What You See Is What You Get?

Governments Lie?

Even though scientists tell us that the polar ice caps are melting at an alarming rate, the new Atlas of Canada tells a different story because the methodology of calculating sea ice has changed. Mark Monmonier's library of publications, the best known being How to Lie with Maps outlines this principle in detail. We don't condone dishonesty, of course, but you can emphasize the point you want to make, draw attention to certain features, or influence an audience like your stakeholders by presenting spatial data in a way that best supports your position.


If you're on MapWarehouse, chances are you're a developer, an engineer, or in a similar role as a land information specialist. How do you use maps to make your point clear? A few techniques are possible, depending on the point you want to make.

Let's assume that you're developing a large parcel of land and plan to build a subdivision. Each site has unique geographic features, so play up your strengths, downplay your weaknesses. Think about who the development is geared towards, and what appealing features you can showcase. Do the future home buyers want green space? Then using orthophoto as a backdrop in your design to show off the mature trees is a good idea.

Do they want safe, quiet neighbourhoods for their children, but also easy access to major highways? You can choose to include contour elevation data. A home that might actually be right next to a highway as you see it on a flat vector map would be more desirable if you can show that the terrain forms a natural barrier, effectively mitigating noise pollution and blocking the line of sight. Which map will sell that house faster for more money?

The Eye of the Beholder?

Let's consider a different scenario; that you're either involved in a project developing land for its economic potential, or perhaps you're in opposition and wish to protect that same land for environmental reasons. The same area could be mapped in different ways to make different arguments. Tricky! The developer would use simplified, low resolution data, or a scale that doesn't allow much detail to depict the land as void of any interesting features to encourage public support for the project. On the other hand, conservationists would present large scale, highly detailed maps that emphasize the significance of the site's natural heritage. Both are correct. Mind. Blown.

Maps are simply models that show or don't show what we choose. Critical thinking skills are imperative when it comes to reading maps, and also making maps that work for you. It's easy to put your own mapping together to make sure your data assets are presented in a way that works for you, not against you in your business.


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