Visualising boundary disputed on the map objectively?
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Territorial disputes and conflicts still define today’s news headlines. As of February 22, 2022, Russia recognises two self-proclaimed independent states that the rest of the world considers to be part of Ukraine. The situation of Luhansk and Donetsk show that the world is still as geopolitically tense as ever. Cartographers get tasked with visualising the area from different perspectives. One perspective prescribes to visualise the areas as two new countries, whereas another perspective prescribes to show the two areas as part of Ukraine, but with something going on to inform viewers on the current situation. This only shows how relevant the work of a cartographer is, still today. The visualisations determine how people from different parts of the world view the areas from different perspectives. How to visualise these disputed territories, as well as other disputed boundaries, is what the goal of this research is. However, the goal of this research is not to do it from different perspectives, but to visualise the disputed boundaries as objective as possible. To do so, this research aims to answer the following research question: “How can geopolitically disputed boundaries be visualised as objective as possible on a map?” To answer this research question, a theoretic framework on geopolitically disputed boundaries had been created. Here, the distinction between two types of disputed boundaries had been made. On one hand, disputed boundaries can exist as two states do not agree on the location of it. On the other hand, disputed boundaries can exist as one or more states do not recognise the boundaries of another, self-proclaimed independent state, and view the boundaries as illegitimate. Following this an extensive analysis of atlases and online map environments have been performed to gather insight on the current visualisations of disputed boundaries. Based on this and on existing literature on uncertainty visualisation, different visualisations have been created in a web application to discuss during expert interviews. These experts have been selected on their knowledge and experience with cartography. Some experts had direct involvement with disputed boundaries or the visualisation of those. Based on the analysis of atlases, online map environments, uncertainty visualisation methods and the interviews, it is found that colour hue and polyline shape improve the map readability. Colour hue should be applied to show the claims of different countries. The shape of polylines should be used to define whether an accepted or disputed boundary can be seen. Moreover, it is found that transparency is the best fitting option for claims in maritime areas, especially in the South China Sea where 7 parties are involved. Having maritime claims as transparent layers helps pinpoint each of the claimed areas. For disputes between two countries over larger areas, it has been found that hatching is still the best suitable visualisation method, as viewed by the experts. Using colours for hatches makes the map understandable in a one-eye view, which is deemed an important factor of map readability. A final recommendation is made on the jagged line technique, which would require more testing with non-experts to verify the understandability and suitability of it. The jagged line technique should be combined with polyline shapes to signify its disputed status.