New Map Category – Governance & Politics
Governance is fundamental to any society so this is the first category of ‘Scottish building blocks’ we are knowledge mapping. It should be a good proving ground for the whole ScotlandTheMap project as there’s certainly no shortage of online public domain knowledge resources about all the elected representatives, accountable individuals, parliaments, councils, authorities, institutions, agencies & partnerships (and their associated administrative & electoral geographies) involved in governing Scotland.
However it’s the usual story – some are better documented than others, some are differently documented at the local level, all the official knowledge resources about them are not conveniently gathered in the one place online, they usually don’t cross-reference each other, or may even not exactly match when they do overlap. Not all of them are linkable to at the level you want to look at (such is modern web architecture). Sometimes the best (or only) linkable knowledge resource is a Wikipedia article (or sub-section therein), which is also often the only source of historical knowledge. And some aren’t documented at all, beyond a row in an official spreadsheet, a polygon on a map, or a wikipedia stub article (if you’re lucky).
In short just ripe for visually & virtually connecting with knowledge maps 🙂
What 'Governance & Politics Building Blocks' Will We Map?
The following Scottish politics and governance building blocks seem to be a good starting point to map, along with all the definitive / official / plain old useful 🙂 knowledge resources about them that we can find in the online public domain.
The more of these resources that we can visually & virtually connect together in our maps, the more they will be discovered and used, and the easier it will be for all the stakeholders to “sing from the same hymn sheet” 🙂 going forward. It’s also the case that more interested people using these resources means ‘more eyes on’, means potentially better indentification of errors, duplication, and knowledge gaps, which benefits everybody.
Government, Parliaments, Local Authorities, Institutions, Agencies & Partnerships
There is no shortage of parliaments, local authorities, committees, boards, government ministries, departments, non-departmental public bodies, public institutions and agencies in Scotland.
Traditionally these are viewed along elected government / civil service, national / loacal lines, which would make for nice, clean categorisation. However increasingly bodies have to work together in various combinations as part of formally mandated partnership arrangements such as Community Planning Partnerships, Community Justice Partnerships, Community Health & Social Care Partnerships etc.
In our opinion the only way to keep track of who they all are, what they are all doing and how they are connected, and still retain sanity, is through the common, visual framework provided by knowledge mapping.
Administrative & Service Delivery Areas / Sub-Areas
As citizens, where we live determines which public bodies we have to interact with to use particular public services.
Public bodies usually sub-divide their mandated geographic area of responsibility into regions and ‘team patches’ for the purposes of strategic planning, operational planning and service delivery.
Government needs to uniquely identify all official ‘geographies’ so that boundaries are strictly defined & maintained, as well as geo-demographic statistics compiled so that ‘like for like’ progress & performance can be measured and reported on over time.
Visual knowledge mapping is the only technique that allows all these different ‘administrative geographies’ of Scotland – and the knowledge resources about them including maps – to be accomodated in the one document, even in the absence of ‘grid references, points, lines and polygons’.
Electoral Areas - Parliamentary Constituencies & Council Wards
Electoral areas are key to governance as they are the means by which the nation is necessarily sub-divided into communities of roughly equal population, which in turn elect local citizen representatives (‘politicians’).
However as well as their political purpose, the geographies of Scotland’s 32 Local Councils Areas and their 254 Electoral wards are the basis (in varying combinations) for the strategic planning, organisation and delivery of most public services, even those provided by ‘national government’. For example regional National Health Service (NHS) Boards work with Local Councils in their ‘patch’ in Community Health & Social Care Partnerships (CHSCP’s) delivering services to defined ‘Localities’.
Elected Representatives, Elections & Political Control
Politics and governance are 2 sides of the same coin. From the ranks of the elected local citizen representatives (‘politicians’), accountable individuals are appointed to national and local government cabinets and boards to oversee the running of public bodies and the delivery of services.
What the plan is, who is allowed to do what, and the resources available to deliver it, need to be documented but can of course change overnight after an election.
Again keeping track of all those electoral areas, who represents them, who fought an election to represent them, and the current ‘state of play’ within them, is only possible using the common visual framework our knowledge maps provide if sanity is to be preserved.
