Global news with a spatial perspective: Interesting, current supplemental materials for geography teachers and students.
Curated by Seth Dixon
|Suggested by Thomas Schmeling|
A map projection is used to portray all or part of the round Earth on a flat surface. This cannot be done without some distortion. Every projection has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. There is no "best" projection. The mapmaker must select the one best suited to the needs, reducing distortion of the most important features. Mapmakers and mathematicians have devised almost limitless ways to project the image of the globe onto paper. Scientists at the U. S. Geological Survey have designed projections for their specific needs—such as the Space Oblique Mercator, which allows mapping from satellites with little or no distortion. This document gives the key properties, characteristics, and preferred uses of many historically important projections and of those frequently used by mapmakers today.
This article chronicles 18 map projections, how they are mathematically rendered with their own unique set of advantages and disadvantages.
Questions to Ponder: Why do map projections matter? Is one global map projection inherently better than the rest? What is your favorite?
"As the demand for its products escalated early in World War II, the Army Map Service, a heritage organization of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, was losing much of its largely male workforce to the armed forces. A solution to the urgent need for replacements emerged when the University of Chicago’s Geography Department developed a course in military map making and began offering it to women’s colleges in the East and Midwest."
Use our interactive In Charted Waters tool which shows information & visuals on how our knowledge of the world map has evolved.
This interactive map/timeline takes users around the world through the major events representing the expansion of human knowledge. Admittedly, this is represents knowledge from a Eurocentric perspective, but that is somewhat appropriate in this instance since that was the largest store of spatial knowledge as this global information coalesced. Users can visualize the coordination of absolute space and realize the actions undertaken that shifted geography from its predecessor, cosmology. Each achievement cam through intensive exploration and the detailed mapping of those endeavors.
This is a clip from the TV show West Wing (Season 2-Episode 16) is a classic--how often does cartography plays a key role in the plot of a TV show? In this episode the fictitious (but still on Facebook) group named "the Organization of Cartographers for Social Justice" is campaigning to have the President officially endorse the Gall-Peters Projection in schools and denounce the Mercator projection. The argument being that children will grow up thinking some places are not as important because they are minimized by the map projection. While a bit comical, the cartographic debate is quite informative even if it was designed to appear as though the issue was trivial.
Questions to Ponder: Why do map projections matter? Is one global map projection inherently better than the rest?
Yes, these globes are precise archives filled with geospatial data and locational information--however, that pales in comparison to the artistic brilliance of the globes. These hand-crafted globes are truly works of art. Marvel at the merger of mathematical precision and artistic design that makes a globe such as these a cartographic gem. If anybody want to get me a Christmas present, you know that I love cartographic gifts.
"For months, publishing giant HarperCollins has been selling an atlas it says was developed specifically for schools in the Middle East. It trumpets the work as providing students an 'in-depth coverage of the region and its issues. Its stated goals include helping kids understand the 'relationship between the social and physical environment, the region’s challenges [and] its socio-economic development.' Nice goals. But there’s one problem: Israel is missing."
In other words, Israel got eliminated from this atlas that was designed to cater to Middle Eastern countries that take umbrage with the fact that Israel...exists. Making maps always has political overtones and the company is now realizing that you can't please everyone with different versions for distinct audiences. Now, HarperCollins has pulled the book and will pulp all remaining versions of the atlas.
Elwood was a senior geographer working on the ground-floor of the very global positioning systems (GPS) and geographic information systems (GIS) he will throw up for discussion in his TEDx talk.
His question: Are we surrendering our innate mental map making abilities to technology and relying on and trusting it too much? And for TEDx audiences only, he’ll toss out ideas on ways to prevent that from happening.
Without ever setting sail, Marie Tharp mapped the ocean floor and made a discovery that shook the foundations of geology. So why did the giants of her field dismiss her findings as “girl talk"?
I love this article, because it is a fantastic reminder of some excellent principles.
Inequality isn't just about money. It's also about information. The lack of reliable data about developing countries makes things like development work and disaster relief much harder.
There is 'mapping inequality' throughout the world; poorer countries often don't have comprehensive census information and geospatial data. Crowd-sourced mapping is seeking to change and improve geographic awareness, especially in moments of crisis. For example the maps of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea were essentially blank at the beginning of the Ebola outbreak but that glaring need meant volunteers were using geographic tools to improve developmental situations by providing more information.
Maps have always been a source of fascination and intrigue. Today's maps, however, can also help to save lives during disasters, document human rights abuses and monitor elections in countries under repressive rule. This presentation will explain how today's live maps can combine crowds and clouds to drive social change.
On this Thanksgiving, I want to remind this community that geospatial skills can be used to help others. Want to see geographic knowledge and geospatial skills in action? Crowd-sourced mapping is increasingly an important resource during an emergency. Poorer places are often not as well mapped out by the commercial cartographic organizations and these are oftentimes the places that are hardest hit by natural disasters. Relief agencies depend on mapping platforms to handle the logistics of administering aid and assessing the extent of the damage and rely on these crowd-sourced data sets made by people like you and me.
"Quick 1 minute tutorial on using BatchGeo to create a map. This example shows copying data straight from Wikipedia and mapping, but you can also use spreadsheets, databases, or any other tab delimited dataset."
"Most state borders were drawn centuries ago, long before the country was fully settled, and often the lines were drawn somewhat arbitrarily, to coincide with topography or latitude and longitude lines that today have little to do with population numbers. Most state borders were drawn centuries ago, long before the country was fully settled, and often the lines were drawn somewhat arbitrarily, to coincide with topography or latitude and longitude lines that today have little to do with population numbers."
"Don’t let my New York City–centric comparisons hinder your imagination. The interactive at the top of this page lets you visualize how different parts of the country compare in population density.
