Neogeography, GIS, and image editing software has made it easy for anyone to create a map. However, the over reliance on base maps (the basic country outline which people then edit to create their own maps) and geographic illiteracy has map the appearance of bad maps more common.
Two examples this past week pushed me over the edge.
- At a meeting of independent and government analysts discussing the outlook of the South China Sea a government-made map labeled the island of Hainan "Taiwan." When I discussed this error with the cartographer he/she shrugged it off and replied "I'm not a geographer." If it were just a labelling error that would be one thing but the mislabelling also effected the data displayed on the map. Readers of the map were given the wrong information because of the geographic error.
- The second error is a popular online map making the rounds (featured at Coming Anarchy). The map uses an old base map and ignores country winners because of the bad base data. Also, the probable use of data from the Guardian makes any United Nations wins show up as victories for the United States.
I know this is a rant but bad maps can lead to serious problems. This is more than a "hey, let us laugh at the Weather Channel for using map data that went out of date in 1990 by showing two Yemens." Bad maps are a sign geographic illiteracy. The use of bad maps in understanding business and political situation can lead to disaster. Whether knowing if a valley village is Pashtun or Dari to knowing what the zoning law states, good maps are needed to succeed.