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Geosciences LibreTexts

Book: Mapping, Society, and Technology (Manson)

  • Page ID
    5543
  • Learn how to read, use, and create maps and along the way explore how maps reflect the relationship between society and technology. Mapping is an essential form of scientific and artistic inquiry as well as a trillion dollar business. People, companies, and governments use and misuse maps and map technology to tell stories, save lives, rig elections, and spy on you. This book is about how to read, use, and create maps. Our exploration of maps will be informed by a contextual understanding of how maps reflect the relationship between society and technology, and how mapping is an essential form of scientific and artistic inquiry. We will also explore how mapping is used to address a variety of societal issues, such as land use planning and political gerrymandering to selling yogurt. You will gain insight into the technical underpinnings of mapping as a science approach, complement on-going interest and activities, or provide an applied focus for research or policy.

    • 1: Maps, Society, and Technology
      Mapping is an essential form of inquiry across the arts, humanities, and sciences that uses geospatial technologies to gather data on people and places. Mapping technologies—ranging from the earliest forms of drawing on clay tablets to modern satellite imaging and sharing information on web-based social networks—spring from and play out in a social context, exemplifying the interplay of society and technology.
    • 2. Data
      When admiring a well-designed map, it is easy to forget that it is made from data that came from somewhere. An individual or group of people has asked one or more questions, gathered data in response, and processed the raw numbers before putting it all on the map. These data are necessarily just a small portion of what can be measured, because it is impossible to measure all characteristics for all places for all times.
    • 3: Scale and Projections
      Scale and projections are two fundamental features of maps that usually do not get the attention they deserve. Scale refers to how map units relate to real-world units. Projections deal with the methods and challenges around turning a three-dimensional (and sort of lumpy) earth into a two-dimensional map.
    • 4: Design and Symbolization
      The difference between an ordinary map and one that is persuasive and interesting depends on how well the cartographer incorporates principles of good design and symbolization. Data, in isolation, cannot tell a story. It is up to the cartographer to make the data convincing by turning mundane information into artistic expressions. The concepts in this chapter are fairly basic to understand, yet they take years to put to good practice.
    • 5: Simplification
      Maps are by necessity smaller than what they portray in the real world. Because of this, only a limited number of features can be represented on them. Choices have to be made about how to simplify the complexity of the world to be understandable on the map. Knowing who your audience is and having a clear sense of what you want to explain to them are crucial for deciding what to include and what to leave out.
    • 6: Analysis
      Analysis is a way of interpreting what is going on in the maps that you encounter and create. Analytical tools provide ways of engaging with data, understanding spatial patterns, and giving us a vocabulary for discussing what we see when we look at a map. There are many ways to spatially analyze the data displayed in maps – too many to mention here. In this chapter, we will focus on a few particular techniques for analyzing maps.
    • 7: Lying With Maps
      White lies include all sorts of cartographic strategies, including symbolization, generalization, and unintentionally misleading mistakes. Then there are the other kinds of lies—propaganda maps, advertising maps, maps for military defense and disinformation, and maps that push a particular political perspective. As a critical map reader and map maker, it is imperative that you be able to identify and understand all of the ways that maps lie. In this chapter, we are going to focus on how and why
    • 8: Surveillance
      We live in a surveillance society and always have. Multiple organizations track our daily activities, and often with the help of geospatial technologies including mobile phones, satellite remote sensing, and sophisticated mapping systems. The practice of tracking populations is not new. Governments in particular have long conducted surveillance of individuals and groups for centuries, although they have been joined by a host of companies and other groups.
    • 9: Social Maps
      We will look at ways in which changing mapping technology has become embedded in daily life. With the development of location-aware technology like smartphones, there has been a big shift in what is possible to measure, who is collecting data, and how much data is produced. We will examine how geographic data, produced by diverse groups of people, have been incorporated into scientific research, disaster relief, and local government services.
    • 10. Conclusion
      Mapping is central to many things we do as individuals and as groups. Throughout this book, we’ve seen the ways in which people have used maps for thousands of years, and indeed, it’s likely that they were using maps in times before we had evidence in the form of clay tablets or wall drawings. Today, mapping is a large and growing sector of the economy as well as an important social, cultural, and political phenomena. Mapping is also important to lifelong learning.