Mapping, Society, and Technology
Steven Manson, University of Minnesota
Copyright Year: 2017
Publisher: University of Minnesota Libraries Publishing
Conditions of Use
As the title suggests, "Mapping, Society, and Technology" provides an excellent overview of the fundamentals of mapping as a technology in contemporary society (admittedly and understandably skewed towards the Global North). The book works well as... read more
As the title suggests, "Mapping, Society, and Technology" provides an excellent overview of the fundamentals of mapping as a technology in contemporary society (admittedly and understandably skewed towards the Global North). The book works well as an introductory text to how maps work, their basic components, and the challenges of understanding and displaying spatial data. Many of the topics covered are what one might expect to find in a beginning Geographic Information System (GIS) textbook, but are helpfully presented independently of GIS or a specific platform. This should allow students to understand and think critically about mapping without being bogged down in the technical details of software. The book is much more limited, however, when it comes to cartography and design. While the brief history of mapping and Chapter 4 do take the reader through some basic concepts, the text covers a fairly limited sense of what constitutes mapping and how to read / make maps with nuance. This is not necessarily a problem with the book, but for educators looking for a guide to cartography, this may not be the best option. In the stricter sense of learning about the uses and representation of spatial data, the book is excellent.
It is challenging to simultaneously explain why the underlying systems of maps function and can be immensely useful, while showing how they are inherently contextual and necessarily inaccurate, but the authors do well keeping the argument of the textbook clear. They maintain an engaging neutral tone and, on the whole, use helpful examples to illustrate various points. My only point of contention is that despite strong chapters (1, 7 and 8 especially) on maps as embedded in socio-technical systems, many of the examples in other chapters slip back into a sense that mapping is a neutral practice confined by the realities of data collection, rather than the social goals of mappers.
Of the many textbooks and articles I have used to try and teach about mapping, "Mapping, Society and Technology" succeeds far better than most at striking a balance between staying relevant without tying itself to a particular moment, technology or jargon. Chapters 8 & 9 may be the only chapter that will feel dated more quickly, but even there the authors do well situating concerns over surveillance, VGI and our changing relationship to maps in a historical context that will help future readers continue to ask how those topics have changed. On the one hand, it is an impossible task to write a relevant book about mapping, as the proliferation of maps into our society seems to be only accelerating, and what may have seemed novel a year ago is old news by the time a reader picks up the text. On the other, the book gets by focusing largely fundamental principles about mapping, but then necessarily feels more vague about the 'technology' and 'society' dimensions of book.
The text is exceptionally clear. The reader gets the sense that the authors have explained concepts many, many times and have really boiled them down to their essence without over simplifying. The discussions of central, but perpetually baffling, ideas in mapping -- small vs large scale, projections, classification data -- are so useful that I am planning on replacing parts of my Introduction to Human Geography texts/lectures with the explanations used here.
Terminology throughout the book is consistent. I have no doubt that a student will be able to follow each chapter and section as part of the whole. Indeed, one of the books strengths is the author's linking newly introduced concepts to previous discussions in the book. As noted above, the only real inconstancy in the text is the "maps as technology with social use" framework falls out in the more technical, data focused middle chapters. The book does not contradict itself, but an instructor might want to do draw students attention explicitly to the framework at points where the author's do not.
The text is highly modular, and chapters could easily be assigned in various orders to fit a different course organization. There are helpful moment of self-reference, but they mostly serve to connect concepts and do not create dependencies. I.e. a section in chapter 5 may suggest a student see chapter 2 for more discussion, but does not rely on having read chapter 2 necessarily. The only caveat is that some basic concepts and terminology introduced early on in the book may be necessary for understanding later parts -- but I cannot easily imagine a course structure that wouldn't necessitate the vocabulary at the beginning anyway.
The book is well organized, both at a chapter and sub-chapter level. Chapters have useful introductions and conclusions that provide succinct summaries of what a student should get out of each chapter, and then presents arguments, examples, and key terms in a coherent fashion.
The only major flaw in this book, at least in the PDF version and eBook versions I reviewed, is that relationship between text and figures (maps) is frequently off by a page. There are many places where the authors discuss a concept related to the map, but it is on the next page where a different concept is explained. Relatedly, many of the maps are lower resolution than I would have hoped -- especially those that could included as vector-based images rather than rasters. For example, the discussion of categorization and the ecological fallacy rely on maps where a reader cannot really see the legends clearly.
