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Cartographic Algorithms: Problems of Implementation and Evaluation and the Impact of Digitising Errors

Whyatt, J. D.; Visvalingam, Maheswari


J. D. Whyatt

Maheswari Visvalingam


Cartographic generalisation remains one of the outstanding challenges in digital cartography and Geographical Information Systems (GIS). It is generally assumed that computerisation will lead to the removal of spurious variability introduced by the subjective decisions of individual cartographers. This paper demonstrates through an in‐depth study of a line simplification algorithm that computerisation introduces its own sources of variability. The algorithm, referred to as the Douglas‐Peucker algorithm in cartographic literature, has been widely used in image processing, pattern recognition and GIS for some 20 years. An analysis of this algorithm and study of some implementations in wide use identify the presence of variability resulting from the subjective decisions of software implementors. Spurious variability in software complicates the processes of evaluation and comparison of alternative algorithms for cartographic tasks. No doubt, variability in implementation could be removed by rigorous study and specification of algorithms. Such future work must address the presence of digitising error in cartographic data. Our analysis suggests that it would be difficult to adapt the Douglas‐Peucker algorithm to cope with digitising error without altering the method. Copyright © 1991, Wiley Blackwell. All rights reserved


Whyatt, J. D., & Visvalingam, M. (1991). Cartographic Algorithms: Problems of Implementation and Evaluation and the Impact of Digitising Errors. Computer graphics forum : journal of the European Association for Computer Graphics, 10(3), 225-235.

Journal Article Type Review
Publication Date Jan 1, 1991
Deposit Date Oct 28, 2015
Publicly Available Date Nov 23, 2017
Journal Computer graphics forum
Print ISSN 0167-7055
Electronic ISSN 1467-8659
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Not Peer Reviewed
Volume 10
Issue 3
Pages 225-235
Keywords Cartographic algorithms
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information “These articles are posted for personal research purposes only. If you wish to reuse material from these articles for any other purpose, please seek permission from Wiley”.


Visvalingam_et_al-1991-Computer_Graphics_Forum.pdf (198 Kb)

Copyright Statement
©2003, John Wiley and Sons

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