940–2010 period for the Annals of the Association of American Geographers. This study hypothesized that recent developments in geovisualization, geovisual analytics, and new Web mapping techniques would have a positive impact on map use, but little evidence of this was seen. At issue here is the need for an interactive graphical framework (which is absent from the static nature of Portable Document Format files). The results show that although maps are used less frequently in journal articles, particularly in the last three decades, the level of integration with articles has been relatively steady in terms of words contained in figure captions, words in the main text used to describe thematic maps, and the number of times maps were referenced. Both GIS and remote sensing have significantly impacted the discipline of geography. The results also suggested, however, that GIS was used in only about 20% of articles over the 1990–2010 period and that only 12% of the articles integrated remote sensing in the analysis during this period. Quantitative methods saw a rapid increase from 1940 to 1970 but became relatively stable from 1970 to 2010. Qualitative methods were frequently used prior to 1970, infrequently used in the 1970–1980 period, and then there was a resurgence of usage after 1980, with the development of new qualitative approaches. Articles that used quantitative methods were more apt to utilize thematic maps, while articles containing qualitative approaches were generally less apt to use thematic maps.


Cartography History of cartography Map use Geographic techniques 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeographyThe Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA
  2. 2.Department of GeographyUniversity of KansasLawrenceUSA

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