I am attempting to stay apolitical here, but the digital “magic” map walls used by the media are totally inadequate and misrepresent the complexity and distribution of American citizens. How was that for an opening statement? There were plenty of lessons to be learned from last Tuesday’s election, but I woke up Wednesday looking at all the finalized digital maps thinking this country is in need for some geography and geo-spatial technology education.

source: http://www.cnn.com/election/interactive-electoral-college-map/

It was very odd watching the pre-debate news shows on tv; CNN in particular. It was like watching ESPN’s College Game Day with Anderson Cooper and the panel staged outside with political fans holding signs behind them cheering on their favorite team…;I mean candidate. In general, I feel Americans are treated as a dichotomous society incapable of possessing more than two perspectives. However, as the pollsters and prognosticators are figuring out, the American people, and society, are much more complex than a blue and red map would suggest. And that is the point with this introduction: Geography is a perspective…. The geographical perspective provides a broadly applicable interdisciplinary method of observing and analyzing anything distributed across Earth’s space.

Honestly, I believe the news outlets understand this argument. However, it is difficult to tell a complicated narrative in the three to five minute news segment allotted. This is where good maps and geo-spatial technologies come in. Maps can convey an obscene amount of information in seconds. Yes, the pundits are needed to help interpret these data visualizations and critical thinking about reliability of sources and data by the consumers will be a necessity (see the need for geography education?), but it is time to go beyond two color maps and look into the quilt of American society.

Below are some examples of how media is visualizing the election results to the world. There is no way this event is this clear and clean…nothing in life is.

source: google search – “election results”

source: google search – “Pennsylvania election results”

And below is what a little high school geography teacher with some knowledge about geo-spatial technologies can do with free software and open data. Which map teaches up learners and which map(s) limits learning and critical thinking?

Josh Williams – geteach.com (Full Size Image Here: http://geteach.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/PennVote.png)

It really was not that tough to make…granted it took a day, but that is what it takes to clean up data. Below are the data sites and free geo-spatial technologies used to create this more complex tapestry of Pennsylvania. There is more data to pull and visualize, but this was start…a way to figure out my own misconceptions about American identity.

Technologies Used:
Google Earth Pro (Create KML files) – Link
Google’s My Maps (Converts Google Earth Pro KML to a KML file that the Maps API can read…ugly hack, but works) – Link
Qgis (Visualize and Create GIS files used to guide KML styling) – Link
LibreOffice (To clean data) – Link
Notepad++ (Not needed, but used to clean up KML styling: Windows Only / Mac alternative BBEdit) – Link Notepad++ | Link BBEdit

Data Sources:
Pennsylvania Spatial Data Access: http://www.pasda.psu.edu/ (Download County Boundaries – Almost every state has this…Census also has all the state counties https://www.census.gov/cgi-bin/geo/shapefiles/index.php)

Pennsylvania Department of State: http://www.electionreturns.pa.gov/ (Election Data)

KML Files:
If you have Google Earth on your computers you can download the below files from by Google Drive and explore using Google Earth.
If you are on Chromebooks you can import the files using the Google Drive URL into geteach.com and explore. See Video below.

Simple Colors KML (Blue and red based off on county winner): https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B1eALoRda8FTY0t6bDRVRkdOTEE
Complex Color KML (Range from blue to red based off of % of republican votes per county): https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B1eALoRda8FTX1p5UDFkRmpQVkU