How To Lie With Maps

How To Lie With Maps


Mark Monmonier

Why I Recommend It: 

Often in business and the social sciences, we use maps to tell a story, to get across a specific point or fact. We have to always keep that goal in mind otherwise we end up with just a pretty map, or maybe an ugly one, neither of which gets us anywhere. For this reason, the most dog-eared page in my copy begins the section, Eleven Rules for Polishing the Cartographic Image.  I've collapsed them into four.

  • Be shewdly selective. Show what adds to the point; remove what subtracts.
  • Frame strategically (to mask features that negatively influence the story).
  • Accenuate the positive; minimize the negative.
  • Dazzle with detail and baffle them with BS.  (i.e., use detail to impress, as well as to distract)

Think about the ancient maps of the "New World" from back in the 15th and 16th centuries. They often were annotated with gold and silver ingots. The purpose of these maps were to sell investors on expeditions. Visions of shiny things helped seal the deal.




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