Occassional thoughts about orienteering

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Why is the new map so much more detailed?


John posed a question about yesterday's map comparison:

Why is the new map so much more detailed?

That got me thinking about developments in mapping over the period I've been orienteering, which is roughly the same period covered by the two maps compared yesterday. I think the comparison of maps from France is reasonably representative of the overall trends in O' maps -- towards more detail.

Some possible explanations for why maps have gotten more detailed:

1. Maybe basemaps and mapping technology have improved, making it easier to capture more detail.

2. Mapping style/fashion changed. In the 80s, I think the fashion was to minimize formlines and keep the maps easy to read on the run. But, sometime in the 90s, it seems like fieldcheckers stopped worrying about using lots of formlines. They became more concerned with a detailed picture of the terrain.

3. Larger scale maps became more acceptable, especially as sprint orienteering has become more popular. Large scales make it easier to include more detail.

4. Orienteering techniques have gotten better, making it easier for good orienteers to use all the detail. Back in the 1980s, I think it was more common for the top orienteers to just run rough compass and find themselves as they got near the control. That was a technique perfectly suited to generalized map. But, I think orienteers now are keeping better map contact. I think more top orienteers are doing more technique training now than 20 years ago. If you do more technique training, then you get better are reading the map and all of the details without slowing down.

5. Course setting has lead to more controls and shorter legs. Short legs aren't so interesting on maps without many details. So, as middle distance and sprint disciplines became popular, the maps adapted to the disciplines.

I'm sure I'm wrong about some of this. I'm sure other people have different, and better, ideas about why maps have become more detailed. Leave a comment if you've got some ideas.

posted by Michael | 7:37 PM


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