Review of Map Use: Reading and Analysis

Review of Map Use: Reading and Analysis

Book by A. Jon Kimmerling, Aileen R. Buckley, Philip C. Muehrcke, and Juliana O. Muehrcke

Review by Julia Siemer, University of Regina

Review of Map Use: Reading and Analysis

Map Use: Reading and Analysis is the sixth edition of the well-known and well-received book Map Use: Reading, Analysis, Interpretation by Muehrcke and Muehrcke, who were later joined by co-author A. Jon Kimerling. The recent change of publisher to Esri Press included the addition of Aileen R. Buckley as a new co-author.

This current edition of Map Use is divided into Map Reading (Part 1), Map Analysis (Part 2), and three appendices (on digital cartographic data, selected navigation and GPS abbreviations and acronyms, and mathematical tables of values such as mapping units and geographic coordinates of major American cities), plus an extensive glossary and an index.

Part 1: Map Reading forms the main part of the book. It comprises ten chapters covering fundamental principles on how the environment is represented in the form of abstract, generalized maps. Topics like map scale, coordinate systems and projections, land partitioning systems, relief representation, qualitative and quantitative thematic maps, geographic data, image maps, and map accuracy and uncertainty are discussed.

Part 2: Map Analysis focuses on more technical hands-on aspects of map use, for instance: distance and direction finding, area and volume measurements, navigation, and use of the global positioning system (GPS). The eight chapters that comprise Part 2 include three chapters on surface and spatial analysis as well as on spatial association analysis. The latter two include map analysis techniques by use of analytic tools offered in geographic information systems (GIS). Major spatial statistics operations are explained (pattern analysis, Moran’s I autocorrelation index, nearest neighbor statistics, and others). This topic, typically not found in comparable map use reference books, is a very useful addition—particularly for GIS users who wish to gain a better understanding of maps and their use and analysis. This newly added content is a good example of how this edition of Map Use accounts for the change in mapping from the exclusive use of paper maps to computerized mapping, often by means of GIS. Despite the technological advances, map users still need to understand the underlying principles of maps to be able to use them effectively. This book provides GIS users with these fundamental principles and will help improve their ability to think and communicate visually by means of maps. In addition to GIS-relevant aspects, the book addresses modern technology like GPS and interactive and online maps, thus offering new possibilities in a teaching environment for hands-on exercises on how maps work. At the same time, theories like cartographic communication theory, which were discussed in detail in earlier editions, are omitted. The authors acknowledge the importance of the topic of map interpretation, and state that this topic was singled out for attention in future publishing initiatives. One can only hope communication theory will be added again in a future edition of the book, to offer a more complete and up-todate introduction to map use and understanding.

The book was designed for use in an undergraduate level introductory course. Therefore, upon request, it is complemented by an instructors’ resource CD, featuring lab exercises with answer keys and basic, yet useful, PowerPoint presentations for each chapter of the book. In addition to this, the web pages for this book on the publisher’s website offer a student resource page that includes the same exercises and presentations as well as links to some of Esri’s free GIS introductory exercises.

The four-color maps and graphics throughout the book are mostly of good quality, although some of the scans (for example, Figures 5.4 and 5.5 on page 86) are of surprisingly low resolution and thereby detract the otherwise attractive look and feel of the book. Another, more irritating, printing related issue is the very strong chemical smell of the book, which, even after weeks on my desk, has not yet disappeared.

My only major criticism is the often-missing “international” component. Although the book includes some international aspects (e.g., land partitioning systems in the U.S. and Canada, and brief explanations of some European grid coordinate systems), it has a very strong focus on mapping-related aspects in and of the United States, which continues throughout all of Parts 1 and 2 and the appendices. It would have been beneficial to include more information on international mapping (such as international cartographic data sources) and map use (perhaps cultural influence in map design and interpretation). Furthermore, a separate section on current international topographic mapping standards, paper and digital, would clearly have benefited the book. The lack of international content is even more surprising considering the worldwide acceptance of previous editions of Map Use and of the publisher’s (Esri Press) international distribution capabilities. To be truly successful internationally, this important factor should be addressed in future editions.

The regional focus also became evident when I tried to obtain an evaluation copy of this book. Suprisingly, it proved to be impossible for me, as an instructor at a Canadian university, to receive a free copy from the publisher.

Despite this criticism, I recommend the book as a very useful resource for fundamental principles of map use and analysis. Because it can be used both for general reference and as an undergraduate textbook, I have chosen it as a textbook for my introductory map reading course at the University of Regina, Saskatchewan.

A seventh edition of Map Use: Reading and Analysis is expected in Fall 2011.

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