Tag Archives: thematic

Referendum about school reform – class struggle in Hamburg?

The recent referendum in Hamburg reveals some interesting coherences. Subject was a school reform that aimed at a letting students learn together at the same school till 6th grade. And then split up into two different kinds of secondary schools (Gymnasium and Stadtteilschule). Till now it is common in Germany to seperate the kids after 4th grade. They then go to either Gymnasium (aiming at a higher education entrance qualification) or lower level schools like Realschule or Hauptschule. It is often critized that to some extend a social segregation goes in hand with this educational system. Indeed children from the upper class tend to achieve a university entrance qualification significantly more often than children from the working class. The reform aimed at attenuating this effect. However in Hamburg an obscure parents initiative has formed with the goal to prevent the reform. They don’t lay open who supports them with money of which they have enough to run an effective PR campaign that brought a successful result at the end since the reform was rejected by the voters at the end. This leads to questioning the sense of such a basic democratic referendum when there are opinions and interests that are powerful enough to run a campaing while others are not.

The referendum was meant for the benefit of the lower class whose children might profit from a longer learning together at elementary school. But surprisingly the lower class did not participate much in the referendum. Looking at the maps of the voter turnout and comparing them to a map that reflects the social situation in Hamburg it is striking that the districts with the highest voter turnout are congruent with those with the highest average income. Or, the districts with the lowest voter turnout are the ones with the highest share of inhabitants receiving welfare aid. The amount of schoolchilds living in a district, although they were the main subject of the referendum, did not correlate with the voter turnout.

Some people are talking about a class struggle. One might get to this conclusion considering the circumstances. But one should also not forget that this referendum reveals the absurdity of the German educational system where every federal state can make its own laws. And some federal states are very small (Hamburg for instance is just the city itsself – a city state so to say). Some middle class families might have voted against the reform simply because they would not like to be confronted with a different school system should they move to the suburbs one day.

Voter turnout in % in Hamburg districts

Average income in € per tax payer in Hamburg districts

Share in % of receivers of welfare aid according to SGB II

schoolchildren in Hamburg districts

Hamburg districts; Source: Wikimedia Commons User: TUBS


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Filed under Education, Politics

Are thematic maps objective?

I recently came back from the 58th German Cartographer’s Conference in Berlin. A highlight was a speach given by the French cartographer Philippe Rekacewicz who is working for the United Nations Environment Programme and the French newspaper Monde Diplomatique that is translated in many languages. The title of his speach was “Drawing the world: cartography between science, art and manipulation”. Rekacewicz indeed has returned to drawing the world on paper with pencil for the sake of not being limited by the visualization capabilities that a digital system offers. Using this basic way of visualisation the emotion comes into his work as it is the case in a handmade piece of art. This way the work is of course subjective as Rekacewicz states – it reflects the cartographer’s view on the world or how he would like to visualize it making maps a possible tool for manipulation. However the maps he shows are based on real data making them a part of the scientific domain as well.

Many of Rekacewicz’s work can be found in the Atlas on Globalisation from Monde Diplomatique. Unfortunately it is only available in French and German. Some people critisize it for not being neutral. But being neutral was probably not the intention. As said before a map is just one point of view. We cartographers are would-be emperors we draw borders and move mountains when we desire.

Below is a map from Monde Diplomatique that I find very impressing. It shows the European measures to seal itself off from immigrants. It is probably based on one of the typical pencil sketches by Rekacewicz that I added for comparison. The sketch reflects some of the author’s anger when producing that map. The Schengen-border is drawn as a (bloody) red line including number of deaths through attempts of crossing the border. More on the topic can be found here.


Visions cartographiques - Les blogs du Diplo 2006

I was able to find a video of an earlier speech by Philippe Rekacewicz on the web:

6(0) ways… – Electric Palm Tree from archis on Vimeo.

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Filed under Cartographic principles, Humanitarian

Map Critique – Population of People and Sheep in New Zealand

Having had a look at Indiemapper recently I also browsed their map gallery. On top I found this nice looking map from Ben Sheesley comparing the population densities of people and sheep in New Zealand.

But looking closer I do see some things I don’t like. First of all there is a convention in thematic cartography that for population density maps one uses a color ramp with yellowish to reddish, sometimes brown colors. Darker colors for higher density. I can see these colors in the map here, but why for the sheep density? With the two subjects, people and sheep, one has to introduce a new color of course (blue was chosen here). I would have taken this one for the sheep axis and left the orange colors for the people axis as one is used to. Another thing is, and that is really a bit confusing, the circles in the map. The legend tells me they stand for the sheep/population ratio. Using point based signatures for relative values is a bit unconventional but I don’t want to blame it for that. Sometimes it makes sense to experiment a bit and break conventions. What bothers me more is the fact that the sheep/population ratio is already visualised in the map, namely by the colors, and the circles are just redundant. The orange filled areas already represent a high sheep/population ratio and not surprisingly the big circles appear in the dark orange areas.

What I like is the additional display of the dot density since this is really adding value to the map. A high sheep/population ratio alone does not tell anything about how many sheep or people there are in the respective area (could be just one lonely farmer dude and his 60 sheep). It seems the author wanted to try out different visualisation methods which resulted in a nice looking map, however I recommend always asking whether the applied visualisations make sense.

By the way, if you find something in my maps that seems unlogic, feel free to comment! My cartography is sometimes not perfect either.


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