Eliza's Reviews > How to Lie with Maps

How to Lie with Maps by Mark Monmonier
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's review
May 26, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: geo-med-env

This was a great presentation on how people can be manipulated by maps. It is a cautionary book to inform the reader of sources of misinformation & error so the reader can then take the map with a grain of salt and not as "truth". The book dealt with issues of power. Issues covered included map manipulations used in advertising, development, national security, the military, and politics. For me, the most interesting parts related to national-level maps such as the USGS topographic maps, and how the US and all countries choose how they want to represent their country deliberately even to its own citizens by what they choose to include and more importantly leave out of its own maps. It almost becomes a social or environmental justice issue, that these maps hide the countries problems, like poverty, crime, racial/social injustices, environmental degradation. We can alter our image of the country with what we choose to present as the U.S.

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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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Vika Gardner Eliza, is there a chapter of this book that would be useful to be used in undergraduate classes, to help students understand that maps are a source, to be thoughtfully questioned like any other source?

message 2: by Eliza (last edited May 31, 2010 07:30AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Eliza You could use the introduction. This basically says that all maps must tell "white lies" because they cannot show the entire world & the mapmaker makes conscious choices about what is worth showing in the map. It also stresses that each finished map is just one option out of the infinite possible visual displays of the base information, & this choice of what's shown is a reflection of the author's goals & biases. It includes what you're getting at with questioning it as a source. "...maps, like speeches and paintings, are authored collections of information and also are subject to distortions arising from ignorance, greed, ideological blindness, or malice." p. 2. The intro is only four pages. The downside is that it has the feel of trying to convince the audience why it's worthwhile to read the book, so it's almost a pitch for the book itself. But it gets at what you're looking for, it's short, and it's very readable.

Really any chapter conveys that point though, different chapters focus on how to lie with advertising maps, maps done by developers, political maps, war maps, and so on. Actually, Ch. 7 - Maps for political propaganda would be good too. It discusses a bunch of the maps published by Nazi Germany in its effort to keep the U.S. out of WWII, and discusses how these maps have manipulated the data to make Germany look like it's doing the right thing and that they're the ones being bullied by the Allied Powers. This chapter is good because it has many map examples that the students can examine and ponder over for themselves; it was very interesting and would also be good for undergrads.

Vika Gardner Thank you! On your way to being a collaborative academic!

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