Your maps are not lying to you

Your maps are not lying to you by Andy Woodruff.

From the post:

Or, your maps are lying to you but so would any other map.

A week or two ago [edit: by now, sometime last year] a journalist must have discovered thetruesize.com, a nifty site that lets you explore and discover how sizes of countries are distorted in the most common world map, and thus was born another wave of #content in the sea of web media.

Your maps are lying to you! They are WRONG! Everything you learned is wrong! They are instruments of imperial oppressors! All because of the “monstrosity” of a map projection, the Mercator projection.

Technically, all of that is more or less true. I love it when little nuggets of cartographic education make it into popular media, and this is no exception. However, those articles spend most of their time damning the Mercator projection, and relatively little on the larger point:

There are precisely zero ways to draw an accurate map on paper or a screen. Not a single one.

In any bizarro world where a different map is the standard, the internet is still abuzz with such articles. The only alternatives to that no-good, lying map of yours are other no-good, lying maps.

Andy does a great job of covering the reasons why maps (in the geographic sense) are less than perfect for technical (projection) as well as practical (abstraction, selection) reasons. He also offers advice on how to critically evaluate a map for “bias.” Or at least possibly discovering some of its biases.

For maps of all types, including topic maps, the better question is:

Does the map represent the viewpoint you were paid to represent?

If yes, it’s a great map. If no, your client will be unhappy.

Critics of maps, whether they admit it or not, are inveighing for a map as they would have created it. That should be on their dime and not yours.

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