- Assume I’m no longer on Twitter. While my account is still there, and I check in very occasionally, it’s very much in read-only mode to catch things I might otherwise miss. The account is locked and I stopped posting to it in December. While I still cross-post to the Facebook page and Tumblr, the best place to follow me on social media is on Mastodon.
- Back to blogs. My blogroll page is always (a) out of date and (b) a mess, and needs keeping up to date (and cleaning up). If you have (or know of) a blog that should be listed, drop me a line.
- That goes for podcasts too. I’m only aware of a few of them. Podcasts: links: send them to me.
- Old posts going offline soon. To keep my hosting costs under control, I have to more or less break the old, Movable Type-based archives. These are posts made between January 2004 and June 2011. (They’re running on a different hosting plan, I unwisely coded them with hard server links, moving servers breaks those links, and I can’t edit the templates directly any more, not in Movable Type anyway.) These posts don’t get a lot of page views any more and I assume most have dead links; even so, a lot of them are worth keeping, so at some point I will be moving at least some of them into the current system. There are 4,004 posts involved so this will be a time-consuming task, and I’ll be doing it in chunks. In the meantime I’ll put up a placeholder page.
- I really need to find a better design template for this site.
It’s like the #30daymapchallenge in November, in which mapmakers are challenged to make a map a day on a given daily theme, only the reverse: the MapFailbruaryChallenge is about making a bad map on a given daily theme. “The idea is to create the worst map possible.” Bad maps happen; will a deliberately bad map be better or worse? Either way, it’s probably worth stocking up on popcorn for when maps with the #mapfailbruarychallenge hashtag start showing up on our timelines.
(Failbruary. Fai-EL-bru-AIR-y. Say that ten times. And resign yourselves to the fact that Reddit is probably going to kick everyone’s ass on this.)
Update, 19 Jan: There’s an official website now.
The Map Room’s Mastodon presence has moved to @email@example.com. It just seemed more sensible to be on an instance that focused on the mapping and geospatial community. (By the way, mapstodon.space’s admin has a Patreon to cover the hosting costs: running a Mastodon instance is rather more expensive than running a website.)
There is now a Mastodon instance—mapstodon.space—for map and geospatial professionals and enthusiasts. If it had been up and running when I started The Map Room’s Mastodon account (previously), I might have signed up for it there.
It doesn’t matter that much which instance you sign up at (you can connect to any other Mastodon account on any other instance, unless your instance blocks that other instance, which happens when, for example, an instance is full of racist trolls), but instances have local feeds, which is nice when your instance is full of people who share your interests. I’ve already found several familiar faces and/or institutions at mapstodon.space.
Given what’s been going on with Twitter recently, I figure that a Mastodon account for The Map Room might be useful, at least for those who feel the need to jump from Twitter to Mastodon. You can find it here:
I have no plans to shut down any of The Map Room’s other social media presences (Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter)—not at this time, anyway. And you can always subscribe via RSS or email—no intermediating platform required.
Google Maps sends people looking for abortion providers to so-called crisis pregnancy centres, which discourage the procedure, Bloomberg reports.
Also in Bloomberg, Mark Gurman discusses Apple’s plans to expand its advertising business, which apparently includes adding ads to Apple Maps.
Apple’s cycling maps now include Hawaii, and its detailed 3D cities now include Atlanta, Miami and Seattle. They’re also testing their upgraded maps in Israel, Palestine and Saudi Arabia.
Google Maps updates outlined in a blog post last month include cycling route information, location sharing, and photorealistic aerial views of major landmarks.
Instagram announced a searchable map feature last month, expanding its map feature beyond geolocating posts. This, after a Google VP noted that young users are using apps and TikTok for discovery purposes rather than Google’s Search or Maps. You wouldn’t think that Instagram and TikTok qualify as map apps, but the street finds its uses.
The Thirty Day Map Challenge is taking place right now on Twitter: see the #30DayMapChallenge hashtag. For the second year in a row, mapmakers are challenged to make a map based on the day’s theme. (Today’s, for example, was to map with a new tool.) It’s open to everyone; for more information and resources see the challenge’s GitHub page. Here’s the page for the 2020 challenge, which saw 7,000 maps from 1,000 contributors.
Whenever there’s a major news event, there will be an outbreak of fake, misattributed or misleading images that purport to be about that event. That goes for maps as well.