Governance & Politics Sub-Categories & Tags
The most obvious way to sub-categorise the building blocks of the ‘Governance & Politics’ of Scotland is the relative geographic level at which they operate – national, local & community, though the international influences can’t be ignored either (don’t mention the ‘B’ word though…) – so that’s where we’ll start. However these sub-categories are still quite broad so will have to be complemented with tags that will make for more nuanced browsing.
National Governance & Politics
As one of the ‘home nations’ of the United Kingdom, Scotland has 2 national governments –
- the UK Government in London headed by the UK Prime Minister and overseen by 650 MP’s (59 from Scotland) in the UK Parliament at Westminster.
- the devolved Scottish Government in Edinburgh headed by the Scottish First Minister and overseen by the 129 MSPs of the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood.
Thus maps in our ‘national governance & politics’ sub-category may be associated with either of these systems.
Local Governance & Politics
The 32 Local Councils & their associated geographies are key to the delivery of many day-to-day aspects of governance & public services in Scotland. They are overseen by 1,227 Local Councillors elected across the 354 multi-member electoral wards. As well as Council cabinets and committees delivering & overseeing Council services, they sit on the boards of other authorities – police, fire & rescue, national parks – and community partnerships.
However ‘local’ is a bit of a misnomer as Scotland has the least ‘local’ local councils in Europe. The largest – Highland Council – is 25,683 sq km in size and has just 74 elected local councillors to oversee all of it (for comparison the whole country of Belgium is 30,689 sq km).*
It’s a complex, interconnected web covering potentially very large geograpic areas and a huge number of organisations involved with local partnerships, so the maps in the ‘local governance & politics’ sub-category will need to encompass more than just “yer local cooncil”!
* Check out these and other ‘fun facts’ included in all our map posts 😉
Community Governance & Politics
However even for those that do operate, the term ‘governance’ is a misnomer as community councils are essentially statutory consultation groups run by local volunteers, with few powers and very limited funding from their Local Councils.
In reality they are just one of a whole web of voluntary groups and charities that not only keep our local communities going, but also provide us with the opportunity to take local action to help and improve them as well as take action on global issues. All of which help us to maintain and improve our own physical and mental health & well-being in the process.
It’s a complex, patchwork so the maps in the ‘community governance & politics’ sub-category will need to encompass more than just “yer local community cooncil”!
International Governance & Politics
From United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to European Union Common Agricultural Policy farm subsidies, the international influences on the governance of Scotland are undeniable. However it is the United Kingdom as a whole that is the player on the international stage, with the devolution setup determining how these ‘filter down’.
Although sytematic mapping of ‘domestic building blocks’ is our main focus of ScotlandtheMap for the moment, we anticipate adding maps to our ‘international governance’ sub-category as we go forward.
Benefits Of Mapping Category
As we said at the start there’s certainly no shortage of online public domain knowledge resources about the governance and politics Scotland. As with all our maps the fundamental benefit is virtually connecting all the official / difinitive / plain old useful knowledge resources that are scattered across the web by visually connecting them in the map. Here are some more…
Visually Structured, Definitive Lists (ie. Registers) Of Governance Bodies, Areas & Individuals
In compiling our maps of knowledge resources about the building blocks of the nation we are also creating visually structured, definitive lists of said building blocks ie. ‘registers’ in data speak.
There are several problems with the existing official registers that we use to help create our knowledge maps. Often they are in less user friendly formats eg. spreadsheets, which is usually the case with those produced by national government statistics departments.
Locally produced registers (eg. of all councillors in a local council) are usually in the more accessible form of a list of navigation links to webpages on organisation websites. However the breadth of information provided, how it is structured, and the overall user friendliness do vary considerably between organisations.
Also there is usually not a single national register of all the local registers for many important blocks. So for example we will be creating ‘national local register’ knowledge maps of all 354 local council electoral wards, all 1,227 local councillors and all 1,369 community councils as early mission goals.
The other advantage of course is that our register maps incorporate the links to all the definitive / official / plain old useful knowledge resources about the entity, not just the register entry itself.
