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Interesting to see how the @nytgraphics has changed their map symbology as the Russian war in #Ukraine️ unfolds. On Feb 26, large red arrows and an almost opaque red color shows Russian advances in Ukraine. Suggesting fast, large and controlled overtaking. 1/5
209 replies and sub-replies as of Mar 23 2022

By march 3rd, the arrows are considerably smaller, and the occupied areas are shown in a more transparent red color. Suggesting more complexity in the reality on the ground. Still, Ukrainian forces appear non-existent on the map. 2/5
By march 7th, the NYT's maps now show for the first time the Ukrainian forces in blue. Russian forces are given a slightly more pink tone. Occupied areas are rendered with more transparency than before, but cities under Russian control are now labeled in red. 3/5
By March 21st, Ukraine's presence in the map is increased by showing all large cities under Ukrainian control in blue. The 'Russian occupied areas' previously shown in red are no longer shown on the map. 4/5
Curious to know from @nytgraphics how much of these changes in visualization are simply due to strong Ukraine forces, or because there is an increased recognition that different cartographies can significantly change how one understands the war? 5/5
Seeing how much NYT hated Ukrainians and prompted hatred ans fake news about Ukraine since 2013... make your choice.
or as more reliable data becomes available
I guess all of this and probably also just "improving maps while doing them". People are constantly learning and improving ;-) There was a debate in dataviz circles how shading entire regions overstates actually limited territorial control.
I remember this discussion when ISIS started gaining ground in the Levant. Led to more nuanced, less generalized symbology.
That last map is a beauty. The only obvious change would be to make Russia brown. My high school history teacher always colored countries/entities she didnt like in brown and it stuck with me.
Fitting. A colour percieved to be nazist/fascist in our country, because of the shirts they wore in WW2. Neonazies are often called "brown".
they do deserve to be associated with brown shirt, even though I believe the original intent of my teacher was scatological.
🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦👍🇵🇱 These maps cannot illustrate the effectiveness of the tactics and strategy of the Russian army. This short film shows it best.
Saving cat
Russian soldier saves cat in Nizhny Novgorod. Year 2001.Я создам для Вас сайт!
lol he did save the cat
Could also be the result of lacking insight in UKR positions at the time, who knows
Narrative control
Like the Russian Army, the NYT didn't put much effort into the thing, because they knew it'd all be over within 24 hours.
Yes. Never underestimate simple neglect of legwork. The media also ignored stuff like this for decades:
Foundations of Geopolitics - Wikipedia
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maybe lack of information & staff working on the crisis in the first days where the surprise/shock was strong and the movement still quick?
The lower contrast over time looks like a bit of an accessibility issue. Is accessibility a big consideration for cartographers more generally, Levi?
Terrific analysis.
Inspiring observation. I am guessing it was the perception that an unstoppable force was about to roll over Ukraine. As time goes on it becomes clear that both sides are bloodying each other and the resistance of Ukraine becomes clearer and the outcome cloudier.
there was a twitter thread a few weeks back complaining to mapmakers that the presence of russian troops doesnt necessarily mean the area is under their control. maybe the mappers read it?
Thank you for so brilliantly illustrating that ALL maps (even the most boring ones) inevitably carry a political message, expressed by what is shown and what is not shown (still worth reading:
The first map looks like an old-school war map. They might have something like this as a reference. The last map looks more balanced
Probably increased recognition by the NYT that Russia was not actually securing its rear and Ukranian forces were operating there in considerable strength. That wasn't clear in early reporting, maybe because the US and Ukraine were not reporting troop locations.
Great question! Thanks for this thread.
Wondering if they’re going to fix the spelling for Odesa. It should only be one s. Two of them are the Russian spelling.
It's like you're watching this clip. Sound on!
they get the GISt
That's very interesting. I appreciate how differences between contested, occupied and controlled can be visually displayed. "Occupied" doesn't necessarily mean "controlled" if the location is still actively being contested. Also showing where power is directional vs. not.
Without seeing other replies my guess is: it's easier to represent the situation when its more static (as it has become now) because you have more time to acquire detail. The longer it takes for movement, the more accurate depictions of that movement will become.
Updates are great. I suspect the initial map relied on US Intelligence forecast that the country could fall in 2-3 days, rather than any reporting they had from the ground. It matters cause that map may have led policy makers to be more reluctant to rush support for Ukraine.
Lord Salisbury: “A great deal of misapprehension arises from the popular use of maps on a small scale.”
Or just criticism of the NYT in how they portray the war.
Design is the presentation of content. An infographic is not necessarily a narrative, but more content means it needs to manage more complex information to better tell the story. When content changes, the design should change. They did a great job. @nytgraphics
The information design coming from the NYTimes (see front page covid charts) is mostly about itself - editorializing for "science" but delivering little information. (Tufte's data points)
Thanks for sharing this. It’s very interesting!
