How is geographic knowledge adequately conveyed by maps and other forms of spatial visualisations? How do maps actually shape our idea of space and of developments in space? What is the potential of interactive and user-generated maps with regard to the understanding of space, and what are the challenges arising from the new possibilities of digital cartography? The research area addresses these questions by combining scientific competence with its expertise in knowledge transfer and map production.
A special role is played by the methodological and content-related development of spatial visualisations for both analogue and, increasingly, digital media. The focus here is on a comprehensible and easily accessible mediation of content for different user groups. We accompany such developments with empirical studies.
Another focus is the critical analysis of maps, which takes into account not only social conditions but also the necessities of map production. For example, we are interested in how spatial ideas are conveyed visually, what role widely used map signs play in this, and how it came to be that cartographic sign systems have adapted to one another over the course of the 20th century; it is no coincidence that today we can "understand" maps of different cultures even without language skills.
The knowledge and experience gained from the investigations and methodological developments of the research area are incorporated into the IfL's own map production in order to improve conventional forms of visualisation and to promote innovative visual mediation formats. In this respect, the cartography of the IfL, along with the Central Geographical Library and the Archive of Geography, represents a research infrastructure which significantly shape the profile of the institute.