Quickly & Easily Re-used To Create A Common Framework For Other Maps
The other advantage of our registriy maps is that they can be quickly and easily re-purposed as visual frameworks for other maps. For example our register map of all local council wards uses the register map of all local councils as the base framework. Likewise the register map of all local councillors uses the register map of all wards as it’s base framework. etc etc.
When re-used in other maps the registry branches retain all the embedded knowledge and attached links to knowledge resources (including the official registers) so there is no “loss of knowledge transmission”.
Visually Connecting Entities With Their Official Codes
Even those who are not ‘data geeks’ like us can appreciate the need to uniquely and unambiguously identify each national building block, and the perils of relying on text based names alone for this purpose.
Many things can can lead to variations in exact spellings – apostrophes (or is it apostrophe’s?), abreviations (eg. is it St Andrews, St. Andrews or Saint Andrews?), prefixes & suffixes (eg. is it Edinburgh Council, City of Edinburgh Council or Edinburgh City Council) and the definitive article (eg. The City of Edinburgh Council).
Computerised data systems need clarity, and that means unique identifier codes. These can be part of a wider system, or more local one. For example in Scotland Local Council Areas have a unique code as part of the international standard ISO3166 Codes for the representation of names of countries and their subdivisions – Part 2: Country subdivision code. Along with all the other adminsitrative & electoral divisions of Scotland they also have an Office of National Statistics (ONS) code.
However it is often the case that though present in the official register sources, the ID code isn’t quoted in other knowledge resources about the entity, especially straightforward webpages.
By embedding the codes as part of the knowledge seed branch of the entity in our map, we can maximise the cross- reference ability with other knowledge resources for the benefit of other information professionals.
Registers As Index Marker Tag Groups Enable Intelligent Tagging & Filtering Of Maps
Within MindManager ,the software we use to create our maps, registry map branches can also be used to generate groups of index marker tags, complete with ID codes as well as names. These can be used to tag branches on the map, or indeed any other map.
Index marker tags in maps are used in the same ways as in any other data presentation scenario. The labels on the content are another ‘visual channel’ of information for the user. They can also be used to filter the map content. All the map branches that do not have the selected attribute label will be hidden from view.
When the marker tags are geographic in nature such as administrative / electoral areas, this operation becomes ‘geo-tagging’ and ‘geo-filtering’ on ‘look-up geography’ – basic spatial querying of where something is located in terms of other things.
Challenges Of Mapping Category
So you can see the more localised we go, the more ‘governance & politics’ entities there will be to map – 2 national governments with 59 MPs & 129 MSPs (elected members) respectively, 32 local councils with 1,227 local councillors representing 354 electoral wards, 1,369 community councils… – you see how the numbers go. Thus it will take longer to map at community level, as well as being a challenge to squeeze everything in to single ‘national community’ maps. Still that’s all part of the ScotlandTheMap mission so all we can do is start at the top and work our way down the levels. Connect with us to keep informed about our Scottish Governance & Politics knowledge maps as they are published, and give us your feedback & suggestions in the map post comments…
Thus it will take longer to map at community level, as well as being a challenge to squeeze everything in to single ‘national community’ maps. Still that’s all part of the ScotlandTheMap mission so all we can do is start at the top and work our way down the levels.
As you can see from above, the more localised we go, the more ‘governance & politics’ entities there will be to map – 2 national governments with 59 MPs & 129 MSPs (elected members) respectively, 32 local councils with 1,227 local councillors representing 354 electoral wards, 1,369 community councils (each with maybe a dozen or so community councillors?) – you see how the numbers go.
As one of the main purposes of ScotlandtheMap is to produce ‘national local’ knowledge maps – where every entity of a particular type in Scotland is included in the one map – it will become more of a challenge to add branches to the map. It’s no surprise that more branches = bigger file size, but also a greater amount of local device memory to handle them.
It is also the case that the more building blocks there are are in the real world, the more knowledge seed points we will need to create in the map, and the more knowledge resources we will have to hunt down and link to ie. the longer it wil take to create ‘basemap frameworks’.
