“Cartographic Techniques.” In Bending Lines: Maps and Data from Distortion to Deception.
Boston: Leventhal Map & Education Center at the Boston Public Library, 2020. https://www.leventhalmap.org/digital-exhibitions/bending-lines/how-to-bend/cartographic-techniques/.
“Cartographic Techniques.” Bending Lines: Maps and Data from Distortion to Deception,
Leventhal Map & Education Center at the Boston Public Library, 2020. https://www.leventhalmap.org/digital-exhibitions/bending-lines/how-to-bend/cartographic-techniques/. Accessed DD Mon. YYYY.
Once they’ve chosen a projection, a cartographer still has numerous other tools at their disposal to bend reality towards a certain perspective. These aren’t necessarily misleading or deceitful, because making choices about how to simplify and represent the complexity of the world is central to the art and science of creating maps. These items showcase some of the methods and techniques that cartographers use in deciding what a map shows and what it hides. Elements of cartographic language direct and shape the reader’s attention, drawing them to particular conclusions and obscuring other possible observations.
Words and rhetoric
One of the most obvious ways for a cartographer to instruct a reader how they should be interpreting a map is by telling them, explicitly, with words. The vast majority of maps use written language in some form or another, whether in a bombastic title like this 1918 map promoting highway construction as part of a patriotic military effort, or in an innocuous-seeming legend. Words, of course, rely on the reader’s ability to make sense of the language: in this map, the bold text urging “preparedness” would carry little meaning to someone who doesn’t speak English. But because written language is so rich with nuance and connotation, words are a powerful method for stirring emotion and action. And when it’s used in a matter-of-fact, technical register, written language can also help a cartographer insist on a map’s accuracy and objectivity.