There are no glaring grammatical errors. On occasion the book refers to a "course," which is slightly confusing, but not often nor terribly distracting.
The book has an unsurprising reliance on Minnesota and Midwestern examples, but not exclusively nor in a way that suggests bias or insensitivity. Students with a less developed sense of US geography may struggle with context, but it should not impede their comprehension of examples.
This text has one of the clearest sets of explanations of how projections, classification, generalization and analysis are necessary but fraught with unavoidable distortions and unintentional (or intentional) mistakes. If nothing else, the book will be immensely helpful for students and instructor alike in diving into those problems.
There is no way a single short text can cover all the elements in this title, so I will review the text as an introduction to cartography. From that view, the array of subjects covered is excellent, it's well organized, and is nicely represented... read more
There is no way a single short text can cover all the elements in this title, so I will review the text as an introduction to cartography. From that view, the array of subjects covered is excellent, it's well organized, and is nicely represented in the table of contents. The text covers projections, scale, symbology, thematic styles, map structure, GIS and GPS, aesthetics and also some basic spatial analysis, social issues, spatial data and privacy, and what the authors call "Lying" with maps (although this includes cartographic error, user misinterpretation, purposeful manipulation... and yes outright lies). Occasionally it touches on something tangential to mapping (e.g. the environmental impact of disposing of electronic waste), perhaps as a nod to the secondary elements in the title.
It is succinct, accurate, and it covers the basic themes of a standard cartographic textbook with no sign of bias. One mistake on page 98 presents Graduated Symbol maps (with interval ranges) as Proportional Symbol maps. I would quibble with the characterization of map manipulation (e.g. by range classification choices) or cartographic error (such as mapping aggregate values with a choroplethic theme) as "lying." Even gerrymandering (called a "big lie") is devious, yes, but not really a lie. To be fair, some of the examples in this chapter are actual lies.
I was disappointed to see the 2012 election maps and not those of 2016 but they illustrated several important principles of classification and ecological fallacy nicely, and provide an excellent use of cartograms. The discussion of GPS tracking, facial recognition, crowd-sourced maps, and personal devices is very relevant still. I don't think this text will be obsolete soon. It was published in 2017 and this review in 2020.
Yes it is easy to understand. The content is simple to moderate in complexity and the vocabulary and writing style reflect that.
The text is consistent. I would consider its pace brisk and the coverage introductory. It does not presume prior knowledge of mapping and it introduces basic vocabulary and concepts. It doesn't doesn't go into great detail and doesn't slide into jargon.
Each chapter covers a specific topic which will be useful as a foundation for class discussion, for more current content, local examples, critique and discussion. Chapters could be used in a different order but the arrangement is good for a short course or as a supplement to one with a strong practical component.
The organization is appropriate, with projections early on and the more critical analyses, complex concepts, and discussion of current technologies near the end. It is nicely reflected in the Table of Contents so should be valuable as a reference book too.
I found the wide margins, many large images and blank spaces to be a bit frustrating, as students are likely to print this text; it easily could be more compact, with no loss of information.
I have no real complaints about the grammar though I quibble over referring to the planet "earth" which, as a proper noun, should be "Earth" and I once found myself counting the number of sentences on a single page that began with "We.." But no, it's well written.
The text is unlikely to be offensive to anyone except perhaps to leaders of an authoritarian regime. It touches on the social inequities in access to modern technology, the corrupt effects of gerrymandering, and concerns regarding surveillance-- but there is no apparent political/socio-economic/gender/race/age bias. It is stated early on that the text focuses on European and North American cartography, although it adds that many advances in mapping have occurred elsewhere.
I enjoyed this and may adopt it for a practical cartography course this summer for which I often don't use a text. It will save students some money in difficult times, will ensure that they have a common foundation, and will likely inform the work they will do..
The textbook is very appropriate and effective in its intent to introduce the uses, significance, and potential issues of mapping. Readers will benefit from the organization and clear structure of this text. I really appreciated the inclusion of... read more
The textbook is very appropriate and effective in its intent to introduce the uses, significance, and potential issues of mapping. Readers will benefit from the organization and clear structure of this text. I really appreciated the inclusion of cartographic design principles and their importance, as well as the “lying with maps” discussion and ways in which society is being transformed by mapping technology.
