I am now separating my public scholarship to keep this blog focused on GIS-related topics. I continue blogging critically about the COVID pandemic response at https://clausr2020.substack.com/. My other web and social media sites can be found via https://linktr.ee/clausr.
The preparations for, and start of, the Fall 2021 has brought the corona crisis to a new level of intensity. I have not had time to write any of the many blog posts I have in mind or already drafted. Instead, I want to provide a quick summary and update of recent work.
A number of faculty from across Canada and various disciplines spanning the natural and social sciences and humanities have formed Canadian Academics for Covid Ethics. The group had already published several pertinent letters and op-eds that you can find on the web site.
In addition, I interviewed with Argentinian journalist Agustina Sucri for an extensive article titled “Carta de académicos a los no vacunados“, appeared with Dr. Angela Durante on the Richard Syrett Show – News Talk Sauga 960 AM (September 2, 2021, recording from 1:02), and was profiled by Richard G in Fearless Canada’s Covid Stories and Testimonials.
Last but not least, I joined the Canadian Covid Care Alliance and co-authored a letter-to-the-editor of the Toronto Star with Drs. Steven Pelech and Julie Ponesse, in response to the Star’s disturbing August 26 front page hate messages.
More work is in progress.
For coronaphobics and lockdown believers, the United States serve as the poster child for how not to handle the pandemic. The Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 dashboard (Fig. 1) shows cumulative “case” counts by US counties using proportional circles – a suitable cartographic choice, although the bright red colour on dark background is questionable, as discussed elsewhere. The ten-and-a-half million cumulative cases and nearly a quarter-million deaths as of November 10th, place the US at the top of the COVID-19 world rankings. But are these numbers actually big? And what can we gather from the spatial pattern of cases?Continue reading “The Divided States of Coronamerica: How Big is too Big?”
… or tell some truths through refined cartography
In his seminal book “How to Lie with Maps”, Professor Mark Monmonier illustrates how map makers can intentionally or inadvertently convey falsehoods using misguided data selection and cartographic design options. In an era of widely accessible, easy-to-use online mapping tools, misleading maps are becoming ubiquitous. Maps of COVID-19 statistics, along with associated graphs and data tables, which have become a focus of public attention this year, are no exception. Therefore, I want to take another look at the pitfalls of the popular choropleth map.Continue reading “How to Lie with COVID-19 Maps”
The granularity at which you look at COVID-19 may determine your attitude towards Sars-CoV-2
Scale is one of the most fundamental concepts in Geography. My PhD student just completed her dissertation on “The Consequence of Scale: Process and Policy Implications of Composite Index Modelling Using the Conceptual Framework of GIS-MCDA”, in which she compares biodiversity indices computed at different scales within a city, for example smaller census tracts vs larger social planning neighbourhoods. In Geographic Information Systems (GIS), we usually work with aggregated data, and the scale of aggregation can range from census blocks through postcode areas and neighbourhoods/wards to cities, counties, provinces, and countries. Results of data analytics are known to depend on several aspects of scale, including the observation/measurement scale, at which data are collected; modelling scale, at which data are analyzed; and operational/policy scale(s), at which decisions are made and implemented.Continue reading “Issues of Scale in the Corona Crisis”
It is heartening to hear Ontario’s Premier Doug Ford explain that “we must listen to what the data tells us” about the threat of the novel coronavirus. Commitments from politicians to evidence-based decision-making are refreshing, even though it is well understood that the data (a plural word) do not actually speak to us, unless we ask the right questions of them. In the case of COVID-19, numerous analysts – myself included – have been playing with ways to visualize, interpret, and even predict the curves of confirmed infections, tests conducted, deaths, and cases resolved. Unfortunately, it is becoming increasingly clear that the underlying data are fundamentally flawed and should not be used for public information nor for executive decisions that drastically interfere with our freedoms to live a healthy life, move around, assemble, or conduct business.
number of fatalities
case-fatality rate = ———————————
number of cases
Do not use choropleths for your COVID-19 counts, ever!
In a hilarious contribution to Medium, Dr. Noah Haber et al. issued a call to “Flatten the Curve of Armchair Epidemiology“. They analyze the transmission of “well-intended partial truths” about COVID-19 and caution of hidden “viral reservoirs throughout the internet”. To flatten this curve, they recommend fact-checking before posting and go as far as endorsing social-media distancing measures. As with general COVID-19 tips based on armchair epidemiology, misinformation can also be spread through the numerous COVID-19 maps that are widely circulating through the Web. In this article I want to focus on one particular instance of armchair cartography: wrongly mapping COVID-19 count data using choropleth symbology.Continue reading “The Graduated Colour Map: A Minefield for Armchair Cartographers”
Why studying Applied Geography is more important than ever
Today was going to be Ryerson University’s Open House for prospective students, those already admitted for Fall 2020 as well as those considering a late application to our programs. The event was cancelled as a consequence of the distancing measures taken to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. As undergraduate program director for the BA Honours in Geographic Analysis and past graduate program director for the MSA in Spatial Analysis, I would like to share some thoughts about why it is now particularly important to recruit bright students into Geography programs.Continue reading “Geospatial Analysis for Pandemic Response”