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Free ebook: How Maps Change Things

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#1
gregsd

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ODT Maps have released a free ebook called "How Maps Change Things" to mark the 500th birthday of Mercator today (5th March). You can download it until the end of March for free here.

I've downloaded a copy but not had a chance to look at it properly yet.
Happy reading!

Greg.


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#2
oombaca

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Thanks!

I've just read the first 30 pages and find it engaging and enjoyable; light but informative and interesting.

#3
Clark Geomatics

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Greg - thanks for the heads-up on the book - much appreciated!
Cheers,

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#4
Strebe

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I have read the book. Presumably some people will find it eye-opening. I worry that many people will find it eye-closing.

Like all defenses of the Gall–Peters projection, the book obsesses over size disparities in maps as a proxy for cultural inequality. Never mind that the few studies on the topic show no such cognitive bias. Never mind that no one thinks the Greenland natives are at some pinnacle of human power and prestige by virtue of their apparently gigantic landholdings on the Mercator. Never mind that the Peters map strongly favors the mid latitudes—including Peters’s native Germany—while grossly distorting the very territories the Peters sympathizers claim they have rehabilitated.

Why are size disparities more important than shape disparities? Shouldn’t every “people” be able to go to a map, point to their home country, and proudly see it displayed looking correct on its own? Shouldn’t a child in Zimbabwe be able to point to her country knowing its shape matches what the globe says just as truly as the shape of the country pointed to by her counterpart in Germany? She can’t on the Peters projection. She could on the Mercator. This uncomfortable matter is never touched on in the book because, of course, the Peters thesis would disintegrate if examined in such a light. Such omissions are the definition of tendentiousness.

The author pretends to address criticisms against claims made by Peters, but conveniently omits those claims which are factually wrong. Peters claimed his map had “absolute angle conformality,” “no extreme distortions of form,” and is “totally distance-factual.” Peters also strongly implied that his projection was the only equal-area projection. These are all unambiguously false. The author also doesn’t bother to mention the century and more of efforts before Peters within and without the profession of mapmakers to offer alternatives to the Mercator and to coax publishers to use them. These kinds of omissions let the author trivialize resistance to the Peters projection as ideological when so much more was actually going on. Meanwhile he does it with an affectation of balanced presentation, and yet the diversity of materials referenced and brought to bear makes it unlikely the author is unaware of his omissions.

The “Personal Confession” and preceding text calling out Mercator and Mercator “look-alike” offenders in Chapter 4 made me cringe, they are so demonstrative of just how religious this mission has become. Look at these sinners! Let us repent and resolve not to be like them! The author states, amongst many such pronouncements, that “The point is this: the product had been vetted by faculty and staff, it bore the prestigious name of the school, and it was seen by many groups that never called it into question. This strongly suggests that even among many trusted academics as well as representatives of the wider community, the Mercator image had become the accepted standard.” No. I’m sorry. It strongly suggests only that the person who made the map had no particular skill, and the people who approved the presentation hardly noticed the map amongst the bigger picture and wouldn’t have realized there was anything “wrong” even if they had noticed it. The map could have been on any common projection and nobody would have noticed. They’re not experts. They shouldn’t have to be. The chapter is replete with grandiose, undemonstrated, and flatly incredible claims about the psychological effects of the Mercator projection—and look-alikes. We must avoid the very appearance of evil!

I am annoyed that the book presents Figure 4-4, despite that I declined to give permission for the image’s use. I declined because, having read over the manuscript before it was published, I found I could not support the author’s purpose. The author could have bought Geocart and thereby been free to use images however he saw fit. Sadly, common and legal courtesy were neglected in pursuit of some evidently more noble purpose. I do not know that the author is to blame; the request was mediated by Bob Abramms of ODT, the publisher.

I don’t think many cartographers are in danger of getting sucked into the reality distortion field of the book. Sadly, plenty of well-meaning lay people will, directing yet more energy into vapid, quasi-religious crusades which could otherwise go toward helping some actual need. Yes, the world needs more equality. No, the Peters map is no way to get there. This book breaks no new ground. If the author were truly interested in getting people to understand maps, he would advocate a diversity of projections and orientations rather than devoting the bulk of the book to Peters adulation.

