A quick review through last year’s posts shows a fairly consistent theme of mine; that despite the absence of the map in many of today’s location services sometimes the map is the best way of simply presenting information in a readily accessible and understandable form.
But a map is much more than just a visualisation for overlaying data upon, a map says as much about the fears, hopes, dreams and prejudices of its target audience as it does about the relationship of places on the surface of the Earth.
Sadly, as the background to the tragic and disturbing shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords and 20 other people in Tucson, Arizona on January 8th unfolds, some commentators are linking a map to the shooting, with some going so far as to say that a map either directly or indirectly contributed to the motive behind the shooting.
The map in question is one that appeared on Sarah Palin’s Facebook page over a year ago and shows the 20 Democrat Representatives who had voted in favour of US health reforms. The key feature of the map was not that it showed the United States, nor that it showed the districts and their Representatives, but that each district was indicated not by the usual map push pin but by the cross-hairs of a rifle sight. Whether this was or wasn’t a contributory factor behind the shooting is open to interpretation and debate, a lot of people have interpreted the map as being a direct call to action which influenced the person or persons who perpetrated this act.
Sometimes the map is the best way of showing information, but sometimes just because you can put something on a map doesn’t mean you should.