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Communications of the ACM

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Personalizing Maps

Personalizing Maps, illustration

Credit: Christian Northeast

Geographic maps constitute a ubiquitous medium through which we understand, construct, and navigate our natural and built surroundings. At the intersection of the explosion of geographic information online, data-mining techniques, and the increasing popularity of Web maps, a novel possibility has emerged: Instead of generating one map for large numbers of users, user profiling and implicit feedback analysis can support creation of a different map for each person. The automated personalization of the map-making process is still in its infancy but has the potential to provide more relevant maps to millions of users worldwide.

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While mapmaking has traditionally aimed to produce static maps to be printed and distributed to a target audience, geographic information systems (GISs) provide interactive tools to collect and process information dynamically, transforming not only cartography but also geography, urban planning, and any activity that relies on geographic knowledge. Since the 1960s, using GISs, geographers, urban planners, army generals, and economists have been generating different representations of the same input data to better understand diverse geo-spatial phenomena. Over the past decade, GISs have further merged with Web technologies and mobile computing, enabling mass adoption of digital maps while overcoming the limitations of paper maps.


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