Mapping Ethics. New Trends in Cartography and Social Responsability (Lausanne, EPFL, 14 et 15 avril 2011)

Beyond any doubt, cartographic production is not remaining the monopoly of a restricted circle of specialists anymore. There is no longer any implicit agreement about maps. Meanwhile, scientific and technological innovations are drastically modifying the boundaries between what is a map and what is not ; between geographical data and cartographical language ; between science, technology, art and communication. At the same time, there is a strong need for cartographic instruments in order to empower the identity of citizen-cartographers. Ordinary individuals are not only using and thinking about topographical territories but topological networks, too. Many of them are involved in multi-scale, complex decision-making processes and, in doing so, they handle various kinds of maps.

This threefold and simultaneous movement is no coincidence and invites a serious self-analysis. It appeals an innovative frame to think about ethics – as a fundamental component of reflexivity. In other words, what are the social values and responsible attitudes that are at stake in cartographic practices? This question is all the more complicated since the debate on ethic is far from being closed within societies. Actually, understanding how the articulation of maps and society tends to design new configurations is necessary to create scientific and technological innovation, as well as to contribute to general public debate. This implies breaking academic borders which have been, so far, much too thick.

The ethical perspective, which is emerging from individual or collective commitment in societal agency, has lead to focusing the symposium on three questions.

  1. The becoming of the author. Are the co-productive processes of map-making erasing individual responsibilities ? Are self-organized collections of geographic data still maps?
  2. The relationships between citizens and stakeholders through cartographic medium. Maps involve a series of choices that are not merely technical. These choices can have a critical impact on the way maps will be received and deciphered. They can be seen as actors of public debates, political controversies, or geopolitical conflicts.
  3. The aesthetic challenge. How do maps as hybrid iconic, semiotic and symbolic systems bear the clarification of values ? A map is typically a combination of projections, perspectives, shapes, patterns and colors, which could also be the raw material for aesthetics-oriented image-making. Aesthetic choices can create biases (oversimplification, illegibility, subliminal messages…) that impede receivers to control the meanings of maps they have to read. Artists seize maps and tears codes and values. What about scientists ?

Concerning these and similar questions, we solicit short papers (max. 2 pages). All submissions will be selected based on their originality, merit, and relevance to the workshop.

Once accepted, presenters will have the opportunity to expound their work as a 10 minutes oral presentation during the workshops’ panel session. Submission requires the author to present the paper on-site.

A selection of presented papers will be published, with an extended form, in an original book.

Please find detailed information about the call for paper on the cartographic biennale web site :

Jean-Marc Besse

Directeur de recherche au CNRS UMR Géographie-cités, Paris

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Jean-Marc Besse

Directeur de recherche au CNRS UMR Géographie-cités, Paris

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