We tend to think of data stories as including a lot of statistics and charts. But there are many ways to tell a story. Maps are an often overlooked but very valuable tool in telling data stories. For this week’s post, I’d like to highlight some great examples of mapmakers who are helping shine a light on hidden stories.
Why does mapping matter?
Having a variety of visualization tools at our disposal is always useful, for a number of reasons. Some stories lend themselves better to being displayed on a map than on a graph. And changing the way we visualize data can sometimes help uncover hidden bias in our stories. Also, people of different backgrounds interpret visualizations differently. Mapmakers offer another visualization option for audiences not compelled or engaged by charts, graphs, or lengthy reports.
Here are a couple of mapmakers who’ve caught my eye lately:
Will Geary: Promoting Critical Thinking
If you subscribe to our newsletter, Will’s name might sound familiar to you — he was in our spotlight section last month. Will Geary is a data scientist and geographer who uses his talents as a mapmaker to make people think twice about the world around them.
These days, his work is focused on the global arms trade and its relationship with armed conflicts, conflict casualties, and global oil exports.
Will is the head of data visualization at Cityswifter. He also developed and maintains TransitFlow, a free software tool that facilitates urban and regional transit visualization. Check out his thought-provoking works and support Will via his Patreon account.
Sarah Macklin: Maps for All Who Need Them
Sarah Macklin is not a mapmaker in the strictest sense. She’s not a professional cartographer or geographer. She’s actually a graphic designer and webcomic illustrator. But Sarah has drawn some maps for a number of organizations — and her work has attracted the attention of at least one expert:
So why am I including Sarah in a post about mapmakers when I’ve just said she’s not technically a mapmaker?
Because Sarah is specifically offering her skills for members of marginalized groups — at discounted rates if needed. She acknowledges on her website that women, people of colour, and members of the LGBTQ community can struggle to find quality visualizations for their projects. Sarah wants to ensure that hidden stories can also be told, and offers payment plans for members of those groups who can’t afford her services.
Daniele Quercia: Using Maps to Improve Lives
Daniele Quercia is a map researcher who works in Yahoo Labs’ social media department in Barcelona. After a month of bike commuting in Boston, Daniele realized that our mobile mapping apps are designed to provide us with the fastest route; but that’s not always the best option.
Together with Rossano Schifanella and Luca Maria Aiello, Daniele gathered data on what types of routes people find most beautiful, quiet, or happiness inducing. Then, they developed a model that could provide users with different routes depending on their goals. Need to get somewhere in a hurry? The fastest route is still there. Trying to destress on the way home from a rough day? Try the quietest. Want to simply enjoy the area you live in? The most beautiful route could be right for you. These mapmakers tell hidden stories by letting you choose how to experience your commute.
Want to Know More?
Mapmakers and data visualization experts offer a massive range of ways to help tell your data’s story. If you’d like to learn more about how to display your data on maps or would like help telling a data story, we can help. Get in touch with the Datassist team today.