3D mapping:

A new course, a new subject. This time, the third dimension was explored in the course 3D Modeling and Visibility Analysis. In this first exercise, I explored thematic mapping in 3D. This was exciting at first but later proved to be quite the challenge (which was the whole point of the exercise). 3D maps are effective and appropriate when taking advantage of the z-dimension, however are rarely so for thematics, especially for static representations such as on print or on a screen. To test this in a human geographical context, I made two maps in 3D showing demographic statistics of Sweden both at the municipal level and the city level.

The point of mapping in 3D is to provide a more realistic and comprehensive view of geographic phenomena which can enhance understanding and communication of complex information. This is especially useful in interactive scenes where one is not limited by static frames. Perhaps more importantly, though, is that it enables more enhanced analysis. That is, because of the z-dimension, 3D mapping can provide more insights and opportunities for analysis by overcoming the limitations of 2D maps, making it a more realistic representation of reality.

However, static frames and increased complexity are exactly where the problems of 3D maps lie, and in my experience making the maps seen here, it did not matter which spatial scale I was working with. Because I was making a static frame 3D map, the main problem I ran into was the obstruction of important features. In a static frame, no matter the spatial scale, you cannot avoid this problem. This can be seen in the map above where Sotenäs (an important feature of the map) is obstructed from view and therefore has to be conveyed with line symbology, indicating that something lies behind the obstruction.

The map to the left shows the same thing, although perhaps less important, where we have no idea what lies behind the tallest white pillars. (Note: I left out scale bars and north arrows from the maps because they were really not meant for 3D and were therefore (I think) always going to be inaccurate and not that useful). Lastly, because of the increased complexity introduced by the third dimension, misinterpretation of the map is likelier if not accompanied by contextual information.

This risk of misinterpretation is called foreshortening, meaning that the foreground is larger in the field of view than the background, which can introduce difficulties in interpreting the relative sizes and amounts of the map. Separately, thematic and 3D maps are effective visual representations of real-world phenomena, however, combined they feel more cumbersome than useful, both for the creator and audience.