Thematic Mapping History

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Albane Valenzuela
History 95N

Thematic Maps and Maps as Products: A Social Story

All maps tell stories that have either shaped or were shaped by history. During the age of exploration and discovery, cartography was primarily a political enterprise that helped the state assert its colonial and imperial endeavors by drawing the boundaries of newly claimed territories. Gradually, these topographic maps evolved into more specific, accessible objects. The numerous social, economic and technological changes of the last few centuries have modified and diversified the production and consumption of maps. Since the nineteenth century, thematic and commercial maps have not ceased to proliferate. Since entering the digital era,
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Undoubtedly, the advent of digital technology, the Internet, and the GIS has led to new online techniques that have turned maps into advanced digital products. Visual designers, as well as geographical information science researchers, would agree that maps have become one of many ways to make sense to geographical information. Digital mapping proved to be a powerful tool, allowing one to synthesize and gather large data in an increasingly complex world. Additionally, digital maps can illustrate a wide array of content such as population distribution, land survey, hydrographic, geologic etc. Within all these different contexts, one can argue that thematic mapping has much to contribute to the digital humanities as it provides practical techniques to organize, synthesize and interpret vast amounts of information. Choropleth maps have become extremely popular to represent, classify and understand useful information and patterns. These maps use the geographic information system (GIS) and graphic software to bring data together and to assemble numerous geospatial analyses. Example 1 is a choropleth map that shows the unemployment rates in the United States in 2010. In order to convey a clear message, the producers of such maps manipulate colors to systematically encode the geographic data using the three dimensions of color: hue, lightness, and saturation. The different shades help dissociate states that were affected most from the rest (notice that the most affected were manufacturing regions such as Michigan, Rhode Island, and Ohio). One of the goals of such an informative map for the public is to show the spatial distribution of political and economic interests of the

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