Data maps are a tool that people use in things like historical analyses. They take data that can be georeferenced (tied to a physical location in space and a point in time) and visualize the data with a map. This type of tool is essentially geospatial in nature because of this. An example of a data map can be found here: http://dsl.richmond.edu/emancipation/. The map shown in the link visualizes emancipation during the Civil War era in the American South. Below, I will be critiquing the technology used to construct data maps.

Data-driven geospatial visualizations and analyses have transformed people’s thinking about history. The creation of this technology changes the questions one can ask and potentially answer about the past. Now that data can be analyzed and placed on a map, one can ask questions about the time and locations of various historical events. Visualizations can convey a large amount of information quickly since people tend to process visual information more quickly than textual information. That makes data maps incredibly useful for gaining insights into both the spatial and temporal aspects of historical events.

Like most things, there are cons in addition to the pros. Patterns can get lost in noisy data, making it hard to come to a conclusion. One can lie with data maps as well. The amount of information at different scales can be used to obscure details or downplay a trend that might be seen at smaller or larger scales. This is easier to do with a static map that can’t be zoomed in or out on.