I actually assume the benign story. NYT (like most) assumed Russian operations were *actually* overwhelming vs. actual reality... Ed. Board issues abound at the paper though, so tough to tell
In addition to all your valid points, there's all the factor that more of these things are simply better understood as times go by. Visualizations show not only data points but also how they fit into whatever model of understanding we have. That understanding itself has changed.
Initially fog of war. Then understanding evolves. Today is the first day the map below changed its appearance dramatically. cc @nickfleisher
Maps influences how we understand continents & countries. Subtle propaganda. Long live Ukraine!
has the best maps and the best coverage of the war
Surely it's pretty simple: more information became available? Great work, @nytgraphics, for always thinking about how to improve what you're doing.
if you go back and look at the first map, do you think it accurately conveys uncertainty? that these darkish red areas on the map are just estimated locations of troops?
it doesnt suggest that to me personally. more like "these are areas the russian army controls". maybe that's just me
I don't know what info was available to NYT at the time. Maybe the uncertainty itself wasn't known? In the first day, I don't recall reports of Russian failures. There was certainly no info about Ukrainian force deployment, which is an obvious reason for that design evolution.
I create maps for news sometimes, and there have been times when I've been embarassed by what I produced, in a hurry, during initial coverage.
it's understandable, sure
Same here, and thays exactly what map 1 looks like to me, but it's definitely plausible that lack of information was a factor as well.
Both, I think. Itbothered me from the beginning that the aggressively large red arrows seemed to imply an inevitable/assumed Russian victory. The last map in your 4/5 even seems too confident, given reports of what's happening.
I use garish colours so I know what they are thanks to red-green-brown colourblindness. So I’d be having pink, yellow and blue. 🤷🏻‍♂️
That and they scaled the production learning curve. They were making subway turnstile graphics a month ago.
Their cartographers have also had a chance to consume good war maps. Art influences art. There’s so much going on, smaller lines make it easier to fit it all in.
This entire thread was so interesting! None of this was obvious until you broke down the graphics side by side. I wonder if at the beginning everyone thought it was foregone conclusion that Russia would simply keep advancing?
It seems that in a few days russian troops will almost disappear from the map.
I'm not really a fan of this version of the map. Yellow on white is rarely a good choice for a visualisation due to the lack of contrast. Pink would be clearer and a more suitable choice to represent fighting. Hiding the territory controlled by Russia is also arguably misleading.
There could be a civil war amongst cartographers, the width of lines, chosen colours, opacities, shading & colour gradients are clearly controversial, contested, biased & spun - & can a large block of colour be justified when the Russians only hold a couple of roads in a zone? ;)
I find that @Militarylandnet has more useful evolving and detailed infographics.
Z troops advance to take 2 southern nuclear power stations and land from Moldova to Kharkiv. Chernobyl power station is already occupied. Without cheap electric energy Ukraine won't prevail.
I wonder what data they're using for the "recent fighting" heat map.
That’s a great graphic
good thread. interesting to compare to military atlases on ww2.
The Ukrainian force locations must remain "not shown"
Excelent thread!
How to lie with maps.
Might you share pointers to the data used to generate the maps?
The maps are at this URL, which doesn't seem to be paywalled. Each graphic notes its sources but many of them appear to be closed data sources.
Maps: Tracking the Russian Invasion of Ukraine
Latest map: Russian forces are making advances in the east, but are largely stalled elsewhere.
This map has been evolving too - blue = UA control, red = RU control, other = contested.
Putin's War - The Daily Map Briefing March 22nd. Not much movement on the ground in the past few days, so today I'm sharing a map showing my best approximation of areas under the firm control of Ukrainian forces (blue) and Russian forces (red). See disclaimers below ⬇️
Gee it’s almost like they updated their maps to include more information as more information became available. Shocking!
Not shocking. I agree with Levi that it’s interesting, though.
Gee it's almost as if they fully expected Ukraine to fall so their first map had Russian held areas exaggerated. 🙃
Gee it’s almost as if the data viz geeks are too burnt out from two years trying to wrap their brains around epidemiology to have given much thought to war-mapping. 😉
And I'm sure you knew in advance exactly how the last 4 weeks turned out. Don't need to brag, Mr Illuminati
To be fair most military experts expected that, Ukraine's resistance has been nothing short of miraculous so far
Which is exactly Westerveld’s point? What was the purpose of your argument except flexing how good of an analyst you are and dunking on someone who thinks essentially the same thing you do?
