GEOG 2053: Mapping a Changing World

Schedule (subject to change).  Any changes of assignment deadlines will be announced in class and posted here.

This page contains the class schedule by week: August 27 | September 3 | September 10 | September 17 | September 24 | October 1 | October 8 | October 15 | October 22 | October 29 | November 5 | November 12 | November 19 | November 26 | December 3 | December 10 |

Related pages: General Information | Lecture and Discussion Notes | Assignments | GEOG 2053 Homepage | CU Geography Homepage |

August 27: Introduction: Key concepts and terms.

Topics: Overview of course and introduction to cartographic resources in the Web. Demonstrate how to access and use on-line class materials. Introduction to the KESDA lab.  Focus on key concepts and definitions that will be used through the course.
Readings and Work:

September 3: The big picture on map design: Map layout and first principles of cartographic communication.

Topics: Introduction to thematic cartography applied to first maps. Overview of cartography as a form of visual communication. The importance of defining of audience and theme. Overview of general principles for composing a map and the essential elements of maps.
Readings and Work:
  • Sections 1, 2, 3, and 4 of Kenneth Foote and Shannon Crum, Cartographic Communication.
  • No Class on Monday: Labor Day Holiday
  • Both labs meet together for work sessions with TA on Wednesday from 3-5:50 PM
  • Chapter 1 from: Cynthia Brewer. 2005. Designing Better Maps: A Guide for GIS Users. Redlands, CA: Esri Press.

September 10: How do maps work? The semiotics of cartography and visual communication.

Topics: A careful examination of how visual resources (color, pattern, orientation, etc.) are used in map composition. Consider the visual hierarchy of maps, foreground and background relationships, and the use of visual resources to highlight particular information. Experiment with point symbols, color, and text.
Readings and Work:
  • Map of Your Favorite Place due on Friday by 5 pm.
  • Sections 5, 7, and 8 of Kenneth Foote and Shannon Crum, Cartographic Communication .
  • Tufte, Edward.  2001. Graphical Excellence.  Chapter 1 in The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, pp. 13-51.  Cheshire, CT: Graphics Press.
  • Chapters 2 and 3 from: Cynthia Brewer. 2005. Designing Better Maps: A Guide for GIS Users. Redlands, CA: Esri Press.

September 17: Where would you campaign? Using maps and GIS to developing a strategy for the presidential race.

Topics: Introduction to US electoral and demographic dynamics and the way GIS and mapping systems are being used increasingly for campaigning and in elections.  Explore ways in spatial analysis can be applied in the next presidential election. Develop and series of maps that explore contemporary electoral trends. Introduction to ArcGIS data handling and analysis functions. Contrast the advantages and disadvantages of cartographic versus database solutions.
Readings and Work:

September 24: Exploratory data analysis and effective demographic mapping: Issues of generalization, classification, and symbolization.

Topics: Consider how maps can be used to explore geospatial data. Explore different strategies for examining patterns using descriptive statistics and statistical mapping.. Overview of issues relating to demographic mapping: statistical generalization, classification, and symbolization. Overview of problems of data classification and of strengths and weaknesses of various methods. Perform experiments with area patterns and further tests with layout and color. Introduce new issues relating to verbal content and lettering. Review of descriptive statistics.
Readings and Work:
  • Section 6 of Ken Foote and Shannon Crum, Cartographic Communication,
  • Chapters 4 and 5 from: Cynthia Brewer. 2005. Designing Better Maps: A Guide for GIS Users. Redlands, CA: Esri Press.
  • (Optional) Coulson, Michael R.C. 1987. In the matter of class intervals for choropleth maps: With particular reference to the work of George F. Jenks. Cartographica 24 (2): 16-39.
  • (Optional) Evans, Ian S. 1977. The selection of class intervals. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers New Series 2: 98-124.

October 1: Classification and symbolization strategies (continued) & Issues in contemporary map design.

Topics: Overview of other ways in which maps are used in current geographical research and contemporary life. 

Readings and Work: Guest Lectures this week:
  • (Monday) Sam Smith, Mapping in the third dimension
  • (Wednesday) Professor Joe Bryan, Community-based mapping and critical cartography. Please read:
    • Harley, J.B.. 1988. Maps, knowledge and power.  In Cosgrove, D. and Daniels, S., eds, The iconography of landscape.  Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press, 277-312.
    • Krygier, John and Denis Wood. 2009.  Ce n'est past le monde.  In Rethinking Maps: New Frontiers in Cartographic Theory, eds. Martin Dodge, Rob Kitchin, and Chris Perkins, 189-219.  New York: Routledge.
    • Both can be downloaded from
  • No class on Friday.
  • Chapters 6 and 7 from: Cynthia Brewer. 2005. Designing Better Maps: A Guide for GIS Users. Redlands, CA: Esri Press.

October 8: How do we record location? The basics of locational reference and coordinate systems.

Topics: Raise issue of establishing and measuring location. Address issue of how and why coordinate systems differ. Survey major issues and terms. Introduce principle land survey and coordinate systems employed in Colorado. Raise issues of accuracy and precision. Raise further issues in cartographic design and composition.
Readings and Work:

October 15: Why map projections matter

Topics: Overview basic issue of map projections and compromises involved in transferring 3-dimensional positions to 2-dimensional surfaces. Introduce basic terminology. Consider widely used methods, why and when they are applied, and the compromises involved in employing each one.
Readings and Work:

October 22: Map projections (continued)

Topics: Practice using map projections to solve cartographic problems. 
Readings and Work:
  • Finish Mapping Tectonic Hotspots by Friday by 5 pm.
Guest lectures this week:

October 29: GPS

opics: Discuss principles of GPS positioning and navigation.  Consider strengths and weakness of GPS for improving location accuracy and precision. 
Readings and Work:

November 5: Error and accuracy in maps and geospatial data & Cartography in history and across cultures

Topics: Consider how accuracy and precision effect spatial datasets. Examine major sources and how they can propagate and cascade in cartographic databases.  A brief overview of the history of cartography and the role maps have played in various world cultures. Touch on interrelationships between cartography and economic, social, political, technological and cultural processes and patterns through time. 
Readings and Work:

November 12: Online mapping and map mashups

opics: Focus on new techniques for creating and publishing maps online.  Experiment with creating map mashups for ArcGIS online and Google Maps.
Readings and Work:

November 19: Fall Break and Thanksgiving--No Class.

November 26: How can maps be used to lie and mislead? Ethical issues in cartography and GIS.

Topics: Consider how maps can be used to mislead readers either unintentionally or intentionally. Examine how maps are sometimes used for propaganda and how they express the values and motives of the map makers themselves. 
Readings and Work:

December 3: Economic, legal, political and social issues

Topics: Examine situations in which maps, GIS and information technology intersect the law. Consider some of the ethical problems that arise from the use and misuse of information technology, including the issue of privacy.  
Readings and Work:

December 10: Frontiers of cartography: Virtual reality, multimedia and interactive mapping

Topics: Consider current trends in cartography and some of the exciting recent developments that link cartography, GIS, GPS, the Internet and other information technologies. Course debriefing and evaluation on Friday.
Readings and Work:

Second exam: Monday, December 17th, 1:30 to 4:00 pm. Exam is non-cumulative and covers only lecture material since first exam.  First part of exam is take-home, second half during exam period.

Last revised 2012.11.24. KEF.