Maps seem to be especially prone to misrepresenting people in disadvantaged situations, particularly as we get ever closer to being able to pinpoint individuals’ locations geographically. Vidhya shared with me a map of concentrated poverty in Minnesota (a factor extremely comingled with being a person of color), where individual participants were marked by red dots. When presented to the actual participants living in these areas, they were not stoked. Instead, they felt like they were perceived as a threat, and the little pixels made them look almost like an infestation on an otherwise subtly colored map.
In this Stephanie Evergreen series, she explores some of the missteps that researchers and presenters of data can make when attempting to quantify the human experience. Visual presentation influences how data is perceived and understood. It is very important that we as collectors and presenters of data consider how it may (or may not) come across, particularly to communities involved and represented in the research.
We as auditors and eager life-long learners sometimes tackle complex issues of social significance. The last thing we want is the wrong graphic or stock photo to undermine our findings or the legitimacy of our work. This means approaching the presentation of those findings (in the report or otherwise) with the same care and deliberation with which we approach other aspects of the audit process, and creating an end product that successfully communicates our intended message.