Tips from a geographer who’s seen it all.
Sourced through Scoop.it from: www.citylab.com
This is a really good detailed article, and if you want an in-depth understanding of the world of maps, think it’s a good read. It highlights a number of key problems that we face today.
1. Data accuracy. Even if a map comes from a reputable source, that doesn’t mean it is accurate. A company I used to have a management role in thought it could use the official Government maps to create a car navigation data set. It was a horrible fail that cost the company a lot of money having to sell a big chunk of the company to design a mapping car and map the whole country.
2. Currency. Having just driven through a large chunk of Europe with a map that was maybe a year out of date was really interesting. Even in a short time there were significant changes.
3. GIGO. Business analytics displayed on a map have the same distinction as many research surveys. The information is as good as the source data. If the data is strictly numeric and based on facts AND you know exactly what those facts are, the maps are very useful. In my book ‘Buying a House Using Real Estate Apps, Maps and Location Based Services’ I explored many places where you can get good factual data about many things, prices, population demographics, ethnicity, crime, education, school zones. There is a lot of good trustworthy information available.
4. Trustworthy Statistics. When it comes to research that can be skewed or slanted by the research questions, a map can suddenly become very misleading.
How do you work out which information is good quality and which isn’t? It’s not an easy answer because often the information is provided by credible sources. There are numerous papers like this one from the OECD http://www.oecd.org/std/50027008.pdf which is one of many. Statistics can be used and abused and perhaps one of the key questions is what is the purpose of the statistics displayed on the map. People can make incorrect assumptions with the best of intentions, but statistics are also frequently used for political reasons, to justify an argument and that information can be deliberately skewed with either misinformation, or incorrectly interpreted information in order to justify a thesis or argument. Disinformation is considered a legitimate tool in warfare and often truth gets stretched in politics.
5. In short, without writing another book, view everything with a grain of salt. Maps displaying statistics are as good as the quality and accuracy of the statistics. Maps are a wonderful and important way of displaying statistical geospatial information. A picture speaks a thousand words. If you don’t take every word or statistic as gospel, then treat a map in the same way. Sometimes the outcome isn’t too important, sometimes near enough is good enough, it comes down to purpose. If a map shows he house you are looking at buying will get your child into the best school and it’s wrong, that could be a problem. If your car navigation map doesn’t show you how to get out of a new industrial area when you need to catch a plane and you have 30 minutes to check into an international flight, you have a problem. On the other hand, maps can provide a very powerful tool to answer problems from statistics that you could look at for days, at a glance.