Focus & Scope

meta-carto-semiotics is interested in theoretical studies on questions related to cartography in its broadest sense. What such "cartography in its broadest sense" shall comprise, is already a worthwhile topic within the scope of meta-carto-semiotics. However, we will try to introduce the future discussions in this e-journal more precisely, proposing the following preliminary and rough definition of cartography and cartographic theory. Cartography is about representation of spatial reality to humans. Consequently, cartographic theory focuses on the numerous relations between representation (e.g. map), user and reality. As semiotic theories offer, of course, different ways to structure the aforementioned relationship, semiotics forms part of the journal's name. Moreover, semiotics provides, on the one hand, a solid framework for other theories, which have been already applied on cartographic questions, like communication theories or information theories for example. On the other hand, both current carto-theoretic approaches can be structured on semiotic fundaments and future developments may be prepared.

Additionally, the scope of meta-carto-semiotics can be extended on the basis of the terms of reference of the former Commission on Theoretical Cartography of the International Cartographic Association, i.e. on topics as general and applied cartosemiotics, map language and cartographic conceptions, mapping as a cognitive process, cartographic ontology, terminology and toponymy. Thereby, not only elaboration but also critical comparison of theoretical structures in cartography are of high interest to meta-carto-semiotics.

Asking what cartography and cartographic theory is also implies the counter question: What is cartography not? This question especially addresses the relationship between traditional cartography and various younger disciplines, which focus on - at least partly - similar or intersecting issues like "Spatial Information Theory", "Visual Analytics", "Knowledge Visualization" or (Geo-)Informatics do for example.

Consequently, meta-carto-semiotics explicit invites scientists from other areas who do not consider themselves as cartographers but, nevertheless, think that their investigations matter the function and optimization of representations of spatial reality. Finally, and as another consequence of the aforesaid, also empirical studies on all above-mentioned questions are really welcome.


In current times of increasing numbers of scientific journals and conferences, meta-carto-semiotics shall not arrive on the WWW's scene without a few words regarding the editors' justification and motivation.

During the last decades, developments on informational and communicational technologies have led to an unprecedented acceleration of innovations to represent spatial reality. This developmental speed confronted traditional cartography with new or modified realities in two respects:

On the one hand, cartographers have tried and still try to use and to adapt arising technologies for their visualization needs. Focusing on the application of new techniques, however, also resulted in a neglect of accordant theoretical and methodological questions. As a consequence, cartographers often know, how they can use various visualizations techniques, but have no well grounded assurance, how they should use them.

On the other hand, more and more cartographic applications enter the market, which have not been produced by the traditional producer group. Google Earth gives a prominent example for such a product. Consequently, cartography has to rethink its scientific self-conception, i.e. its relevance, its objectives and its interdisciplinary positioning and significance.

Against this background, meta-carto-semiotics aims to give publication space to investigations on theoretical fundaments, empirical findings and methodological paths, that focus on how and why current and future technologies should be used in order to represent spatial reality as appropriate as possible.

nomen est omen

As the journal's name meta-carto-semiotics may not be completely self-explanatory, a few comments shall clarify its choice: Godfather of meta-carto-semiotics is Alexander Wolodtschenko, who had already worked on a cartosemiotic theory under the name of metacartosemiotics. To cover a broader range of topics under the domain of theoretical cartography, splitting the original term in a trifold way has been decided with the following arguments:

meta: the prefixoid meta (from Greek: μετά = "after", "beyond", "with", "adjacent") is not simple used for its literal meaning, but rather points to the term meta-theory. Referring to this concept of the philosophy of science intends to open an epistemological dimension to this journal, where also theories about cartographic theories and questions on the scientific or non-scientific character of cartography shall be discussed.

carto (from Greek χάρτης = paper and Latin charta = map) or cartography respectively is the central part of the journals name as well as the central the topic of the journals scope. As already outlined in about the journal and, meta-carto-semiotics tends to establish an interdisciplinary discussion on cartographic science and cartography's objectives.

semiotics (from Greek σημεῖον = sign) forms the final part of the journals name for the following reason: Provided that, firstly, every cartographic product can be interpreted as a system of signs and, secondly, semiotics is concerned with all kinds of sign systems, semiotics can provide a comprehensive theoretical framework to cartography in terms of a genus proximum.