Maps are relied on to be accurate and without bias. But maps inherently take a position and hold the cultural and hidden biasses of both the maker and those who commission them.
From the placement of borders and naming of places to the choice of colouration and the level of detail, how maps are constructed and what is allowed in and left out are choices that define what information the map contains, whether or not these are pragmatic choices.
But what of the processes that make the map. Decisions on the projection used define the appearance. When it comes to satellite mapping, appearance and detail may be defined by the data available. When satellite imagery can be stitched and date-based snapshots can be merged in to avoid clouded in areas, a level of computation has crept into the nature of captured imagery. It will often not be apparent that a displayed satellite mapping image is a composite of layered fragments often with AI in the form of cloud removal and possibly texturing
These computational aspects can sometimes start to define visual aspects of the tool. Colouration and clarity may be enhanced. The ability to provide maps online, with the bandwidth issues that are always present causes more visual deviations. This is before enhancements such as false colouring and 3D effects are added.
These map failures are often overlooked but they act as a language explaining the capture and construction of the mapping information.
These images and gifs are shown in accordance with Google’s attribution requirements, sources for which are:
Google Earth, SIO, NOAA, GEBCO, US Navy, NGA, Landsat / Copernicus, Maxar, CNES / Airbus, TerraMetrics, US Geological Survey