The Power Of Maps

Jul 9 2013 @ 8:53am

dish_bungedetroitmap

Cartographer Denis Wood considers his craft:

I’ve seen maps that I find completing terrifying. Maps of uranium mining and of various illnesses in the Navajo reservations—they’re just insane. They just make you furious. Bill Bunge’s map—which I still think is one of the great maps, the map of where white commuters in Detroit killed black children while going home from work—that’s a terrifying map, and that’s an amazing map.

He knew that. They had to fight to get the data from the city. They had to use political pressure to get the time and the exact location of the accidents that killed these kids. They knew what they were looking for. I didn’t have anything to do with that project, so when I saw the map for the first time, it was like, “Oh my god.” It’s so powerful to see maps like that. That’s the power of maps, or one of the powers of maps: to make graphic—and at some level unarguable—some correlative truth. We all knew that people go to and from work. But to lay the two things together reveals something horrible.

Update from a reader:

The Curbed LA blog posted a map yesterday showing human life expectancy in the different communities in the Los Angeles area. Of note, residents of Watts live an average of 11.9 fewer years than residents of Bel Air.

Recent Dish on maps here, here, and here.