Culture mapping

Tim Stock and Marie Lena Tupot

Understanding different cultures requires the mapping of layers of information around ethnic identity, affinity and behaviour to reveal new truths, as Wendy's discovered.

In writing his 1996 cartography book How to Lie with Maps, Professor Mark Monmonier wanted to make readers aware that maps, like speeches and paintings, are authored collections of information, subject to distortions arising from ignorance, greed, ideological blindness or malice. "People trust maps, and intriguing maps attract the eye as well as connote authority," he says. "Maps can even make nuclear war appear survivable."

In the ad business, we're not executing incorrect maps intentionally. We're just pumped up on mapping the wrong elements for insight. With all the digital connectivity measuring, a maladaptive chunking occurs, a type of grouping that perpetuates uninspired personas based on lowest common denominators and assumptions. People thriving on the digital landscape are not all the same. They cannot be categorised by their use of technology without context. Yet, we see a data visualisation or infographic and we're seduced into thinking we know where we're going.