I am impressed with the overall writing and editing for this textbook. I did not encounter any errors with regards to the content, text or images and figures.
With any discussion of mapping technology, up-to-date content is essential. This textbook does a good job of including an overview of mapping tools without being too specific (something that can make it obsolete within a short period of time). This approach also provides flexibility in terms of classroom instruction and allows for the opportunity to incorporate the most relevant mapping technologies, something I highly appreciate as an instructor.
The writing is clear and accessible. While there isn’t a glossary included, the terminology is presented in a way that is easily attainable within the text. Many of the key terms are supplemented by helpful images, diagrams, and/or links.
The internal text itself is consistent in terms of its presentation of the topics. My only minor complaint is the description of the textbook. I would argue that while this is an outstanding overview of cartographic principles, and the interactions between maps and society, it does not specifically walk students through creating a map (which is mentioned in the first chapter). And while there are instances within the text where students have the opportunity to explore various online mapping tools and technologies, having a map as a tangible outcome is something that will need to be facilitated and supplemented outside of this textbook. Again, this is very minor but I felt it worth clarifying for potential readers and adopters.
The textbook is very easy to navigate and follows a logical structure. The chapters are broken down into smaller subheadings that aren’t too long and allow for modifications, additions, and reorganization (if necessary).
I really appreciate the consistent organization of the topics. Each chapter includes a brief introduction with a summary of what is included, subheadings, and a conclusion.
The textbook is free of significant interface issues. I experienced no issues with regards to navigation and display in both online and downloaded formats. I did encounter a few broken links, which is to be expected.
I anticipated grammatical errors and found none. This is a testament to both the author and the editor(s). The quality of the review process is evident throughout this textbook.
While the textbook does use a variety of examples, most of which are focused on the United States or the world, in general. As an instructor I certainly understand the need for approaching these topics at a macro-level, but I would need to supplement these by incorporating more examples from other cultures, races, and ethnicities. Additionally, the relationship between social justice issues and mapping is touched on very briefly, but I feel this could definitely be expanded on.
I will be adopting this book for our introductory cartography course next year. As with any textbook, I will be using lecture, discussions, and activities to incorporate the information I feel needs to be expanded on within this text.
Table of Contents
1. Maps, Society, and Technology
- 1.1 Maps, Society, & Technology
- 1.2 A Very Short History
- 1.3 Maps & Liberal Education
- 1.4 Conclusion
- 2.1 What are Spatial Data?
- 2.2 Collecting Spatial Data
- 2.3 Metadata
- 2.4 Census Data
- 2.5 Data Concepts & Problems
- 2.6 Mapping Tools
- 2.7 Conclusion
3. Scale and Projections
- 3.1 Scale
- 3.2 Extent vs. Resolution
- 3.3 Coordinates & Projections
- 3.4 Projection Mechanics
- 3.5 Conclusion
4. Design and Symbolization
- 4.1 Map Elements
- 4.2 Design Principles
- 4.3 Symbolization
- 4.4 Conclusion
- 5.1 Thematic Map Types
- 5.2 Standardization
- 5.3 Classification
- 5.4 Generalization
- 5.5 Conclusion
- 6.1 Point Pattern Analysis
- 6.2 Autocorrelation Analysis
- 6.3 Proximity Analysis
- 6.4 Correlation Analysis
- 6.6 Conclusion
7. Lying With Maps
- 7.1 Little lies
- 7.2 Big Lies
- 7.3 Conclusion
- 8.1 Surveillance
- 8.2 Inside Surveillance
- 8.3 Outside Surveillance
- 8.4 Conclusion
9. Social Maps
- 9.1 Volunteered Information
- 9.2 Neogeography
- 9.3 Digital Divides
- 9.4 Digital Maps, Real world
- 9.5 Conclusion
- Author and Publication Information
About the Book
This book is about how to read, use, and create maps. Our exploration of maps will be informed by a contextual understanding of how maps reflect the relationship between society and technology, and how mapping is an essential form of scientific and artistic inquiry. We will also explore how mapping is used to address a variety of societal issues, such as land use planning and political gerrymandering. You will gain insight into the technical underpinnings of mapping as a science approach, complement on-going interest and activities, or provide an applied focus for research or policy.
About the Contributors
Steven Manson with contributing authors Laura Matson, Melinda Kernik, Eric Deluca, Dudley Bonsal, and Sara Nelson