Monday, 12 June 2017


All maps are political. Right now, there's only one political map that counts for UK citizens, and after Thursday, that map looks something like this:
Map courtesy Guardian UK

The map above was created by the Guardian and typifies that newspaper's high standards of graphical communication. At a glance, and following a brief explanation of the UK political system, the uninitiated are able to assess the political geography of the United Kingdom. The blue team are stronger in the South and rural areas; the red team in the North, Wales and metropolitan areas. Both teams are struggling to make in roads in Scotland, where the yellows hold sway... and Northern Ireland does its own thing.

Such was the case when one of my Vietnamese colleagues took an interest in the colourful map upon my screen, making those precise observations above. What the map does not display is how it has changed. The story of this most recent election is not told in one image, it is a series of images, a series of maps of as many elections as one would wish. 

So whilst there is so much to talk about- the decimation of moderate parties in Northern Ireland; the declining fortunes of capital "L" Liberalism; the growth of regional nationalism- this is not really the place for such things, but an opportunity to reflect on the limitations of the map. 

No graphic is capable of displaying data equivocally. The politics is in the selection of which data to display. But beyond that, maps are limited by the constraints of their dimensions. A 2D image may be able to display 3D data, but that fourth dimension is trickier to pin down.  Thus maps show us only a snapshot of history, a moment frozen in time, devoid of any context apart from geography. 

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