What would you call a large group of mapmakers that gathers together? A crush of cartographers? A mass of mappers? In late August 2015 it happened again, the official biannual meeting of the International Cartographic Association took place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This 27th International Cartographic Conference attracted over 700 people from dozens of different countries who gathered for four days of presentations, poster exhibits and professional networking. ICA activities themselves are organized across a mix of 27 different Commissions whose various foci range from atlases to map projections to location-based services, and each of these Commissions also holds technical sessions during the conference.
A conference like this attracts the most highly regarded mapmakers in the world. ICA member countries display their finest maps and atlases, in paper or digital format, at the large International Cartographic Exhibition, and from these the prestigious Map Awards are selected. Another popular competition is aimed at a younger crowd. Since 1993, the Barbara Petchenik Competition has provided young children through teenagers an opportunity to submit their finest world maps, to “promote the creative representation of the world in graphic form by children.” This year, almost 200 different entries from 38 countries were considered by the judges as they made their selection of the winning illustrations. Top entries from previous years can also still be enjoyed, here.
“The ICA meeting represents a unique opportunity to experience the incredible global diversity of mapping research, practice and technology,” noted Anthony Robinson of Penn State University. Dr. Robinson, who serves as the Chair of the ICA’s Commission on Visual Analytics, says that a highlight for him at this year's meeting was a pre-conference workshop held in Curitiba at Paraná Federal University. “The ICA Commissions on Cognitive Visualization, Use and User Issues, Map Design, and Geovisualization gathered together with faculty and student participants from UFPR and other Brazilian institutions to collaborate on the development of a new research agenda for cartographic research. This workshop is only possible at a meeting like ICA which has the power to collect cartographers from around the world.”
“This meeting provided an excellent opportunity for the ICA to showcase a number of recent initiatives,” Pat Kennelly of Long Island University commented. He cites ICA’s organization of the 2015-2016 International Map Year, a celebration of maps and their unique role in our world, and also their launch of The International Journal of Cartography, a new publication focused on the map as a form of communication about the world. “This conference allows us to interact with other researchers from around the world with a keen interest in numerous sub-disciplines of cartography,” Dr. Kennelly said. With his interest in Mountain Cartography, he capitalized on chances to present his work at a session, attend the Commission’s business meeting, and informally talk to other researchers with similar interests from many different countries.
To coordinate the activities of this international organization and an event such as this requires an international governing body. The ICA’s General Assembly convenes once every four years in order to share updates by the Commissions, select an Executive Committee, decide on future conference venues and consider other relevant matters. Member countries provide reports on their country’s activities in cartography and geographic information science. In the United States, our National Committee is managed through the Cartography and Geographic Information Society, the non-profit organization that evolved out of the American Congress of Surveying and Mapping. Dr. Lynn Usery, of the U.S. Geological Survey, chairs the U.S. National Committee and was also just elected to be one of the ICA’s new vice presidents.
If rubbing elbows with the top cartographers from around the world sounds like something you want to experience, you won’t have to travel as far next time. At the closing ceremony of the Rio conference, the official ICA flag was transferred to the United States delegation in preparation for our hosting the next ICC in July 2017 in Washington, D.C. Don’t dally, start your mapping engines!