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Making Meaningful Maps: Seeing Geography through Cartography

Public lecture organized jointly by the Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography, Leipzig University, and the German Cartographic Society | November 15th, 2017. Abstract: Maps have gone viral: they are in our cars, on our phones, and across our news feeds. While the pervasiveness of maps is clear, has this popularity resulted in a tangible improvement to our collective geographic understanding? Is the world any better for the maps we make? In this presentation, I ask how we as cartographers, data scientists, and storytellers might bring more meaning to our work. I hang this discussion across three, multi‐month interactive mapping projects completed in the University of Wisconsin Cartography Lab that had complementary research and design elements. The projects covered very different datasets and contexts—climate change, globalization, and environment justice—but each afforded a deep engagement with domain experts and target users to puzzle through the design and delivery of a meaningful map product. Across these projects, my opinion on what mattered shifted away from the data, and even the map, to the people and places quantified by the data and represented in the map…to the geography. I conclude by brainstorming ways to bring more meaning to our map designs, helping our audience see the geography through our cartography to enable geographic thinking and promote global citizenship.

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Making Meaningful Maps: Seeing Geography through Cartography

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  12. 12. Kristen Vincent 2/21/15 Data From U.S. Census Bureau, Natural Earth, and EPA Dynecol, Inc. 1,095,109 Tons Petro-Chem 459,326 Tons U.S. Liquids 203,375 Tons Marathon 93 Tons Dynecol, Inc. 26 Tons U.S. Liquids 3,757 Tons Detroit’s Role in the Hazardous Waste Trade Caucasian Population (%) 0-10.0 10.1-26.8 26.9-47.3 47.4-70.4 70.5-98.8 No Data Detroit Ontario Quebec Imports Exports Import Export Import and Export N With these hazardous waste processing facilities, there is the question of environmental injustice. It is believed that these facilities are located in declining neighborhoods that are home to minorities. However, looking at Detroit, this is not the case. The facilities are located in communities with varying race. Detroit, Michigan is an importer and expoerter of hazardous waste with multiple companies involved in the hazardous waste trade. Dynecol, Inc. and U.S. Liquids of Detroit are involved in importing solid hazardous waste. In 2007, they combined to import over 3,783 tons of solid waste. These imports came from Ontario and Quebec, Canada. Dynecol, Inc. is the largest exporter in the city, exporting over 1 million tons of solid hazardous waste in 2007. The other three exporting companies are Marathon, Petro-Chem, and U.S. Liquids of Detroit. Combined, they exported over 660,000 tons of waste in the same year. All of these solid materials were exported to Ontario and Quebec, Canada. Dynecol U.S. Liquids Petro-Chem Marathon 2 3 4 2 3 4 1 1
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