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Trustworthy maps

Amy L. Griffin


Maps get used for decision making about the world's most pressing problems (e.g., climate change, refugee crises, biodiversity loss, rising inequality, pandemic disease). Although maps have historically been a trusted source of information, changes in society (e.g., lower levels of trust in decision makers) and in mapmaking technologies and practices (e.g., anyone can now make their own maps) mean that we need to spend some time thinking about how, when, and why people trust maps and mapmaking processes. This is critically important if we want stakeholders to engage constructively with the information we present in maps, because they are unlikely to do so if they do not trust what they see. Here I outline three questions about trust and maps that I think need research attention. First, how can we focus map readers' attention on the trustworthiness of mapped data, especially if trustworthiness changes as in the case of real-time data sources? Second, does presenting uncertainty information on maps affect the level of trust map readers have in the map, and if so, does trust vary depending on how the uncertainty information is presented? Finally, how does virality affect trust? Are viral maps less trusted? The time and resources required to develop a better understanding of how trust in maps might be changing will be repaid. The world needs good information to guide policy- and decision-making. Well designed maps can help stakeholders to work together to solve problems, but only if they are trusted.

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