Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Catholicgauze versus Bad Maps (Part 4,593)

Catholicgauze is jumping mad and ranting at the world which continues to create bad maps

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.
  1. 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.
  2. 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 This is more than a "hey, let us laugh at the Weather Channel for using map data that went out of date in 1990 by showing two Yemens."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.

6 comments:

Dan tdaxp said...

What's up with the weird weather map? A Kuwait-Saudi neutral zone and Kazakhstan? And notice that Uzbekistan seems to extent to the Caspian Sea?!

Anonymous said...

And, Al Gore's Inconvenient Truth did not use equal-area projections!

Catholicgauze said...

Anonymous,
LOL! I take that good point to be chill out. I needed that.

Joshua said...

Weird weather map- Two Yemens, but they did include Eritrea! Also there's some funny strip between Libya and Chad.

Jerod Poore said...

The funny strip of land between Chad and Libya was from a since-resolved disputed border. Note similar ambiguities in the borders between Egypt and Sudan, and Iraq and Iran. There is no river depicted on that map.

As for Uzbekistan reaching the Caspian, that probably derives from trying to deal with the effective drying-up of the Aral Sea and the Gulf of Whatsits.

That map is almost as good as the Ohio Arts globes I have. The cartographer in charge of them lived in a parallel universe. Tanu Tuva and Tibet were still independent long after most African countries had gained their independence. Korea and Germany were single nation-states, with Germany rather large, while Viet Nam was divided. Transylvania was Hungarian territory. Czechoslovakia was skinny like it was 1938.

Just don't get me started on Google's continued use of the Mercator projection.

Jerod Poore said...

I put up some pictures of an Ohio Art globe in this post, Alternate History Cartography, on my blog.

It isn't Transylvania Hungary retained in the Ohio Art universe, but Ruthenia. On this globe Korea is divided along with Viet Nam.