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?
There are far too many geographic issues that stem out of the Coronavirus pandemic to create anything close to comprehensive, but I wanted to share some of the articles that caught my eye recently because they touch on particularly geographic themes. So, this will not give a global overview, predictions, or breaking news, but some of the underlying issues and questions that we are now grappling with as so many are now in some form of self-isolation.
MAPPING: The best, introductory-level walk-through of how to map the Coronavirus uses ArcGIS online, and has interactive layers that are updated daily, so you don’t have to recreate the wheel for every time new data gets released. If students are familiar with ArcGIS and already have an account, this is worth having them explore it to learn cartographic techniques.
ENVIRONMENT: There are a host of unintended consequences in natural systems, and when one part of the system, gets altered, there are some down-stream impacts. This article in the Atlantic discusses some of the environmental impacts of the mass shutdown of normal human activities (1-less pollution, 2-less seismic activity, 3-quiter urban environments).
DEVELOPMENT: The impacts of COVID-19 are clearly uneven; countries and cities that are the most globally connected might benefit usually economically from these connections, but are facing one of the times that this connectivity is a threat to the community. India, by and large through March 2020, managed to avoid making global headlines, but as the world’s second largest population with some incredibly dense megacities, many are asking how the Coronavirus will impact India in the coming weeks.
URBANIZATION: In the United States, the densest counties have been the most impacted by COVID-19 while rural areas have need been as heavily impacted (by and large—rural counties with ski resorts are one prominent exception to this generalization). Some are discussing urban density in the time of a pandemic, and there are calls to rethink densely populated cities. This article from CityLab also discusses the density as a key issue in the transmission of disease, but it is quick to point out other factors that lead some hyper-dense cities to effectively control the spread as well.
CULTURE: To wear a mask, or to not wear a mask? Why is this a question that seems so controversial? As more time goes by, we see that wearing a mask to prevent the spread of a disease is not just a medical issue, but also a cultural issue. Some cultures are uncomfortable with the idea of covering part of face in public and some react against the concept because of the cultural connotations that go along with mask-wearing. Other societies see if as a prudent way to do your civic duty. Many are reconsidering their cultural norms that they associate with masks as COVID-19 continues to expand into more communities.
DIFFUSION: This video centers on the beginnings of the spread of the Coronavirus and the origins in Wuhan. I’m very sensitive to the fact that many discussions about its origin in China can quickly go down some racist paths. This Vox video explains the wet markets of China as a likely source of infectious disease without veering into racist assumptions. This interactive from the NY Times explains how the disease spread beyond China.
Stay healthy, stay safe. I miss other humans, and being social. I think everyone wishes things were different, but geography and spatial analysis is one of the key lenses that we need to come out on the other end of this. I hope that we can come out of this more united as members of the human race with a greater resolve to work together to solve global issues.
“This image of GPS tracking of multiple wolves in six different packs around Voyageurs National Park was created in the framework of the Voyageurs Wolf Project. It is an excellent illustration of how much wolf packs in general avoid each other’s range.” SOURCE: Earthly Mission
Maps are powerful tools to demonstrate spatial ideas and concepts. Wolves are territorial, and using GPS trackers to understand this really drives home the point. Here is a similarly fantastic map of an eagle’s flight paths shows the patterns amid noise.
With these tools at my disposal I stumbled on the decision to learn about my city by running every single street, exploring the cultural landscape, and make the training miles a part of a bigger goal. With this newfound understanding of my city, I’ve mapped over 100 changes on OpenStreetMap (OSM) to give my newfound knowledge a bit of public utility. The light blue line in the image below is the Cranston (RI) city boundary; As of March 12, I’ve officially run #EverySingleStreet, 100% of Cranston roads. It was a quixotic goal, but an absolutely thrilling way to comibne my love of running, cartography, Cranston, and exploring the cultural landscape.
TOOLS: Using GPS data in mapping tools such as ArcGIS.com or Google Earth doesn’t require a lot of expertise, but gathering the data out in the field can usually be done with an app that can create a .GPX file (search your app store for GPX). You can use GPS Visualizer to convert files, create GPX files or convert files to other formats. Look at the screengrab below to see some of the options, especially the ‘sandbox’ tool which lets you create a GPX file.
“We are tracking the COVID-19 spread in real-time on our interactive dashboard with data available for download. We are also modeling the spread of the virus.” SOURCE: GIS and DATA at Johns Hopkins University
“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).