Professor warns against mapping

Anna Riggenbach

Mark Monmonier knows mapping can be manipulative.

The Syracuse University professor spoke Friday about “Cartographic Propaganda: Mapping to Convince, Connive and Contest,” which covered topics ranging from Nazi mapping propaganda to color confusion.

“Maps can hide a lot of ugly stuff,” he said. “Maps can spin facts.”

Monmonier came to Kent State as part of the geography department’s Geography Awareness Day activities. Demonstrations and exhibits also took place on the fourth floor of McGilvrey Hall.

Monmonier’s lecture began with a letter from President Bush wishing Kent State a successful celebration for the Awareness Day activities. Geography professor Ute Dymon then introduced Monmonier by showing his many books and awards.

“He is one of the most active scholars in geography,” she said. “I am very honored to present him.”

Monmonier said people tend to see maps as objective reality or fact. News maps in particular can confuse and mystify, he said.

Monmonier displayed several maps that he said were made to confuse viewers. By switching colors, for example, people tend to see something different than what is actually there, he said.

One map, which was designed to depict death count, used the color red – which would typically be associated with death – in contrast with white, which actually represented the number of deaths on the map.

“(Maps) can shock and ignore facts,” he said. “This should make you a little bit wary.”

Andrew Raines, sophomore business management major, said he enjoyed Monmonier’s speech.

“He was very educational and very informative,” he said. “I learned a lot.”

Contact College of Arts and Sciences reporter Anna Riggenbach at [email protected].