Geography 222 The Power of Maps and GIS

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Geog 222: Final Take-Home Exam

Revised: 11/18/14

ASSIGNED in class Wednesday, November 18
DUE via Google Drive by Tuesday December 16 at 11:43 am OR scheduled final exam time for course

The Final Take-Home Exam for Geography 222 brings together a veritable smash bag of mappish delights from your 3rd favorite class this semester, The Power of Maps and GIS.

The exam includes fascinating topics covered since the first exam, as well as some broad overview questions. It will be, undoubtedly, a delight to complete.

Final Exam: Total of 100 glossy points.


Question 1: Map Projections: write 1.5 pages + 2 maps (30 pts)

The process of map projection transforms the surface of the spherical earth into a flat, 2D surface. As discussed in lecture and in the Making Maps 2nd ed. book, there are an infinite number of ways to project maps, and every different map projection distorts something: areas, angles, directions, distances, etc. The goal is to select a map projection that doesn't distort some vital aspect of your data. For example, if you have data that is spread over areas (vegetation types, urbanized areas, land in cultivation) you don't want to distort areas. So use an equal area map projection.

With the increase in mapping and GIS applications, you may someday have to make a decision about which map projection to use. Probably not, but maybe. This question requires you to select an appropriate map projection given a specific defined use of a map.

Sources of additional information on map projections which may be useful for this project can be found in the class readings and at the following sites:

For this question, please use the projections found at the Interactive Album of Map Projections from Penn State.


HEY, popsicles: The Interactive Album of Map Projections site goes off-line once in awhile. Check back if it is not working for you. As per usual, don't put this off until the last minute. Let me know if you continue to have problems with the site.

The site initially shows you a map of the world with a bunch of different mysterious, yet fascinating, options:


Map Projection Options and their Parameters

Remember to hit redraw the map any and every time you change any parameter to see your changes.


For each question below, select the best map projection for the application, then save a copy of the projection and include it in your answer. Title each section with the map projection you chose and then explain (in a paragraph) why you chose the map projection. In some cases, there may be more than one appropriate projection. Choose which you think is best and explain why.

1/2 page each, graphic + any appropriate text:



Question 2: Map Symbols: write about 2 pages w/eight symbols (20 pts.)

Map symbols represent stuff in the real world based on relationship, resemblance, or convention. Examples of these three different categories of map symbols are shown on page 172-173 of the Making Maps 2nd Ed. book.



Different Maps of Home: Introduction

Maps are not images of the human and natural environment. Indeed, they are selective and only partial representations, shaped by the human and social context within which the maps were created. We spend much of the semester learning about how maps cannot show everything and must be selective and must be partial representations.

Yet maps allow us to see things in a unique manner, and learn about places and what happens in them in a way other media (words, numbers, etc.) don't allow.

The key to understanding maps is that they always involve tradeoffs - we put up with shape or area distortions of a map projection to be able to see the entire Earth all at once, for example.

Recall the following quote from Monmonier's book:

"As historian of cartography Brian Harley has noted, government maps have for centuries been ideological statements rather than fully objective, 'value free' scientific representations of geographic reality. Harley observed that governments practice two forms of cartographic censorship - a censorship of secrecy to serve military defense and censorship of silence to enforce or reinforce social and political values. This second, more subtile form of cartographic censorship usually occurs as silences - as features or conditions ignored. Hence basic maps of most cities show streets, landmark structures, elevations, parks, churches, and large museums - but not dangerous intersections, impoverished neighborhoods, high crime areas, and other zones of danger and misery that could be accommodated without sacrificing information about infrastructure and terrain. By omitting politically threatening or aesthetically unattractive aspects of geographic reality, and by focusing on the interest of civil engineers, geologists, public administrators, and land developers, or topographic 'base maps' are hardly basic to the concerns of public health and safety officials, social workers, and citizens rightfully concerned about the well-being of themselves and others. In this sense, cartographic silences are indeed a form of geographic disinformation." (Monmonier, How to Lie with Maps, p. 122)

One way we can grasp the complex nature of maps is to critically examine and compare different maps of the same place. It is vital to ground-truth such maps: compare what they show to what we know about the actual places the maps represent.

In this exercise you will ground-truth several different maps of the same place - your home. Sometimes maps help you learn new things about a place - things you didn't know despite having lived experience in the place. Other times maps are limiting - not showing things you know are important about a particular place, or showing them in such a way that is limiting or even deceptive. Regarding Monmonier's quote above, you should also be aware that there are many things - toxic waste sites, health statistics, etc., that can be either difficult or impossible to find on maps.

You will use multiple maps of your home in this exercise (almost all of which you already created). You will compare, contrast, and comment on these different maps, many of the 'same' place: the area around your home, and all focused on something or somewhere that is important to you. The main point is to get some sense of how maps represent the world and to ground truth these different representations given your personal, lived experiences.


Question 3: Your USGS Topo Map as Biography: write 2 pages (20 pts)

Read a brief article by Brian Harley called "The Map as Biography." In this article, published in a map collecting magazine, Harley talks about his "favorite map" - which happens to be a detailed topographic map (the British equivalent of your USGS topographic map).

Harley's point is that you can read the map as a biography - actually many kinds of biography - including your own.

After reading Harley's article, compose a 2-3 page personal biography based on your USGS topographic map. This should start with your impressions of the map, what struck you about it when you first saw it. Please be as creative as you want with this question.

International students: Please feel free to use a map of your actual home for this part of the exercise: it can be a map you found in one of the previous exercises, or one you found on the web. Just make sure it is detailed enough to show streets, neighborhoods, etc. Ask me if you have questions about an appropriate map.



Question 4: What Maps Show and Don't Show: write 2 pages (20 pts)

Refer to the quote by Monmonier above and Chapter 5 in Monmonier's How to Lie with Maps where he discusses the human and social context of such large scale topographic maps and some of ways in which seemingly "objective" USGS topographic maps are shaped by their human and social context. Today, Google and other online map providers present us with the equivalent of the old topographic maps.

All maps are selective and a partial representation of "reality" - topographic maps or Google maps. But it is important to ponder what kind of information is on the map, and which information is left off the map. For example, should information about toxic waste and other human-created environmental hazards be included on Google maps? You can search for pizza, Apple Stores, and wig shops, but not toxic waste locations. The data is easily available in digital form, yet... it's not on the map. Huh.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides such information at their EnviroFacts WWW site:


HEY again: The EPA EnviroFacts site seems to often go down over the weekend, and sometimes during the day. As per usual, don't put this off until the last minute. Let me know if you continue to have problems with the site.

Write one page on your reaction to these maps of the toxic geography of your home. Any surprises? What kind of toxic releases are around your home? What sense of your home do you get from looking at this particular (toxic) aspect of "reality" mapped out? Are these toxic sites things you were aware of?

Write one page in reaction to the quote at the beginning of this exercise. Are Google (or other online) maps ideological because of their silences about certain important aspects of our environment? Should toxic sites be included on Google maps? Why aren't they? Who might oppose including such information on such basic detailed maps? Who might support it?



Question 5: Yer Thoughts on "The Power of Maps": write 2 pages (10 pts)

Ponder the maps you have created this semester. Review what we have covered in lectures and readings this semester (look at the two previous exam reviews). Discuss three of the most important insights you learned about maps this semester using your maps as examples. Which exercises were the most engaging, and why? What would you like to have done more of in the course?

Discuss your personal development over the semester: what have you learned? Comment on both your intellectual/conceptual and technical (mapping, digital submissions) development.



E-mail: jbkrygier@owu.edu

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