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Maps as useful analytical tools

I’m not a geographer or cartographer, but I do love maps. Being a visual kinda guy, I can more quickly arrive at conclusions about a given set of data than by looking at other formats like tables or text.

In the past few days, three maps have been published that have piqued my interest and have inspired me to ask some questions.

The first was published by on Wednesday and shows the current population of schools in the Ottawa Carleton District School Board as a percentage of their optimum capacity.

This is the Zone that I live in (red line is the approximate boundary).

The schools are represented by different colours:

Purple: 50% over capacity
Red: 0-49.99% over capacity
Blue: 75-99.99% under capacity
Light blue: 50-74.99% capacity
Yellow: Less than 49.99% under capacity

OK. Now guess which schools offer Early French Immersion (EFI) in the Zone?

Never mind guessing, I circled them for you. Both Pleasant Park PS and Rockcliffe PS are well over capacity while Alta Vista PS is at 82%. I believe PPPS has 3 or 4 portables to manage this overcrowding – it’s not just the schools in the Glebe and Kanata that have this problem.

You can also clearly see the effect on nearby schools whose local students are being drawn to the schools offering EFI. This is going to have to be dealt with the Board in a well-considered and systematic way. Long-term decisions need to be reached or else schools like Hawthorne and Arch are going to continue to be hollowed out.

The next example I am offering is courtesy of the folks over at iPolitics. Note the congregating of blue bubbles (I think it’s cool how they chose the colour blue to represent this) in the eastern part of the country.

The Robot PM knows that his electoral fortunes lie in the seat rich provinces of Ontario and Quebec and it is to there where he has travelled the most. He knows that much of the West is a given (I think the latest poll put him in the mid-60’s, voting intention-wise), so no real need to visit much except to cut the odd ribbon, attend the Calgary Stampede and suck up to the folks in the oil patch.

This last example is a cute little representaion of how provincial ecomomies match to national economies elsewhere in the world. Funny how Alberta has been matched to another oil-rich region… and the cold north to the warm and tropical Bahamas!

All this to say that as an analyst of things social and political, cartographic representations of certain variables are sometimes far more useful than simply seeing these data in texts or tables.


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