1. Mapping Vulnerability and Water Contamination in Flint, Michigan

Now it’s Your Turn

In the comments, please ask questions or make suggestions that will help the cartographer improve the map. Key things to think about include:

  • Does the map orient the viewer?
  • Does the data tell a story?
  • Does the map support the story being told?
  • Does the map make assumptions?
  • How could the map be more readable?
  • Are there any errors or typos?
  • sarah dorrance

    I found this map quite informative and enjoyed reading it. I would shorten the texts, removing the smaller words and connect sentences. For example under results and limitations in the first sentence remove the word ‘had’ and say I hypothesized. Under background bold might be nice to highlight the public health emergency. Consider enlarging the font next to the colored maps. I am working from my small laptop, the words appear small and I have difficulty reading them, though they could be larger than they appear to me.

  • Tangnar

    Interesting data, nice maps about a hot topic. I notice that all the color ramps move from lighter to darker with increasing values, except for Average House Value, which is the opposite. Consider flipping it so that it doesn’t confuse. For example, right now it appears as if higher house values coincide with higher pop. on food stamps, because color ramps are opposite.

    Also you could increase the difference in proportional symbol sizes in the community contamination measures so the larger values stand out a little more. And I would change the scale bar to be an even 1 mile instead of 0.9 miles. Looks good!

  • Melissa Brooks

    Hi there, I’d love to see the maps dominate the page layout, perhaps, as suggested, consolidate the introduction etc. focus on the methodology and the results. I have concern about the vague definition of a ‘vulnerable’ population. Also with the map headings titled ‘Black…’ In the methodology section consider being more explicit in the definition of the term vulnerable, then be consistent with the term throughout the maps, the tone of the maps turns very racially subjective when using the term Black over African American or, simply, Vulnerable. I understand there is always background to these topics which is hard to articulate in a small area, perhaps back up the maps with a whole website you could link into the map that will provide a more in-depth background and therefore reduce the % of the page covered by the narrative so the maps can stand up on their own.

  • Bret Betnar

    A nice study, but as another reviewer has said, the text holds too much primacy within the overall composition. One solution would be to edit the text down for this 11×11 version so that the maps can come to the fore. In the Methodologies section, I’d remove the use of “I” from many of these sentences. For example, “The study utilized…” rather than “I used”. The last sentence could be “A variety of joins were performed…”, etc. Interesting study!

  • Kate Brauman

    Overall, is it possible to reduce the text a bit and make it bigger. In the background section, for example, (where there are some factual errors that I’ve commented on below), could this be shortened simply to say that “in March 2013 the City of Flint switched its water source to the Flint river. The new water was not treated for corrosion control and by February of 2015 Flint was found to be in violation of the Safe Drinking Water act due to lead leaching from water pipes” or something similar to that? I think there’s more detail than necessary in all of the text sections. In the results section, for example, jump right to the results, skipping the hypothesis, and explain it referring directly to the maps. Overall, I’d like to see the text refer more directly to the maps.

    Background section –corrosion control isn’t designed to prevent lead buildup in the pipes; the pipes themselves are made of led, and the corrosion control keeps the lead in the pipes from getting into the water. So the background section needs to be re-written a bit.

  • Aly DeGraff Ollivierre

    I agree that I would prefer a larger focus on the maps vs the text! I would also recommend changing the text from 1st to 3rd person. Tangnar had a great catch with the flipped Average House Value, that’s an important fix. Personally, I disagree with Melissa about the term “Black” being racially subjective, I suggest doing a bit more research on this topic yourself and making an educated decision on the appropriate term (or maintaining consistency with the terminology used in your data source). Another tiny comment would be using a serif font for your title, or another font that’s a bit more “fun”. Great job!

  • Too much text. Make it about the maps!

  • AD

    In addition to the other comments about reducing the amount of text, it would be also helpful to have a short summary/overview to draw the reader in … sort of like a really really short ‘abstract’, since the map as initially laid out now is structured sort of like an academic paper in terms of the section organization.
    That way, at least the reader could quickly get an idea of whether they wanted to dive into a more careful reading of the text and examination of the maps.
    Perhaps associated with the summary could be a summary map, and the other variables need not all have their own maps, some maps could be included simply as examples. Some difficult choices likely need to be made about what to cut.
    It’s such an important topic that it’d be better to draw readers in with the absolutely most important points, and then maybe point to other work or info if for further follow up.

  • stephanie b

    Great topic! I’m going to be a broken record–too much text. While i appreciate seeing all of the data on the multiple maps, they’re so small that they’re difficult to analyze, and there are so many that it’s difficult to focus my eyes. The wonderful thing about a map is it can show patterns and create a narrative so much better than text ever can. Sometimes taking disparate datasets and beginning to overlay them can help reveal a story. Since so much of the data is showing aspects of what makes a vulnerable population, I’d be interested in seeing the population on food stamps, unemployment rates, and population density combined. That could potentially be through showing all of the data separately but concurrently–the population density could be shown as dissolved outlines (maybe only showing thresholds of 50% and up), population on food stamps as graduated symbols, and unemployment rates as a base choropleth. I realize your findings didn’t find a strong correlation, but I’d be curious to see how this might look. There could still be room for a few maps showing pipes, vulnerable populations, with plenty of room for a few succinct text boxes. Some data could also be shown as charts.

    For the maps themselves, I don’t think the scalebars and north arrows are necessary–they don’t really add context since there is no background data. It would be helpful to add a locator map indicating where in Michigan Flint is, and where Michigan is within the US.

    As a side note, it’s interesting that there is a low rate of unemployment and a high rate of food stamp usage in the tract bordering the empty area which appear to have a concentration of lead pipes (is that a census tract with no data? It might be good to make sure that’s clear). It looks like the population there is mostly non-black. So the black population that lives there does have a higher rate of employment? Is there a breakdown of foodstamp usage by ethnicity–I would assume the non-black population is driving that number up? I wonder if the focus was shifted to all races, and still took a look at income, unemployment, education, food stamps, etc, what it might show.