Take the serious situation with Australia’s bushfires at the moment. Social media is jammed with maps showing practically the whole damn continent on fire, or superimposed on another continent to let people there know just how big Australia is (and also on fire). It’s a profoundly serious situation, and as NASA’s Joshua Stevens points out, it’s possible to present an accurate map that shows its seriousness without resorting to hyperbole.
The trouble is, social media thrives on hyperbole, because it thrives on “engagement”—which means outrage and anger and, as Joshua Emmons notes, as we get inured to a certain level of outrage, even more outrage is needed just to get noticed.
Which brings me to this thing, which is showing up all over the social web:
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.
National Geographic has digitized its entire map archive—every map the magazine has published since 1888, more than six thousand of them—but you won’t be able to browse through it. (Subscribers can access the maps through their digital archive by consulting the issues they first appeared, but, again, no public access to the database.) What they’re doing instead is posting them through social media channels, forming the basis of “Map of the Day” posts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Can’t help but feel they’re teasing us a bit.
Business Insider’s widely mocked, since-deleted-from-Twitter, but very very viral map of the most popular fast food restaurants by state is the launching-off point for The Ringer’s Claire McNear, who rants about the maps clogging the Internet that are stupid, uninformed, wrong and exist only to generate clicks. Among other things, she writes:
The map is bad, is my point, and obviously bad, and I sincerely wish that we didn’t have to talk about it. But we do. Because maps like this one aren’t merely birdbrained schlock: They are a social media plague, a scourge that can reduce just about any social network to gibbering in-fights in the space of a few virally shared minutes. We’re all susceptible; we’re all defenseless. A dumb internet map with incendiary falsehoods is coming for all of us, and there is just about nothing we can do to stop it.
The formula goes something like this: Map plus declaration of definitive statewide preference equals profit. Profit here means eyeballs or clicks or reshares or, most likely, some combination of all three, especially the last one, because it turns out that there are few sentiments more appealing than Oy, check out the terrible things the cretins in [Bad State] get up to.
Consider some other recent viral highlights. “This Map Shows What People Hate the Most in Each State” (using data from a brand-new dating app that no one outside a handful of stunt pieces seems to have used, and which was obviously trying to drum up interest). There are maps showing states’ Favorite Holiday Movies and Favorite Reality TV Show and Favorite Romantic Comedy (using an arbitrarily arrived at combination of AMC user ratings—what?—and Google Trends data). “This Map Shows the Most Popular Food in Every State” (using Pinterest recipes specifically selected for their range). Even The New York Times has gotten awfully close to its own Map of Dubious Adorations, publishing a 50-state anthology of Thanksgiving classics in 2014, in which the effort to differentiate by state yielded questionable dishes like “grape salad.”
The truth is we’re all very boring, and our preferences aren’t all that different.
Worth reading in full.
The problem is that even though their methodologies are shoddy and their conclusions are dubious, clickbaity maps like these are popular. The competition for attention is fierce, and maps are a quick and dirty way of generating traffic. My traffic skyrockets whenever I post a link to something even remotely like these maps (xkcd is usually a safe bet), and if I resorted to posting maps like these all the time, I’d be making
BuzzFeed’s Jim Waterson calls out a map making the social media rounds that purports to show the results of the 2016 local elections in the U.K. Only it doesn’t. It’s apparently being spread by Labour supporters keen to defend their party’s performance in the elections and convinced their party is receiving unfair media treatment—and of course, people tend to believe what they want to believe. Waterson goes on to show how to make a fake map of your very own. [Thierry Gregorius]
Previously: When Maps Lie.
Andrew Wiseman’s “When Maps Lie” was posted on CityLab last year, but its importance is evergreen: it’s about map literacy, and how to avoid being fooled by confusing, misleading or simply bad maps. This is very much what Mark Monmonier did in How to Lie with Maps (see my review; Amazon, iBooks); Wiseman updates it for the social media age.
Maps are big these days. Blogs and news sites (including this one) frequently post maps and those maps often go viral—40 maps that explain the world, the favorite TV shows of each U.S. state, and so on. They’re all over Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr, and news organizations are understandably capitalizing on the power that maps clearly have in digital space: they can visualize a lot of data quickly and effectively. But they can also visualize a lot of data inaccurately and misleadingly.
It’s a must-read. [via]