Click the button at the bottom of the interactive to select Los Angeles County, for instance, and then click anywhere on the map to generate a (roughly) circular region of (roughly) equal population. The population data come from the 2010 census, and the square mileage was calculated by summing each highlighted county’s total area. You can also use New Jersey (the most densely populated state), Wyoming (the least densely populated state outside of Alaska), Texas, the coasts (the group of all counties that come within 35 miles of either the Atlantic or Pacific oceans), and, yes, New York City as the baseline for your population comparison."
|Suggested by Kristen McDaniel|
Join our FREE GIS Day World Record mapping event taking place during Geography Awareness week (Nov 17th -21nd 2014, video with more details). With a local to global perspective, we want students to map their thoughts and feeling about their local area.
They can add their data to a global map that is shared with the world. Help us achieve our goal of having 100,000 students take part globally. The event will provide great opportunities for:
|Suggested by Mike Busarello's Digital Storybooks|
"This cool new historic mapping app from the folks at esri and the U.S. Geological Survey is worth exploring. What it does is take 100 years of USGS maps and lets you overlay them for just about any location in the nation. That allows users to see how a city – say Harrisburg – developed between 1895 and today. The library behind the project includes more than 178,000 maps dating from 1884 to 2006."
For more ESRI maps that let you explore urban environmental change, the 'spyglass' feature gives these gorgeous vintage maps a modern facelift (but not available for as many places). The cities that are in this set of interactive maps are:
"Google is using a new technology to automatically generate 3D buildings from 45-degree angle aerial photography made by overlapping passes of aircraft. The aerial photos are combined to create 3D models."
Some of the nuts and bolts behind Google Earth might be difficult to replicate in the computer lab, but it is critical to conceptually understand how geospatial data is used today. This series of images shows how important remote sensing is for our modern digital mapping platforms.
"As a kid, I grew up watching the Rocky movies, shadow boxing with my brothers and doing push-ups during the workout montages. One on my favorite scenes was in Rocky II when Rocky runs through the whole city of Philadelphia, thronged by adoring fans as he runs to the top of the stairs to the Philadelphia Museum of Art (and yes, of course I re-enacted that scene when I was there)."
I was thrilled to read an article in the Philly Post by Dan McQuade entitled “How Far did Rocky Go is His Training run in Rocky II?“ This article identifies the locations in movie that were used to capture such a strong sense of place; earlier versions of this article did not have a map, and I wanted to see the images and a map together. That was enough reason to make both an online map on arcgis.com and an interactive web mapping application with an ESRI storymap template.
|Suggested by Michael Miller|
"Historian Susan Schulten writes in her book Mapping the Nation: History and Cartography in Nineteenth-Century America that during the 1850s many abolitionists used maps to show slavery's historical development and to illustrate political divisions within the South. (You can see many of those maps on the book’s companion website.) Schulten writes that President Lincoln referred to this particular map often, using it to understand how the progress of emancipation might affect Union troops on the ground. The map (hi-res) even appears in the familiar Francis Bicknell Carpenter portrait First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation of President Lincoln, visible leaning against a wall in the lower right-hand corner of the room."
|Suggested by Sylvain Rotillon|
" The Smithsonian Magazine recently dipped into David Rumsey's collection of over 150,000 maps to find some of the best representations of American cities over the past couple hundred years. With some simple programming, they were able to overlay images of vintage maps of some major cities onto satellite images from today. The results are fascinating."
The 'spyglass' feature gives thesse gorgeous vintage maps a modern facelift. The cities that are in this set of interactive maps are:
"Drawing on data from the 2010 U.S. Census, the map shows one dot per person, color-coded by race. That's 308,745,538 dots in all."
This is an incredibly gorgeous interactive map of population density in the United States. It is very reminiscent of this North American Map with two major differences. On the down side, Mexican and Canadian data are not displayed but on the bright side, the added color component is used to show ethnic categories as defined by the 2010 U.S. census. Please explore this map at a variety of scales and in distinct locales.
Questions to Ponder: Is this a map of ethnic diversity patterns or is it a map of racial segregation? How come? Is there additional information that you would need to decide? This review of the map on Wired and Atlantic Cities described this map as a map depicting segregation: why would they say that?
"These jarring moments expose how Google Earth works, focusing our attention on the software. They reveal a new model of representation: not through indexical photographs but through automated data collection from a myriad of different sources constantly updated and endlessly combined to create a seamless illusion; Google Earth is a database disguised as a photographic representation. These uncanny images focus our attention on that process itself, and the network of algorithms, computers, storage systems, automated cameras, maps, pilots, engineers, photographers, surveyors and map-makers that generate them.”
The quote above from Clement Valla shows some of the problems with trusting too completely in a form of technology if you are not sure how it works or what its limitations are. What does he mean when he says "Google Earth is a database disguised as a photographic representation?" What does this have to do with the term metadata?
I recently got my hands on a fabulous atlas entitled Mapping Mormonism which shows the historical geographies of this particular Christian denomination (see a review here). I'll briefly share just this one cartogram above that is from the atlas; it displays territory not by the size of the landmass but by the LDS population living within the given territory. While we would expect to see Utah to be very large on this cartogram, are there other pockets of large LDS populations that are surprising to you? What explains the small spatial distribution patterns of limited diffusion that you see? The LDS church is well-known for its missionary program and proselytizing efforts—does that play a role in this map?
On a related side note I found a curious political/religious map of the United States (a map that is partially explained by understanding some of the patterns on the map above). The most typical religious maps show where particular religions are pre-dominant. This map shows territories marked not by the faith of the residents but by the religion of the local congressmen. This make me wonder: Is this map religious or political? Is there valuable information to glean from this maps or is it simply a fun curiosity? How does the religious geography of the United States impact political geography (or vice versa)?