Presented by Sarah Battersby

Senior Research Scientist at Tableau Software

UPDATED: A PDF of the presentation is available for download

We live in a data rich world and many of the data that we encounter have a geographic link, such as a point coordinate, an address, a state, or country name.  Maps are a key part of understanding geographically linked data and utilizing it in decision making.  In designing maps, virtually anyone with a computer and an internet connection can be a cartographer – regardless of knowledge of principles of spatial data or visual and cartographic communication best practices.  The good news about this democratization of cartography is that everyone is empowered to explore their own data with maps.  The bad news is that anyone can make a map.  While many map authoring tools help guide the design, it is still easy to unintentionally (or occasionally intentionally) mislead readers.  The variant of the truth that we find in maps is largely driven by choices that the cartographer makes in the data collection, cleaning, analysis, and visualization process.  In this presentation I consider issues of how the map designer and reader perceive mapped data and where “noise” can creep into the communication to distort the intended message.

Through the presentation, we will explore a number of data and visualization challenges that citizen (and professional) cartographers wrestle with every day.  Fortunately some of the big challenges in cartography have solutions – if you know where to look.  Unfortunately, some also fall in the damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t category – but you had better have the critical understanding skills needed to consider the implications either way.  No map is perfect, but some are much better than others.  In this talk we will look at good and bad examples, the problems and solutions, and discuss about pathways to success and enlightenment through better mapping.  Or, at least we can just try to learn to stop worrying and love maps.

The presentation will be colored with a psycho-geographic perspective garnered from way too many years teaching cartography and GIS fundamentals to unsuspecting college youths, and my more recent years at a software company designing a product to help people make better decisions without requiring years of cartographic study.


Sarah Battersby is a research scientist at Tableau Software. Her primary area of focus is cartography, with an emphasis on cognition. Her work emphasizes how we can help people visualize and use spatial information more effectively. Her research has covered a variety of areas, including perception in dynamic map displays, geospatial technologies and spatial thinking abilities, and the impact of map projection on spatial cognition. She works closely with the maps development team.

Sarah earned her PhD in Geography in 2006 from the University of California at Santa Barbara. She is a member of the International Cartographic Association Commission on Map Projections, and is a Past President (2015 – 2016) of the Cartography and Geographic Information Society – a society composed of educators, researchers and practitioners involved in the design, creation, use and dissemination of geographic information.

Sarah is a member of the National Geospatial Advisory Committee, a Federal Advisory Committee sponsored by the Department of the Interior under the Federal Advisory Committee Act.


September 21, 2017 (Chapter meetings held on third Thursday of the month)


8:30 – 9:00 am – Sign In
9:00 – 10:15 am – Presentation
10:15 – 10:30 am – Break, Chapter Announcements
10:30 – 11:30 am – Presentation continued

Standard Insurance Tower (900 SW 5th, please note Standard Ins. has multiple downtown locations)

We meet in the Atrium Room at the top of lobby escalators


Free for members (including ALL employees of corporate members)
$15 for non-members
$5 for students with valid student ID