Mapped Images Provide Understanding

As Edward Tufte argues in Beautiful Evidence, mapped pictures combine “representational images with scales, diagrams, overlays, numbers, words, and images,” (p.13). Mapped pictures are very complex as they have multiple incorporations. It’s for this reason that mapped pictures are much better than just plain pictorial images. For instance, in “Fighting to Live as the Towers Died,” there are both mapped pictures, as well as simple pictorial pictures. On the very first page, there is a picture of the tower, with no added words, numbers, overlays, scales, or diagrams. While this picture does create a nice effect, adding aesthetic emotion, it doesn’t really advance any further than that. However, if you move to page two, there’s a nice outline of the North Tower that provides scales and words (labels) to help the reader associate with the text in the article. Instead of the article just talking about the different departments of the North Tower, there’s a diagram that further enforces the reality of what the article is saying. Furthermore, Tufte argues that an architectural drawing style that has a measurement scale, plain views, and labels shows that the object was “examined carefully” thus adding credibility to the image (p. 22-23). While the mapped images in the New York Times may not need credibility (as it’s the New York Times), the images do meet all of Lufte’s requirements for credibility.

Mapped images help the audience make a further connection with whatever lesson is at hand. As Tufte acclaims, a pile of “loosely related images” add up to a “coherent multiple viewpoint,” (p. 35). This claim is proven true in “Fighting to Live as the Towers Die,”.  There is a timeline of September 11th, with arrows, pictures, words, and labels. Throughout the article there are pictures that display the faces of those that were lost (also with labels). The usage of many different mapped images adds up to show a coherent viewpoint which help aid in seeing and reading the article.

Tufte seems to think that labels should be used differently depending on the genre and context of an image. For instance, on page 42, Tufte claims that the diagram below the historical picture allows for a greater detail then placing the labels on the actual picture. I personally find this type of mapping confusing and I think it requires too much effort. I can barely figure out which shape represents each person, let alone realize that the dog is not labeled. Do you think it would’ve been better to label each person in the picture (using white labels perhaps)? I understand that this type of mapping allows for more details in the labels, but I question this too. For instance, on the next page, the dogs are labeled by name on the picture. Yes, this type of labeling is simplistic, but what if we wanted to put their breeders or some other information? I think we could also put that on the picture, underneath their names, without much hassle. Furthermore, Tufte acclaims that types of measurement should be placed directly on the photograph and that science should use this way of reporting standards (p.43). While I don’t disagree, I wonder if Tufte would agree to put measurements on the historical picture, if it were deemed necessary.

It’s interesting because, before I read Beautiful Evidence, I thought of mapped images just as the words state; an image of a map. During my reading, I thought that mapped images were strictly used in science and nature books, used to show the scales of animals and such. However, now I understand that it can and should be used virtually anywhere as it strengthens the writing it’s placed with.

All of this information helps us understand and evaluate the architecture of writing. Not only is the definition of writing becoming redefined, but the architecture of writing is also being redefined. A clear example of this is when I first started college. I took Composition 1 and 2, where I strived to write great essays and papers. The criterion for this was simple: write with a purpose, audience, and main idea in mind through clear and concise words. As I advanced my degree, it started to become much different. There were still papers and essays, but writing started to involve technology. I created a mashup video, which was basically similar to a persuasive essay. Yet I did this with only clips of videos. It’s still a form of writing, yet the architecture of it was very different from that of an essay. The involvement of mapped images in our writing will also become much more present as the idea of what writing is evolves.

Categories: class activities, diagrams, evidence, images, mapping, pictorial images, technology, tufte | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Post navigation

4 thoughts on “Mapped Images Provide Understanding

  1. It’s interesting that Dr. Wolff had us read the versions of “Fighting to Live as the Towers Died” in the order he chose. In it’s printed newspaper form, I found myself reading the text and stopping occasionally to look at the graphics. The online version, in my opinion, completely blew the paper version out of the water. By having the reporters dub over the graphics of the events at the towers, I understood more fully the images the text tried to convey. The printer friendly version stripped any kind of multimedia or graphics, and, by the time I got to it, I couldn’t imagine trying to absorb the impact of the story with what little it gives me comparatively (solely text). So, my long-winded reply is that the interactivity of the online version offers the best experience of them all because it creates the most vivid picture.

  2. “The mapped images in the New York Times may not need credibility (as it’s the New York Times)”

    Be careful with statements like this, since you need to stop and consider where the New York Times GETS its credibility. As you stated above, “the images do meet all of Lufte’s requirements for credibility.” It’s likely BECAUSE the images meet these requirements that the New York Times has gained the kind of credibility that it has. Their reputation didn’t come into existence out of nowhere. No doubt they’ve spent years and a great deal of effort striving to meet the kind of standards we’re discussing here. By meeting (or exceeding) the kind of standards Tufte describes, an organization or individual can build the reputation of being accurate, knowledgeable, and skilled. That’s exactly the sort of reputation we should all strive for as writers, which is why understanding this information is important.

  3. There are two things I always come back too when I think text and image presentations: context and location. These two are intertwined. Photographs, charts, etc, are build context. But they cannot do that, if like we discussed in class, and like Wayne mentioned, they are separated from the text they are trying to support. Like we discussed re: The Challenger, this becomes a misrepresentation of data. I also agree with Jason, we cannot just accept data as accurate because of a reputation. Rather, the reputation for accurate data must be constantly reaffirmed.

  4. I thought this post had a lot of great points. One statement in particular posits, ‘Mapped pictures are very complex as they have multiple incorporations. It’s for this reason that mapped pictures are much better than just plain pictorial images.’ I agree with this assertion, but to a point; I’d like to add another perspective. In terms of ‘beautiful evidence,’ the sole quality of having ‘multiple incorporations’ does not automatically makes one representation superior as compared to another.
    Rather, it is the composition’s ability, as a whole, to bring a greater clarity of understanding by framing and situating informational connections within the greater body of knowledge. For example, if a composition containing ‘multiple incorporations’ were always inherently better than a simple image/text because it embodied a quality of multimodality, then collages would win every time. Edward Tufte puts it best, ‘the purpose of evidence presentation is to assist thinking.Thus presentations should be constructed so as to assist with the fundamental intellectual tasks in reasoning about evidence: describing data, making multivariate comparisons, understanding causality, integrating a diversity of evidence, and documenting analysis (137).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: