There are many great cartographically-themed XKCD comic strips (here are a bunch of my favorites). This particular one ALMOST looks right and finding the inaccuracies is a little harder than you might think (yes, I am proud of myself for finding them all, and yes, that is the ridiculous bit of profession pride).
Questions to Ponder: When you see a map, do you assume that it is 100% accurate? If so, how come? Where you able to find the “missing states” in this psuedo-map?
“With Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ humming in the background, about two dozen students at George Washington University traced skinny lines and square-shaped landmarks on a satellite image of a rural chunk of Mindanao, the second-largest island in the Philippines. They are in the early stages of piecing together a map of the region where half of the country’s food is grown but where most people live in poverty.
The students carefully scanned the photos to scope out buildings and roads tucked between thick trees. The task is painstaking but necessary to create an up-to-date map. This corner of the Philippines — like large swaths of the planet — does not have any recent digital maps.” SOURCE: Washington Post
Crowd-sourced mapping is increasingly an important resource during an emergency and one of the best ways to put geographic knowledge and geospatial skills in action. Many high school and college students around the country are learning mapping skills by creating maps for places that aren’t well-mapped and in great need. Poorer places are often not as well mapped out by the commercial cartographic organizations and these are oftentimes the places that are most vulnerable to natural disasters. Relief agencies depend on mapping platforms to handle the logistics of administering aid and assessing the extent of the damage and rely on these crowd-sourced data sets. My students and I are working on this over the weekend; can you join in and help? The projects that are marked urgent by the Red Cross are all in Haiti right now. Here are is a video playlist that explains the project and how you can help if you are new to OpenStreetMap (OSM). The embedded TEDx talk below discusses the advantages of using OSM in geography teaching.
It is incredibly cold in New England right now. How can maps help us to understand the weather patterns we are facing? How is what we are facing in our community connected to global patterns? Maps help us to contextualize information and understand processes. So to investigate this our freezing wind conditions we will look at a series of online resources.
“This is a collection of ‘persuasive’ cartography: more than 800 maps intended primarily to influence opinions or beliefs – to send a message – rather than to communicate geographic information. The collection reflects a variety of persuasive tools , including allegorical, satirical and pictorial mapping; selective inclusion; unusual use of projections, color, graphics and text; and intentional deception. Maps in the collection address a wide range of messages: religious, political, military, commercial, moral and social.” SOURCE: Cornell University Library
This is a fantastic collection of historical maps. I especially enjoy the rhetorical and overtly persuasive quality of the maps in this collection. Too often, we assume that maps convey data and information from a strictly neutral position. Just like every news article, how the information in a map is arranged, selected, and framed is helpful in evaluating the usefulness, important, and accuracy of the information that is being presented.
If the title of this post is confusing, it’s because the map is completely unconventional (and I love it). True, it is not the title of the map, but it could have been. So often we see a map of the United States with the 48 contiguous states prominently displayed and Alaska and Hawaii scaled down, and stuck in a corner somewhere. Well, this map ingeniously inverts that paradigm.
If the inset (and the insult) are too subtle for you, here is the meme that brought this to my attention.
Questions to Ponder:
Describe the quality of the main map compared to the quality of the inset maps.
Why would the cartographer take the time to make this map?
“A topographic map is designed to show the physical features and terrain of an area. They’re different from other maps because they show the three-dimensional landscape: its contours, elevations, topographic features, bodies of water, and vegetation.” SOURCE: Backpacker.com
This article gives a nice introduction to topographic maps, explains how to read them, and why they are useful. While I love digital maps and the features that are offered through GIS, old school paper maps still play a vital role in helping us navigate this world of ours. This additional article from CityLab, shows how you can lie with maps (and it’s not just with a sharpie).
"Justices will be reviewing the case of North Carolina, where Republicans drew a map to maximize their power in the House. Plaintiffs challenging the map say it’s unconstitutional. A companion case centers on Maryland’s 6th Congressional District, which Democrats admit they redrew in 2011 to make it harder for the Republican incumbent there to win re-election. The two cases hold the potential to set the course of American politics for generations."
Questions to Ponder: Do you trust the politicians that are in charge of your state to create better districts than a computer-generated set of districts that are optimized for compactness? What are some of the potential limitations of compact districts? Would an independent committee/bipartisan group do a better job?
"As GPS devises, sensors, and drones proliferate, the power of location intelligence increases exponentially. This means LI can bring clarity to the most pressing business challenges – even those that at first glance don’t seem location related. Esri has location down to a science – The Science of Where. Examples from the Bavarian Police Department, Switzerland’s largest retailer, Migros, the Port of Rotterdam, and the European Environment Agency, provide just a taste of the broad scope of challenges that can be tackled through the lens of where."