At the moment we have 853 questions tagged (if you are on the newest tab, or 158 frequently asked questions if you are on the frequent tab) which has a tag wiki excerpt of:

The study and practice of making maps.

Is this tag being applied appropriately, or should more/fewer questions be tagged with it?

Wikipedia provides a more detailed description of Cartography which I am providing a link to for ready reference.

3 Answers 3


I agree with @Fezter's answer. It looks like many cartography-tagged posts are indeed related to cartography, especially design aesthetics and how to visualize maps in traditional but also revolutionary ways.

This is Britannica's definition:

The art and science of graphically representing a geographical area, usually on a flat surface such as a map or chart. It may involve the superimposition of political, cultural, or other nongeographical divisions onto the representation of a geographical area.

Therefore, I think art and science — projecting maps, graphically representing an area, visualizing data, etc. — are two important elements in cartography and should somehow be included in this tag.

Projections would be related to cartography, yet has its own tag(s). Based on this example, maybe there could be a suggestion for question askers to include more specific tags such as projection. I believe the cartography tag can still be used as-is, but more specific tags should be included as well. On my geography blog (GeoFact of the Day), most but not all posts fit in my large GeoFact of the Day tag category. Each GeoFact of the Day-tagged post also includes at least one specific tag. I think this is an reasonable example of how there can be a large category, which ideally includes more specific categories.

Here's my tag description suggestion:

The study and practice of creating maps (mapmaking) and graphically representing geographic areas with the use of artistic and scientific principles.

It is sort of a mouthful, yet still shows cartography as an overarching concept.


I think we need to either:

  1. Possibly redefine the tag to include aesthetics of maps or displaying features appropriately, because there seem to be many questions like that.
  2. Remove the tag from some questions and add a new tag to include the above mentioned aesthetical nature of maps.

The tag definition is very broad and therefore, I think it may appropriately be applied to many of those questions. However, perhaps it is too broad.

How many questions on our site are about the study of making maps? Surely, the majority of the questions on GIS.SE are ultimately about making a map in one way or another, so we could almost apply the tag in it's current form to most questions.

My 2 cents.


I asked this question because I think the tag is being over-used.

To me, it seems like some questions are being tagged with as a term interchangeable with maps or mapping.

For example, I think the recent question below should have the tag removed:

Polygon not drawn in OpenLayers 3?

I suspect that there may be many questions tagged posted here that purist cartographers would be horrified to see labelled in any way as cartography.

I will defer to other answerers on what should be classed as cartography and simply say that, if we are editing questions tagged for any other purpose, we should perhaps re-assess whether they are really about cartography or just about making or . If it is either of the latter, then I think neither of those tags need be applied because more specific tags about how you are trying to map are likely to be more useful.

  • Of interesting note, I find that 'map' is already a synonym of cartography. Quite frankly I'm not sure how 'maps' survived on its own. In some ways I even think 'mapping' should also be a synonym of cartography. But the distinction I could/would make, and do in terms of my usage/tag edits, is: cartography is how to represent and present data in map form, while mapping is how to collect or store/organize data with a map as a next step. I'm sure there are misapplications of both tags, but short of improved wikis and tag editing at discretion I don't see 'voteable solution' yet.
    – Chris W
    Feb 11, 2017 at 4:06

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