World Report

Report on the cartosemiotic activities of the KCTOS-conference in Vienna

By Alexander Wolodtschenko

As INST-Project ( the international multidisciplinary conference: "Knowledge, Creativity and Transformations of Societies"/ KCTOS/ was held in Vienna from 6 to 9 December 2007 (WWW:

With 90 sections it was a polylog of about 1.500 contributors (scientists, artists ect.) from all over the world. The organizers wanted to stress the importance of languages, literatures, the arts, science and research within the globalized world. The KCTOS-Conference was also a platform for posing questions about future models of the arts, sciences and research as well as about other areas of knowledge production such as schools, universities, museums, politics, etc.

Cartographic semiotics (cartosemiotics), the discipline connecting cartography and semiotics, is an important element of spatial communication in modern information societies. The interdisciplinary section "Cartosemiotics and Geographical Images" was suggested for the KCTOS-conference owing to its association with the ICA Commission on Theoretical Cartography and because of the inherent communicative, multimedial and synergetic character of cartosemiotics. It was also not coincidental that this cartographic-geographical section was placed in the multifarious section "Languages, Knowledge and Globalization" which attempted an interdisciplinary discussion for cartographers, cartosemioticians, geographers, culturologists, engineers etc. – in brief, all those dealing with the use, analysis and interpretation of diverse cartosemiotic models (topographic and thematic maps, atlases, satellite images, anamorphoses, cartoides etc.).

The section held its sessions with six papers and 11 poster presentations on the 8th December 2007. The contributions can be subdivided into four thematic groups, Atlas Cartography and Atlas Cartosemiotics, Geographic Semiotics, Semiosis in Action and Cartosemiotic Publications. The first group, “Atlas cartography and atlas cartosemiotics” focused on new systems in cartography, the system of atlas production and the use of atlases. Six selected atlas-related themes from that of A.Humbold´s to meta-variables of modern atlases found their place in this thematic group. Irina Rotanowa (Barnaul) spoke on “Der kartographische Nachlass und Entwicklung der Methoden von A. Humboldt in der modernen thematischen Kartographierung” whereas Anatoli Elchaninov (Moscow) thematized “Cultural and natural heritage in the National Atlas of Russia”. The problem of insular maps in national and regional atlases on the background of an integrating Europe was the topic of Peter Jordan (Vienna) and Kristina Gurjanovaitė (Vilnius) discussed cartographic thinking in mental maps of Lithuanian children and the project of a children atlas. Nataliya Polyakova (Kyiv) spoke about the semiotic structure of the individual thematic cartographic works and Alexander Wolodtschenko (Dresden) on “Atlanten – kartosemiotische Modelle”.

In the section on Geographic Semiotics, the five presentations formed a second thematic group. Geographic Semiotics is a new direction within semiotics which attempts to develop its own methodologies and experiences. So did, for example, Dmitry Zamyatin (Moscow) present mapping of geographical images (concepts) and Nadezhda Zamyatina (Moscow) discussed a geographical map as an element of a place image. Olga Lavryonova’s (Moscow) theme was “The semantic of cultural landscape and the problems of its mapping” and Kamilya Kelgenbaeva’s (Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan) that of “Cartosemiotic Models of Irrigated Lands of Kyrgyzstan”. Ivan Mitin (Moscow) analysed “Mythogeography” as a “semiotic approach to geographical realities”.

The third section, Semiosis in Action, contained four presentations with geographic, engineering, linguistic and cartographic accents reflecting some new research actions and pragmatic ideas in this group. Emanuela Casti (Bergamo) suggested “Web GIS Semiosis: Building a Plural Space whereas Georg Gartner and Markus Jobst (Vienna) discussed the pragmatic dimension of cartosemiotic map use. Horst Kremers’ (Berlin) topic was “Context in Action” and Florian Hruby (Vienna) asked “Was macht den Baum zum Baum?” which he used as “Ein Beispiel semiotisch-prototypischer Kategorisierung in großmassstaebigen kartographischen Darstellungen”.

In the last section, which dealt with cartosemiotic publications, A. Wolodtschenko (Germany) and H.Schlichtmann (Canada) presented "Ten years and ten issues of discussion-paper series in cartosemiotics/1988-2007/" and E.Casti (Italy), A.Wolodtschenko (Germany) and D.Zamyatin (Russia): Selected monographic works in carto-semiotics. The works in question wear e.g. "Reality as Representation. The semiotics of cartography and the generation of meaning", Bergamo University Press, Bergamo 2000; „Kartosemiotik in Europa“, Dresden 2002; "Atlas cartosemiotics", Selbstverlag TU Dresden 2006 and "Nationalatlas Deutschland: ein kartosemiotisches Portraet", Selbstverlag TU Dresden 2007; “Humane geography: space and language of geographic images”. Moscow 2005. These two presentations thus reflected selected monographic works in cartosemiotics and geosemiotics. A particular good sign of this conference is that, thanks to the help of cartosemiotic enthusiasts, a continued accumulation of cartosemiotic knowledge both within cartographic and non cartographic traditions is made possible.

All contributions of the KCTOS-conference will be published as INST-project in the TRANS 17/2008 (internet journal for cultural sciences)

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Alexander Wolodtschenko