Cartographic generalization research has focused almost exclusively in recent years on topographic mapping, and has thereby gained an incorrect reputation for having to do only with reference or positional data. The generalization research community needs to broaden its scope to include thematic cartography and geovisualization. Generalization is not new to these areas of cartography, and has in fact always been involved in thematic geographic visualization, despite rarely being acknowledged. We illustrate this involvement with several examples of famous, public-audience thematic maps, noting the generalization procedures involved in drawing each, both across their basemap and thematic layers. We also consider, for each map example we note, which generalization operators were crucial to the formation of the map’s thematic message. The many incremental gains made by the cartographic generalization research community while treating reference data can be brought to bear on thematic cartography in the same way they were used implicitly on the well-known thematic maps we highlight here as examples.
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