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  • Paradigms in Cartography: An Epistemological Review of the 20th and 21st Centuries by Pablo Ivan Azocar and Manfred Ferdinand Buchroithner
  • Chris Perkins
Paradigms in Cartography: An Epistemological Review of the 20th and 21st Centuries / Pablo Ivan Azocar and Manfred Ferdinand Buchroithner. Heidelberg: Springer, 2014. Pp. xvi, 150. ISBN 9783642388927 (cloth), £90; ISBN 9783642388934 (ebook), £72. Available from

Paradigms in Cartography focuses on epistemological and philosophical viewpoints during the development of twentieth-century cartography and beyond, to explore the significance of changing thinking for the discipline. It implies that cartographers can learn from the world of ideas that affects on their actions. As evidence to test this claim, the authors draw on published research, bringing together complex arguments into chapters that classify, simplify, and clarify, to explore more general trends while also seeking to test the utility of Kuhn’s notion of the paradigm shift as a means of explaining these changes. Azocar and Buchroithner show a willingness to explore literature that is often ignored in Anglo-American research, and sources from German language and Latin American research are a welcome addition to more orthodox materials.

Sadly, however, despite the carefully structured material and the wide cultural spread of sources, this book fails to deliver on its promise. It offers a largely acritical and internalist narrative of disciplinary change, without ever establishing what the discipline is. Its style is repetitive and excessively taxonomic. At times its English usage can be hard to read, and the volume could certainly have been more carefully copy-edited and proofread.

The major reason for this failure comes from the authors’ acritical approach to their sources. Authors’ views are summarized, but their ideas are never properly synthesized into an argument of any real depth. For example, the chapter around post-representational cartographies paraphrases generalizations from Dodge, Kitchin, and Perkins (2009) instead of interrogating the concepts that underpin these ideas. Azocar and Buchroithner lionize almost every author they cite, without properly engaging with the wider intellectual context that has influenced their work. This volume almost never considers the rich cross-fertilization that characterizes most academic thought.

The rhetoric of the authors’ argument depends upon an obsessively taxonomic and repetitive structure. In this world, concepts must be pigeonholed. Tables break down complexity into nice simple categories. Aspects of thinking are reduced to headings, which bring together descriptive generalizations about a particular author. Potential links between categories or sections are only rarely made. Diagrams simplify authors’ positioning in an intellectual space but also deny the possibility of making links between the different points in the matrix. These diagrams are never properly explained. Taxonomy has its uses; it can form the basis for generalization and for the emergence of new ideas. But unfortunately the argument and the synthesis that might have flowed from this approach are not really present in this treatment of epistemology.

The book’s structure exacerbates this issue. Its nine chapters begin by focusing on philosophy, epistemology, and cartography before assessing the significance of Kant, Wittgenstein and Popper’s work; no real justification is offered for why these three thinkers are relevant to subsequent arguments. A chapter on Kuhn and paradigm shifts follows, but little attempt is made to justify why Kuhn is appropriate. The next three chapters describe tendencies in contemporary cartography, critical cartography, and post-representational cartography. Each is a prisoner of often partial source material – for example, sections on paradigms in geography rely acritically on a paper published in 2000 and completely ignore the profound changes to the discipline that have taken place in the non-representational turn of the past 15 years. The next chapter explores what the authors term “tendency distribution in epistemological space” and how this might be a useful way of testing which paradigms are represented in cartography. This notion is then applied by considering the object of study, research aims, methods, results, and products; the authors conclude that there have been three dominant paradigms – a scientific-empirical approach, a critical approach, and a post-representational approach. Much more might have been done with why this matters. Insights, achievements, and “advancements” are detailed in a brief conclusion.

A second problem with this volume lies...


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pp. 76-77
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