Communal/Domestic Systems: Map Critique and Counter-mapping Exercise

Map Critique and Counter-mapping Exercise

1. What’s this map about? What’s its topic?

This map depicts the subway system of New York City and its surrounding boroughs.

2. What’s on the map? Visual description (colors, shapes, layout, text) + Codes/Legend

The map shows all the subway lines available; they’re all assigned to a different color. Each stop is labeled and shows which trains are available at that specific stop. There is a legend on the top right corner of the map that explains all the different symbols presented on the map. For example, some symbols show which subways are handicap accessible, where you can transfer to a different subway, where you can commute to an airport, or where a police station is present.

3. When was this map created?

Early editions of the map were first made in 1904 and as the subway kept expanding, the map was constantly being updated. Even today, there are changes being made to the map. For example, the W line was recently added back into the system in November after being removed in 2010.

4. Who made this map? What individual or entity, or collaborative partnership, created the map? What might their agenda have been?

There were many people and companies who contributed to the creation of the subway map, especially because it’s been updated since the 1900’s. The responsibility of the map changed in between a few companies before getting to where it is now. For example, in 1940, the map was handled by the Board of Transportation and in 1953, the New York City Transit Authority took over. The main people in charge of it right now would be the MTA, but a few people who made major changes are Massimo Vignelli in 1972 and John Tauranac in 1978. Their main agenda was to create a system which was easy to navigate and that caters to all neighborhoods in all the five boroughs of New York.

5. Who is/are the map’s audience(s)? Who is the map intended to reach? If it’s meant to appeal to multiple audiences, does the map operate at different levels, to appeal distinctively to each of its audiences? How might these audiences be most likely to encounter and engage with the map? Would they find the map intelligible and easily navigable?

There are several different groups of people that this map caters to: the work force, students, tourists, etc. People of the work force wouldn’t necessarily use the map often because they take the same route everyday, so it could be useful to someone who starts a new job. Student would use this as a tool to get to school. Especially, if they’re young and new to the system, the map would come in handy as a kind of reassurance that they’re going the right way. The map is an essential tool for tourists because it’s the biggest and most informative resource they have. In my opinion, the map is easy to navigate after one gets used to it. It may take a few days to understand directions and technical things like transfers, but overall, it’s pretty understandable.

6. How was the map made? What dataset was used to generate this map? Is it reliable? How was such data translated into visuals?

The map took a lot of planning. The teams had to see which areas were more popular than others. For example, many trains go to Times Square compared to a random stop in the Bronx. The datasets used were probably were based on population, neighborhoods, etc. It’s pretty reliable because it’s always kept up to date and there are so many ways you can get the map such as apps, websites, or at any station.

7. What editorial choices informed how that content was presented? Legibility/Bias: Was there any information ignored or shut-down? Was there any information prioritized? What motivated such decisions? 

There were definitely many edits made to the map. Stations were added and taken away based off of population. If there weren’t any people taking a specific train, it probably would’ve been removed from the system because it wouldn’t be used enough. More popular stations are definitely more prioritized such as Times Square, Union Square, Penn Station rather than smaller stations like 18th st and 7th ave or 72nd st and Broadway.

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