A recent cartographic critique by Margaret McKenna, Head of Data and Analytics at RunKeeper, questions popular interpretations of a series of captivating maps created from public running routes. For those interested in cartographic analysis and beautiful maps, the post from Untapped Cities will be a good read.
The Flowing Data editor suggested that the maps could be used by public officials for city planning, while The Washington Post’s Know More blog wrote that the maps proved that only rich people use apps for fitness. In response, McKenna noted that both these arguments assumed that the maps were correct without considering possible sources of bias: seasonal distortion; location fuzziness; and tagging bias.
McKenna concludes with the reasonable observation that while maps can be powerful tools for exploring human behavior, the main assumptions used in map-making should be revealed to the viewer. Before jumping to conclusions about the meanings of maps, readers should have a good understanding of the basic cartographic assumptions and possible sources of bias.