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Mapping Democracy

It’s been more than a week, but I’m still thinking about my trip to the National Bike Summit in Washington, DC.  I was part of a group of advocates that converged upon the Hill to speak for cycling, and in my case, mountain biking.

I attended the event in 2004 and it made a great impact on how I view my government and my rights and responsibilities as a citizen of the United States.

Fast forward to 2012.  With a few years of advocacy under my belt and an exciting new job creating maps for IMBA, I wanted to bring more to NBS this year.  I wanted to add more to the conversation, to try to achieve consensus with cartography.  I wanted mapping democracy.

Let’s face it, like my fellow delegates, I was in our nation’s capitol to ask for things.  Time was going to be short and the message had to be direct, concise and meaningful.  In my world, this was possible through a couple of different avenues, one being a map.

Working with constituents from New Mexico, I was asked to create such as document, speaking to a proposed land protection bill in the Santa Fe area.  It was my opportunity to do exactly what I had envisioned, communicate with a map.  It had to be good.

While there is a whole checklist of items that constitute a good map, a cartographer must always start with the most important thing in mind…the audience.

Who is this map for?  What are you asking them to understand? What is their expertise on the subject?

In this case, the audience was staff from House and Senate officials from the State of New Mexico.  Like everyone else in their position, they deal with a constant stream of issues that affect the constituents they represent.  While they are not experts in every topic brought to their attention, they must gather information and make decisions.

When the meetings finally took place and the conversations developed, I noticed how well the map I created (sorry, it's not available for public viewing) helped communicate exactly what our delegation was asking.  For lack of a better term, we got "right down to business" because the map provided the right information, and presented it in a way that everyone could understand.

Mission accomplished.


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