Regards,
— daan Strebe

#5
cartdeco

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Well said, Daan.
Craig Molyneux
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#6
Strebe

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I post this by request of Mark Monmonier (author of Rhumb Lines and Map Wars: A Social History of the Mercator Projection , How to Lie with Maps &c). He contests both mentions of his work in Kaiser’s book:

I too have a bone to pick with the Reverend Kaiser, who misquotes me outrageously. Two bones, actually.

First, in a bullet item on page 73 of 225 in his unpaginated MS, under the heading "What Professional Cartographers Say," Kaiser writes:

“People’s ideas of geography are not founded on actual facts but on Mercator’s map,” says Mark Monmonier of Syracuse University.

This is apparently from my Drawing the Line (1995), where on page 21 I say: ". . . After issuing his own injunction, [David] Greenhood quoted a much earlier alert from British cartographer G. J. Morrison, who in 1902 warned that "people’s ideas of geography are not founded on actual facts but on Mercator’s map." My endnote attributed the quotation to G. J. Morrison, Maps: Their Uses and Construction (London 1902), whom Greenhood quoted in his Mapping (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1964), p. 128. If I ever quote Adolph Hitler, I hope Kaiser never sees it. Morrison's observation might have been accurate in 1902. I never said that, using the present tense, in 1991.

Second, on page 205, in discussing an opinion about the John Snow cholera map by Tom Koch, who attacked me and Ed Tufte, Kaiser writes:

Mark Monmonier further manipulated Tufte’s result for his How to Lie with Maps, 1991. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) utilized this in 2001, so lending the prestige of their office to a flawed understanding. As a result, Koch points out, “the map itself is twisted, turned, and truncated –violated by each map-maker’s mindset and point of view.” Would Snow recognize the maps and the medical accomplishments attributed to him? Doubtful.

Kaiser fails to note that my use of the Snow map, on page 142 of How to Lie with Maps, is to show that a dot map like Snow's is inherently more revealing than a choropleth map, which can aggregate the dots in such a way as to obscure the case cluster. I was taking the Snow map as a quintessential example of a dot map with a strong, convincing cluster, and demonstrating that if Snow had used a choropleth map, his presentation would not have been as effective. My objective was to point out that choropleth maps are typically more generalized than dot maps.

Kaiser apparently derived his opinion of my work solely by reading Koch, who in Cartographica (The Map as Intent: Variations on the Theme of John Snow, vol 39/4 [Winter 2004]: 1–14) published an illustration attributed to me that omitted the lower part of my Figure 9.18 (p. 142 in the first edition). That is, Koch's criticism of my map left out the lower part of my illustration, which was an essential part of the point I was making. Kaiser no doubt also ignored my vigorous response, Critic, Deconstruct Thyself: A Rejoinder to Koch’s Nonsense of Snow: Response to Tom Koch, Cartographica (40/3 [Autumn 2005]: 105–8. By chopping off the bottom of my illustration, Koch gave the notion of 'half-truth' a uniquely cartographic take.

Here is Monmonier’s referenced rebuttal of Koch. Attached File  MM_Critic_Deconstract__Cartographica_.pdf   167.31KB   36 downloads
I noticed any number of other factual errors in the book, but my purpose is not to collate everything wrong with it; it is to warn about its premise and methods. As Monmonier wrote to me,

Kaiser presents an interesting, though irritating, example of how words can be twisted and information suppressed or faked to support a proposition. So much of this going on these days in public debate.

Amen.

Regards,
— daan Strebe

#7
ravells

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Wow, no wonder the book is being given away free.

Thank you daan for the responses. I can understand your ire. It would be interesting to see what responses the author has (if any) to the points you raise.

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#8
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Interesting thread - makes me curious about that e-book, I guess I have to look into it...

Good inputs Daan!

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