Friday, 10.30-11.30 (Vista)

Lying with maps and other adventures in spatial data. Tim Shifflett, MSI; Chase Gruber, MSI
Is your map really telling the story you want to tell? Recent technological advances have put GIS into the hands of every development professional, leading to an explosion of GIS in the aid industry but also opening the door to unintentional misrepresentations. This session will highlight commonly made cartographic mistakes, proper applications of spatial technology, and define simple rules to follow when working with spatial data. 

Session Level:


Session Details:

Everybody wants a pretty map included in proposals, project deliverables, and presentations. Thanks to a variety of user friendly web and desktop applications this is easy, right? Not so fast! Unfortunately, well-intentioned users often add data to a map and hope for the best. The map may be pretty, but does it accurately reflect reality and tell the story the author is trying to convey?

This session will explore common mistakes made when using GIS and demonstrate how these mistakes manifest themselves. A hands-on small group exercise will teach participants to identify poor and misleading maps, and suggest improvements. The group will discuss proper applications of GIS, when to use a map, and when it might be better to visualize your data in another way.

Finally, we’ll discuss a few simple rules to follow when collecting, processing, and visualizing spatial data to ensure your map conveys your message accurately. Participants will walk away with examples of bad maps and how they can be improved, an understanding of when to use a map and when maps should be avoided, an appreciation for the work and planning that is required to make an accurate map, and a handout of things to pay attention while mapping on their own.

Session Leads:

Tim Shifflett, Deputy Director of Client Innovations, MSI. Tim provides field facing technology support for donor funded projects, focusing on remote data collection systems and geospatial technology. He has supported geospatial projects for humanitarian and development organizations in Afghanistan, Yemen, Sudan, and other nations. Prior to joining MSI, Tim worked at International Relief and Development as a Geospatial Analyst and earned an MS in Geographic and Cartographic Sciences from George Mason University.  More about Tim here or at MSI.

Chase Gruber, Software Developer, MSI. Chase builds data collection and visualization tools for complex problems that don’t have off-the-shelf solutions. Before joining MSI, he worked as a GIS analyst/geospatial developer in Cape Cod, where he created interactive web mapping applications, in addition to paper-based maps, for the county government. He holds a Master’s degree in Environmental Management and a certificate in Geospatial Analysis and GIS from Duke University. More about Chase here and at MSI.