Hate/love smart asses that point out „small details“ like this. 😂
Because Levi is suggesting some suspicious ulterior motive behind NYT changing their maps, when Occam’s razor is they’re just including more data and detail as it becomes available
I dont read that at all…
Curious to know from @nytgraphics how much of these changes in visualization are simply due to strong Ukraine forces, or because there is an increased recognition that different cartographies can significantly change how one understands the war? 5/5
I get, that the idea, was at first, Russia was going to roll through Ukraine. But within the first week, the info war was showing Ukraine was changing expectations, and the momentum has shifted, the maps represent that
Excellent thread, looks like the NYT is capable of doing some things right after all. That last iteration is such an improvement.
I applaud their effort to recognize their initial graphics weren’t wholly adequate and they changed them. This is the first time in 75 years two first-world militaries are at war, so everyone is learning. Some better than others.
Second world militaries, surely? I might just be getting confused by the MiGs and T-72s.
I would say one first world and one second world military. Ukraine has received a lot of training and modern equipment after 2014. Soviet Russia not so much. A few modern missiles don't do the trick
First world/second world isn’t a meaningful concept here. It’s outdated to begin, it’s not descriptive, and it’s not military terminology.
Disagree. The speed and lethality of these militaries versus, for example, Iraq, the Viet Cong, Serbia, or even Egypt, is a wholly different universe. An economic term that colors the quality of the military, if you will.
When did they become first world countries though? The term second world was coined to describe the soviet bloc. It’s not a meaningful descriptor of economic power or development.
I don’t dispute your main point by the way, I’m just being a pedant about problematic language and I’m not interested in getting in a fight over it ✌️
Actually I totally appreciate the respectful correction. It would have been more correct to say the two most advanced militaries to engage in direct hostilities since 1945, etc. Thanks for being a good example of Twitter.
There isn't a 'second world' anymore, everyone's been either promoted to first or demoted to third.
Not sure of your terms. I learned 2d world =nothing to do w soviets. 1world= Europe (that is colonizing/ industrial lands) 2world= n Am +other developed /industrial colonies 3world= non-industrial lands most S hemisphere. Typically describes unstable lands/ banana republics.
1st world nato, 2nd world Soviet, 3rd world unaligned
Surely not, in 1975 terms 🙂
The original meaning was First World = NATO & West; Second World = Soviet Bloc/Warsaw Pact; Third World = Not Aligned with either of the above. The Third World = Undeveloped is backwards etymology, and not the original distinction. But pedantic not to use the colloquial sense.
The fuck? Where in Ukraine you see "west" or "nato" forces?
Yeah so both would be second world as originally stated
First World/Second World/Third World distinction was coined in 1952. Before collapse of USSR. The point of this part of the thread, by @MattFoulger and others, is that it really doesn't apply anymore.
First World - Wikipedia
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First world/second world is old, political economy (not military) term. Which refers to non communist va communist countries, not state of development or military preparedness.
Exactly. I think some people have only heard the term "third world" and only when referring to poor countries so they've made an assumption that it's a grade scale of wealth or power.
Soviet Russia, lmao. Deeply delusional. The reason this war isnt over is because belive it or not, russia is holding back. If it wasnt kiev would have looked like Raqqa after the US bombing or Aleppo after the russian one.
Putin's bombers could devastate Ukraine but he's holding back. Here's why
The Russian leader has to keep destruction and pressure at a very careful, just-bad-enough level to not draw in NATO but push Ukraine to negotiate.
Silly talk. Everyone knows that Russia has this capability. But winning here can't be total annihilation, that would be a loss for Putin in the end. Winning "fair", beating opposing combatant forces, at least somewhat according to laws of war, is the point. And that isn't working
Russian forces are showing clear lack of spirit. And why shouldn't they? After all, they're not fighting for their own land like 80 years ago, just forced to deliver Kremlin's mad visions
Arab Israeli War, 1973? I'd actually throw in NVA v US b/c NVA were appropriately sophisticated for conditions (but US w a superpower)
for the first time I see that somebody called us, Ukrainians, the "first-world"😲
Neither are first world.
(No comment)
Guck' mal, @SKB_Geo, interessante Visualisierungen + Implikationen.
Gutes Beispiel für die wichtige Aufgabe und auch Verantwortung der Kartographie in der aktuellen Zeit.
“All the news that fits our narrative”
The early map would not have been an issue had the Russian advance succeeded and Kyiv taken by the Russians. However, as the attack stalled and opposition mounted, a more detailed depiction of the situation becomes necessary. Readers would have demanded that.
they need to tell Ukrn citizens the truth,so that they plan ahead...this is war...pretending to be in control,Zelensky won't safe each and everyone in Ukrn
Looking forward to this one
I’m looking forward to getting vaporized in nuclear hellfire, too
I like this one too. It puts the emphasis on lines of communication.
Those aren’t just lines of communication, those are supply lines (in theory).
This is not correct. It is rather "all roads Russians been at least once".
True, that’s why I added “in theory”. Funny how cartography can be so misleading at times. So many decisions & assumptions are made, both by the person making the map but also by the people reading it.
Indeed it is. I see this as the best "simple image" map.
Map of the approximate situation in Ukraine as of 00:00 UTC 22/03/22. #UkraineCrisis #UkraineUnderAttack #Breaking #Kyiv #Kharkiv #Odesa #UkraineRussiaWar
LOC is pretty much synonymous with supply line anyways.
Moreover, Russians don’t have enough forces for a tight frontline. Instead they control only roads. That’s why Ukrainians can reach their rear and attack supply convoys. In a traditional 20 century war they would have a front as a continuous line and no one could cross it
That’s why this representation is more accurate. They have kinda control over those territories with aviation and artillery, but they don’t have a frontline.
Nice graphics Looks like oncology which is pretty close to what russia is for Ukraine and for the world
mine too but doesn't hurt to counter check others
Looks like progressive cancer disease.
...but do they control the road behind them, for real?
This is a map of road trips all Ukrainians must take now before it becomes Russia.
Looks like my ex wife's legs
It can be understood in two ways. 1 .alert the world community, exaggerate the situation to get someone to take reckless steps, deepen the crisis. 2 .downplay the significance of progress, give hope to someone not to give up, to display the wrong image in someone's favor.
They should sing up for @PalantirTech $PLTR I bet they have great MAPs :)
They clearly state Transnistria forces are part of the show.
Or they want to call it theirs
Romania should step in and obliterate russian military in Transnistria.
Interesting, indeed! #DataViz is certainly a powerful tool for directing attention.
Lets hope @nytgraphics are right in their mapping❣️ 🇺🇦🙏🇺🇦
My favorite actually is the blurry edges to indicate uncertainty 👀
Yeah I’ve been impressed with how quickly they responded to criticisms and adapted. Well done @nytgraphics @nytimes
Especially since all the gains in the last couple of days have been from Ukrainian counter attacks.
Shouldn't it say "Russia stole the Crimean Peninsula"? "Annexed" is far too positive a word. Are we going to say they're just trying to annex Ukraine too?
90% of crimea citicens are russian. "stole" .. of course.. the people are minions without vote.. the only important is te sacred frontiers of states.
You know Hitler used the whole “we’re just protecting ethic Russians” like to carve up Czechoslovakia and Poland and claim Austria....
Or even ethic Germans? I need some coffee
Are they really? Fascinating. They still lived in Ukraine and the Crimea is Ukranian territory that has been annexed. I know you’ll appreciate the irony of denying the Ukrainians a vote on their sovereignty while complaining about Crimeans, who, incidentally actually had a vote.
Annexed is the correct term here and it’s far from positive. Annexed = “add (territory) to one's own territory by appropriation”. Appropriation is a big word for theft.
Agreed. “Invaded and Illegally Occupied” “Annexed”, while likely technically accurate, sanitizes the crime.
There's a lot of conspiracy theorizing about what these changes mean. They mean that @nytgraphics is doing its job in getting a good map out the door on Day 1, and customizing it to fit evolving circumstances and data. Last map looks great, BTW, very informative.
Yes. Sadly, it’s one of the few times in recent years that the NYTimes has adjusted in response to valid outside commentary. Let’s celebrate it.
Very well laid out. The change in imagery makes such a difference. This would be great for a middle school teacher to use as a lesson in the power of visuals.
Great visual tweet.
Very well done. A little levity goes a long way, especially when the sovereign territory of Ukraine continues to be in its proper colours. Thank you! @ferlain @walterlekh @McFaul @malasqalani @RealCynicalFox
Yes, this is the way to visualize reality. 💪🇺🇦
But it’s not realistic
Haha awesome, that’s my kind of map !
I feel like this important analysis should be in Professor @EdwardTufte 's next book
Good Gaud……ya’d think Maggie Haberman had a hand in that…..
Let loose the fog of war...
Thanks, I would never have noticed this! I assume the newspaper is just trying to create graphics that reflect reality, their understanding of which has been shifting.
Great reflection! Good you took time to investigate and post.
What map does FoZ news use ?
are still duped by #Kremlin propaganda about fake “pro #Russian separatists” who a) don’t exist & b) don’t control shit. 103 yrs ago #Lenin tried duping the world with the fake Galician Socialist Republic, but the Kremlin had a field day with your acceptance of fakes
Russia is killing Ukraine babies, children and women. Russia is brutality eliminating the people of Ukraine. Lead by Putin Russia will subjugate Ukraine. To stop the annihilation of Ukraine the Russian people must pay a cost for following Putin. WWIII.
Really great example of how different visualizations tell different stories!
I haven’t been able to wrap my head around the nytimes map all these weeks. Like, what’s the story there?
#this #is message for the world all govts and society all news BBC news ABC news share this message I cry the world all society freedom of choice
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Nice tweet! Very insightful