What you see is not always what you get

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Maps are one of the first formats that come to mind when thinking about ‘interactive’ stories online — but did you know maps often lie?

In this Medium article, Joshua Tauberer sets out why that matters better than I’ve ever seen before…

“Because we don’t all live evenly spaced throughout the world, demographic maps favour populations that live in low density areas. Here’s why that’s meaningful:

“Although racial minorities make up 26% of the U.S. population, they account for just 16% of the space on typical demographic maps of the United States.

“The 50% of the U.S. population in the most dense part of the country lives in just 1% of the nation’s land area. Who actually lives in the 99% of the country we see?”

map

We face similar problems here: these kinds of maps of Australia tend to present gross misrepresentations due to the massive land mass that has tiny populations. The Guardian’s Nick Evershed has written about this before, including presenting some possible solutions (some of which we’ve also used).

The key thing to remember here: when it comes to presenting data, there’s often more going on than meets the eye.

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