# What is a map? What is data?

# How are maps and data different?

  • You might find that the terms “maps” and “data” blend together in your head, or perhaps they don’t seem connected at all.
  • You might wonder ...
    • Is a map data?
    • Does a map show data?
    • Is a map made up of data?
    • Are all maps related to data?
  • A metaphor from language:
    • Data makes up the "words" which, in isolation, don't mean very much.
    • A mapmaker combines data components to communicate visually with a map.
    • Breaking down a map allows us to understand its components and learn to "speak" the language of mapmaking.

Further explanation

# Data as observations about the world

  • Data refers to observations about the world that have been captured by humans and machines.
  • You might have a strong association between the word "data" and "numbers in a computer."
  • Data is really a more general term about information.
    • Medieval European maps were made up of "data" that were gathered from sources of evidence like the passages of the Bible.
    • For example, what kinds of data would have been required by the mapmaker of this "mappa mundi?"
  • Imagine an ordinary web map that you might use to get to the nearest coffee shop.
    • It would include data about ...
      • Where coffee shops are located,
      • What those coffee shops are called and when they're open,
      • Where you are located,
      • How you're planning to get around (walk, bike, transit, drive),
      • How roads and paths are connected in space,
      • What the roads are named,
      • And more!

A grammatical note on 'data'

Check your understanding

A given map is produced from exactly one dataset.


Only specific types of data can be read by computers.

Last Updated: 4/7/2022, 2:47:41 PM