Geovisualization and Power

The paper that we read this week (Geovisualization Illustrated, by Kraak) was quite fascinating. I enjoyed how the author used one main map then branched off from there to illustrate geovisualization. An interesting idea that was talked about in this paper was how, by visualizing geographic data differently, one could gain a better and more nuanced understanding of the topic at hand. This is a fascinating idea since maps can be very persuasive and influential. Knowing that geographic data can be displayed in many different ways, and that one method of visualization doesn’t necessarily tell the whole story, is important to know. It is important because this power (of manipulating geographic data) can be both positive and negative depending on how it is used. Using novel geovisualization techniques to further advance scientific knowledge is paramount. Using geovisualization to obfuscate data or mislead people (ex. for political gain) should be recognized and discouraged (“With great power comes great responsibility…”).

This aforementioned theme relates somewhat to behavioral/cognitive geography. Taking into account how an individual (or group) might perceive or interact with a certain type of geovisualization over another could be an important area of research. As an example, a tourist map of a city that is engaging and stimulating would be more beneficial than one that is drab or unappealing. Having mobile applications for tourists that can display geographic data in different/customizable ways could be another intriguing use. I think it’s fascinating that a topic (geovisualization) that normally doesn’t garner a lot of attention from laypeople is actually highly applicable.




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