Mapping for a sustainable world

Projects, Study, Diversity |

Whether visiting a museum, strolling through the city or traveling - we use all our senses for orientation. But how do people with impairments, disabilities and disadvantages navigate? How can individual mobility and social participation be enabled with the help of digital information services? This is the question that the first-year students of the Cartography master's degree program addressed in their Mapping Project. Under the motto "Accessible Places, Everywhere: Mapping for Inclusivity", they designed digital, barrier-free visualizations of geodata in collaboration with the Pfennigparade Foundation in Munich.

Portrait Juliane Cron, TUM School of Engineering and Design
Juliane Cron coordinates the Cartography master's program at the TUM School of Engineering and Design. Image: Cornelia Freund / TUM
Ching-Ting Chia and Ander Palacios Fraile: 1, 2, 3, 4 Für Alle, Mapping Project
1, 2, 3, 4, for everyone: One of the resulting accessible web maps for Munich's major districts shows barriers for people with disabilities and allows for individual route planning. It also provides a system for the public to report barriers. Image: Ching-Ting Chia and Ander Palacios Fraile
12. cohort Cartography M. Sc., TUM School of Engineering and Design
Group photo of the 12th cohort of the Master's program in Cartography at the TUM School of Engineering and Design. Image: Christian Murphy / TUM

Text and Photos: Cornelia Freund

The idea of addressing the issue of accessibility in teaching within the Cartography program came from Dr. Gabriele Aumann (Chair of Geoinformatics in the Department of Aerospace and Geodesy at the TUM School of Engineering and Design and Managing Director of Runder Tisch Geoinformationssysteme GIS e.V.) and Juliane Cron (Course Coordinator of the Master's Program in Cartography and Lecturer of the Mapping project). For the course on value-based learning and action-oriented cartographic ethics, they sought contact with accessibility experts from the Pfennigparade Foundation to reflect on typical challenges in everyday life. In personal meetings, colleagues reported on the hurdles they face every day when navigating and using maps.

The students designed interactive maps and developed cartographic ideas on how to visualize accessible information. "The future cartographers combine their different backgrounds, skills and abilities in this group work - internationally and interdisciplinary. In general, these include problem-solving skills, the broadening of expertise, the use of media, and the application of various mapping technologies. On the topic of accessibility, the students focused on empathizing with people with visual or mobility impairments. It was a very inspiring, awareness-raising collaboration that made us all think," says Juliane Cron.

Learning spectrum: from social skills to web programming

The results of the course are impressive: Nine teams developed prototypes and cartographic designs using digital media and data visualization methods. The interactive Vernissage shows the great projects: from the use of acoustic signals for navigation to an accessible map of Munich's districts on the internet.

The 12th cohort master students are unanimous in their enthusiasm for the project: The creative process of seeing and presenting the world with different senses was challenging and sometimes unconventional. Putting ideas into practice - exploring new ways of doing things on the web, finding different languages and images for inclusive access - was individually exciting and socially meaningful. And the spectrum of learning outcomes was extremely broad: social research methods, storytelling, web programming, cartophony/acoustic maps, data integration, UI/UX design, geovisualization, and last but not least, key social and communication skills.

"We learned two very different but important things, in the technical and in the human field. Firstly, we learned about the things that can be done in web developing, in the process of creating an interactive map and website. Additionally, we learned about the needs of disabled people and their mobility issues in big cities such as Munich", said Ching-Ting Chia and Ander Palacios Fraile, summing up their "1, 2, 3, 4 For All" teamwork.

Excellent Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degree Cartography at TUM

"Mapping for a sustainable world" - according to this guiding principle, the Cartography degree program at the TUM School of Engineering and Design aims to equip its participants with fundamental competencies in data science. The need for good maps is growing - and at the same time everyone can create maps. Therefore, in addition to theories, methods and technologies for a holistic understanding of the discipline, teaching content also includes map-based worldviews - and an awareness of ethical issues throughout the geospatial data value chain. From data acquisition to modeling and analysis to visualization: transparent and trustworthy communication of cartographic knowledge in interdisciplinary and intercultural settings is always required.

Academic excellence and a high level of integration are the main objectives of the Cartography program. The Joint Degree, which involves four universities from three countries, is funded by the European Commission within the Erasmus Mundus framework. In the first semester, the fundamentals of cartography and geovisualization are taught at the Technical University of Munich (TUM). At the Vienna University of Technology (TUW), multimedia cartography, in particular web mapping, mobile Internet and location-based services follow in the second semester. In the third semester, students are taught in mobile and 3D cartography at the Technical University of Dresden (TUD). In addition, online modules from the University of Twente (UT) are integrated into the curriculum in the first and third semester. The program is the only Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degree coordinated by TUM.