Reminder: Information is inevitably lost in the process of abstraction
Chapter 1: Context and Concepts

Cartographer Mark Monmonier (1991) pointed out that the three fundamental elements of maps—scale, projection, and symbolization—can each be distorted. In creating the abstraction called a map, loss of information is taken for granted. Given that there will be information loss, the question is whether we are properly representing the "residual" information left after the data are reduced to manageable proportions. As noted earlier in this chapter, our maps may "lie" as a result of sins of omission or commission. We may forget to do something and get errors as a result, or we may do something that creates errors—or both.

Because all abstractions lie in some way, we come full circle to the awareness of both art and science in cartography. As crime mappers, we should maintain a background awareness that we may make artistic (design) decisions that obfuscate. We may make scientific decisions that misinform. Could our map sidestep a degree of accuracy that it might otherwise have achieved? (How should these data be preprocessed? Should the mean or median be used to characterize these data?) More often than not, only the analyst/cartographer knows for sure how truthfully a map conveys its message, so she or he has considerable ethical responsibility.

Chapter 1: Context and Concepts
Previous Contents Next
Return to Home Page

Mapping Crime: Principle and Practice, by Keith Harries, Ph.D., December 1999