Accessibility Skip to Global Navigation Skip to Local Navigation Skip to Content Skip to Search Skip to Site Map Menu

Cartography and Art

This is an exploration of visual artistic forms as a complement to GIS-produced maps, which have a scientific basis. In the last few years, art has been coming back into cartography, as the map alone finds it difficult to convey certain human-based geographic concepts, such as situated stories or emotions triggered by environment. Topics within this research area at the School of Surveying include comic / photo strips embedded in maps (and vice versa), and digital interfaces featuring maps accessed through scanned fine art.


There are two main areas of research. The first is using comic or photo strips (sequential art), normally used to tell an episodic story, as art to interact with maps. One idea is to use the comic strip style to represent a time sequence of maps. Another is to approach from the other direction and have the comic strip actually IN the map. In a digital sense, the strip is liberated from the page and allowed to be linear, which enables it to be plotted. So you can have the comic or photo story of someone’s day following the route they took that day. Abundance of personal spatial data and availability of online cartoon editors makes this setup achievable, even for those who do not consider themselves artists.

A second investigation in this research area centres on a painting and its ability to subtly convey aspects of space and time, such as the ability to potentially represent many times, spaces and themes seamlessly in one image, use of spatial and temporal metaphors and framing to imply motion. Digital interaction of a scanned map with underlying map content is investigated here.


A photo strip map has been built in a 3D online virtual environment (powered by OpenSimulator and managed by the New Zealand Virtual World Grid). In the 3D map, xy horizontal space is as you would expect but the vertical dimension conveys time instead of the expected height (a space time cube). A photo strip has been created out of holiday photos commemorating a motorcycle trip across the States and plotted in 3D (xyt), attached to GPS data collected on the trip.

For the second area of investigation, a digital art map depicting the history of the kea (New Zealand alpine parrot) was created using the Expression Blend interface builder. A scanned painting by Diana Marinescu formed the basis for interaction with an underlying sequence of maps. The painting represented the history of the kea ‘in one take’ from prehistory to now. The user of the interface is able to interact with the painting to make kea habitat maps from different ages appear (depending on what part of the map is the focus).


Diana Marinescu (Younique Creative Ltd)

Selected publications and outcomes

Moore, A, Marinescu, D and Tenzer, R. 2011. A Visual Art Interface to an Embedded Sequence of Maps. Cartography and Geographic Information Science, 38, 2, 185-192.

Moore, A. 2011. A Photographic Snapshot Lifeline Strip in a Space-Time Cube. In: Proceedings 25th International Cartography Conference (ICC 2011), Paris, France, July 2011.

Moore, A B. 2009. Maps as Comics, Comics as Maps. In: Proceedings, 24th International Cartography Conference (ICC 2009), Santiago, Chile, Nov. 15-21, 2009.