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The proportions between a map and reality, and often an indication of precision. In statistics, the word scale is used to describe the nature of variables.

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The choice of layers and data types also has everything to do with scale. Scale is a term that derives from cartography that indicates the proportions between a map (on paper) and reality. This is usually indicated with a scale symbol or with scale text: 1:10.000 which means that 1 distance unit on the map (it doesn’t matter of course of which measurement unit you use) represents 10.000 distance units in reality. The scale tells you how much the real situation has been reduced in size to enable representation on a map and of course this means that you lose precision. It also means that the larger the scale of a map, the more details you can simply not place on the map. A smaller scale will therefore always be used when covering a small area in high detail and vice versa. The digital coordinate system of GIS however represents real space in the sense that there are no limitations in scale. You can easily change from studying spatial features in millimeters to studying spatial features in kilometers. Nevertheless, scale is important, because a lot of the products, like the output of GIS in the form of paper maps, or digital illustrations or maps will have these limitations. Moreover, realize that a lot of GIS data is digitized from maps, or recorded with devices, that do have a scale; therefore, often a scale indication is given of the original data. This should in this case be regarded as an indication of precision. The choice of layers and data types is determined by scale because representing a river by a polygon for example, makes not much sense if you’re mapping a country, in which case a polyline will probably be sufficient.

Research topics: Software & Technology