Misrepresentation Within Geospatial Data Visualizations: A Closer Look At Environmental Injustices In Los Angeles

Authors: Brandee Lamb*, University of California - Santa Barbara
Topics: Environmental Perception, Geography Education, Geographic Information Science and Systems
Keywords: Science communication, Geography education, Data Visualizations
Session Type: Virtual Poster
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 4:40 PM / 5:55 PM
Room: Virtual 52
Presentation File: Download



Physical and digital data representations, such as maps, graphs, or images, have long been used to present viewers with compelling information about important topics. However, despite the scientific backing of these data forms, misrepresentation continues to invade the field of data informatics and perpetuates injustices for many disadvantaged communities. This is largely due to the developers’ design, whether intentional or not. Environmentally related topics are especially susceptible to the spread of misinformation, which often reinforces patterns of environmental injustice. Some instances of this include the exclusion of certain data layers, discrepancies in titling, or the inopportune release of information. Due to a lack of geospatial literacy and the general acceptance of maps as trusted sources of information, graphics are powerful visuals that have the effect of filtering what people see and understand to be important and can literally shape their perceptions of the physical world around them. This work examines the uses of multiple graphic representation techniques to identify dimensions of misrepresentation and evaluate their implications within selected maps, charts, and data tables. I will examine these areas with a particular focus on the ways that graphics have replicated and reinforced environmental injustice in the city of Los Angeles with the Exide Battery Recycling Plant. Through this examination, viewers will be informed of common discrepancies in data visuals and learn how to critically analyze the accuracy of data being presented to them in order to mobilize public support to address current and future disparities.

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