All we can do is start at the top and work our way down the levels until we run out of time, computer memory, patience or sanity, or all 4!
For every real world building block knowledge seed branch we create in a map, we need to add collections of additional sub-branches with single hyperlinks to knowledge resources about them. For example we know of at least a dozen general, geographic and electoral knowledge resources about local council electoral wards that we want to include in maps involving them.
Again all we can do is keep adding links to resources as we find them, however the feasibility of adding link branches to a new knowledge resource will depend on the number of knowledge seed branches we are adding them to. For example for Scottish MPs it will only be 59 link branches per knowledge resource, whilst for local councillors it will be 1,227 branches! Steady as she goes…
Note however that MindManager’s ability to attach multiple hyperlinks to a single branch means that lots of knowledge resource links can still be added to seed branches without increasing the branch count. Also such attached knowledge links have the advantage of being retained even when the map is re-purposed, which would usually involve removing all unnecessary sub-branches to make way for new ones about the new focus of the map. Indeed it is this feature – along with the ‘big map ‘ and HTML publishing capabilities – that makes the entire ScotlandtheMap project possible.
So one of the major advantages of knowledge maps is working visually, but there are 2 different components that make them visual…
- the interconnected structure of the map branches themslves
- ‘visual’ features embedded in each branch, which can be images but also data features like spreadsheet tables & charts
When we do include images, they are..
- actively contributing to the map as a knowledge base; and/or
- helping to make the branch in which they are embedded visually unique.
So for example including organisation / project logos makes for more instant connection in the mind of the viewer than just reading the name as text, and makes it easier to visually navigate around the map.
The image of an associated geographic map (eg. a thumbnail location map) can also make a branch visually unique. Note however images embedded in branches are usually only 10’s of pixels by 10’s of pixels in dimension, and maps all start to look the same when the image resolution is reduced.
If the map involves people, such as MPs, MSPs or local councillors, official portrait pictures will make branches visually unique and aid user navigation. However if the starting point is 1,227 local councillors, can we even insert that many images into a map before it either falls over completely, or increases the file size of the map to such an extent that it becomes unusable?
Note it is standard practice to optimisie all images before using them in our maps, but there’s no point in reducing the resolution to reduce the file size if the person is unrecognisable from their picture. We’ll have to find a balance somewhere.
There’s no point in spending all that time and effort capturing the real world in a map, if the real world changes the day after.
For some things there will be natural cycles of change eg. the 5 year election cycles for local and national politicians. And yes there will be some localised unexpected changes due to resignations, ill health and even death, causing by-elections (and let’s not get started on the so called 5 year fixed term UK parliament), but by their nature they do not happen that often. For example the last UK Parliament by-election in Scotland was in 2011. And when they do happen there are protocols and procedures that flag up that changes are going to happen, and record what they were once they have occurred.
Likewise the underlying geographic units, the constituencies and wards do change but even less often, and with even greater advance notice.
Hopefully when it comes to the ‘national building blocks’ that are the subjects of our maps, the flux will not be that great. If it is they can’t really be built upon can they?
The URLs of the online knowledge resources about the building blocks that we link to in the maps is a different matter though.
How stable these are over time will depend on how often and to what extent their creators ‘bugger about’ with them after they have published them online and therefore break the link in our map.
Again the hope is that as national building blocks at least the official knowledge resources will have some stability about them, but time will tell.
On the plus side even if a hyperlink no longer works, the branch text or link title describing it will still be there and can be used to search for the new online location of the resource.
However there are a couple of issues with this…
- given the file size of some of our maps, will this affect page load times to the extent that users will give up before they even get started?
- the size of the viewing window is fixed so will it be like trying to view a picture through a letterbox? (That’s why the ‘view HTML5 map fullscreen is always there so it can be viewed standalone on it’s own webpage).
Again we’ll just have to see how far we can push it.
Maps In Category
The latest maps created in the ‘Governance & Politics’ category will be listed below. Connect with us to keep informed about all ScotlandtheMap maps as they are published, and give us your feedback & suggestions in the map post comments…