Maps, A Distorted Look At Our World

Posted on December 19, 2016 by Liesl Ulrich-Verderber

Have you ever looked at a map of the world and thought, “That doesn’t look quite right…”

Well, you would be right to think that. Today, we a topic we have all interacted with in one way or another, but have probably thought very little about.

Image: Old distorted maps of the world
Source: rosario fiore // flickr

Maps are actually pretty fascinating. They can range from works of art to utilitarian tools, storytelling agents to lifesaving documents. However they choose to render the globe in two dimensions, cartographers inevitably find themselves confronted with a major problem, it’s impossible to accurately represent our spherical earth on a flat piece of paper.

Now, this may seem trivial, but after you take a look at this great video from Vox, you may be thinking a little differently the next time you are confronted with a map of our planet…

Via: Vox 1

Shift your perspectives…

From how we choose to represent the sizes and shapes of countries, to what we choose to make a focal point, maps are, in many ways, a means of framing a particular perspective on the world.

I remember the first time I saw a map of the world with the Pacific Ocean at its center. I’m a little ashamed to admit it but at the time I was in my late teens, and it had neve even occurred to me that a map could be drawn that way. I stared at it, perplexed. Suddenly the proximity of California to Japan and the vastness of the Pacific with all of its tiny islands were there, right in front of me. Europe and Nort America were no longer obvious neighbors.

Seeing the world like this was a strange shift in perspective. I was forced to confront my biases and world views head on, with my home relegated to the fringes of the map. Isn’t it strange how dramatic a perspective shift like that can be?

I tell this story because I think it speaks to something important about biases we forget to acknowledge: our biggest biases are the hardest to recognize.

Maybe thinking about how the earth is represented in two dimensions goes beyond a fun bit of trivia. It is a wonderful example of how perspective can change everything and an important reminder to confront our most ingrained biases every now and again.

Stay beautiful & keep laughing!

-Liesl

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