Studying How and Why Maps Go Viral

Geographer Anthony Robinson is studying the phenomenon of viral maps—maps that are widely disseminated on social media, many of which are terrible: superficial, inaccurate or deliberately misleading. One burst of virality occurred in November 2016, when there was an eruption of maps, some silly, others dead serious, showing the outcome of the U.S. presidential election “if only x voted” (where x was women, or people of colour, or some other demographic). This episode is apparently one of the subjects of Robinson’s paper in Cartography and Geographic Information Science, in which he sketches out a framework for evaluating viral maps’ design and the ways they spread. The paper is behind a paywall, but here’s a news article about it from Penn State, where Robinson works.

Previously: When Maps Lie; How to Circulate a Fake Election Map; What If Only … Voted?; Bad Internet Maps: ‘A Social Media Plague’.

Author: Jonathan Crowe

I blog about maps at The Map Room, review books for AE: The Canadian Science Fiction Review, and edit a fanzine called Ecdysis.