Geography 7 Lab Write Up
A map’s projection serves the same function as a building’s foundation in the sense that if the foundation is fractured the rest of the structure will be condemned. Likewise, if careful attention is not given to understanding why and how a projection is particularly used, significant patterns in data will be misinterpreted or ignored. Working with projections in ArcGIS was helpful in understanding how our “real” or visible world is translated into a “geographical” representation and how natural precision in accuracy can erode. Ultimately GIS can only be an effective system of storing information depends on the quality of primary information and the accuracy and precision of its interpreter
The imperative to understanding how certain projections change data and geographical representations we were asked to map the distance between two ‘static’ points- Washington D.C. and Kabul across three categories of projections. I used two equal area projections, equidistance projections, and conformal projections to investigate changes in reported distance from two points. Distances were relatively similar to one another across most projections (~8,000mi) however, two projections created outlying data points. The Cylinder Equidistance Projection is not only visually more compact that the other projections, it also produced a distance value of 5,056mi. The Mercator Conformal Projection visually skews the area of continents such as Antarctica and values the distance between Washington D.C. and Kabul at 10,000mi.
Potential pitfall of the process would be to use an unfitting geospatial projection of a certain dataset and conversely by misinterpretation of map’s and their methods of projection. Great care must be taken in matching data with their correct projections as the consequences would be far reaching and crippling. Defense and communication networks cannot be constructed or sustained built on misrepresentations of the world in which we live.
On a more positive note, ArcGIS allows us to manipulate and understand data in innovative ways that decrease the amount of error in accurately designing maps. This means that more than ever, individuals are consuming and increasing their geospatial consciousness and finding more ways to map their personal and professional lives. As civil society becomes more and more map literate and dependent, its geographical understanding of the surrounding world will inevitably increase. With collective issues moving to the forefront of our individual, state, and federal lexicon it will be tools such as GIS that will be employed to to navigate the pressing questions of “what to do, and where?” This question would be hard to answer without an accurate and standardized ways compare two points location and therefore distance on the globe.