A question often asked about Worldmapper is in regard to our choice of colours for the different regions and countries. On the website we briefly explain that the colours used on the maps group the territories into 12 geographical regions, and allow for an easier visual comparison between the maps than would otherwise be possible. The shading of each territory within a region is consistent throughout all of the maps.” But there is a little bit more to the colours which tell a story about the unequal fortunes of the world which follow a general pattern along the major regions.
The colours of the world’s regions are chosen very consciously, and have a deeper sense behind their distribution. We split the world into twelve contiguous geographical regions of population groups, with every region being roughly symmetrically balanced and having at least a population of one hundred million people. This is how the world’s population is distributed:
2012 has been a quite busy year on this website with the number of annual visitors breaking the 100,000 mark for the first time. The analytics tool Piwik which I use for monitoring my website counted precisely 113,359 visits in 2012, up from almost 90,000 the year before. So thanks everyone for visiting either once (as 85,000 people did) or as one of the 16,800 more regular visitors. This asks for a new map that’s showing, where each of the counted visits came from last year: 176 individual countries were counted, as well as a larger number of unknown origins (and of course all those who prefer blocking any analytics tool, they do not appear in any of these statistics). Despite such a large diversity of visits from around the world, the majority comes from places that one may expect, given certain characteristics of this website (language, location, etc.), and also given the accessibility of the internet, which until today remains a very unequal story, even if availability of the online world slowly finds its way to the less privileged places on this planet. But I digress, so here is the map of all visits to viewsoftheworld.net in 2012:
(click for larger version)
‘Arts-Science encounters‘ are much talked about but much less often put into practice (for their supposedly little economic benefit – not least in times of tight science budgets). Science and art are not such opposing worlds as we often see them today, as they were much less divided world in the past. As I wrote in my PhD thesis, “Cartography has always been connecting the worlds of art and science. McLuhan & Powers (1992) underline the importance of cartography by claiming that without the map ‘the world of modern science and technologies would hardly exist’ (McLuhan & Powers 1992, quoted from Thrower 1999: 1). One may not fully agree with this notion, but the importance of cartographic contributions to our understanding of the physical and social environments is hardly questionable.”
More widely, science and art remain closely intertwined. From the view of science, this link is often to be found in the field of scientific visualisation. The exhibition Places & Spaces: Mapping Science for example “is meant to inspire cross-disciplinary discussion on how to best track and communicate human activity and scientific progress on a global scale” (see scimaps.org). And where both worlds actively start to meet, the outcome can be a valuable contribution to a new perspective on research, as well as research can gain inspiring ideas for its own work. As stated in the Guardian, “the results [of such collaborations] can be seismic“.
Less seismic in a literal sense but not less inspiring have been some of the collaborations that originated from the Worldmapper project. Amongst these collaborations that I was involved in were the Story Map: What I Heard About the World by Sheffield-based performing artists Third Angel and the short film Sheffield – A City in Context by (again) Sheffield-based creative agency Human where we as academic geographers learned a lot about the approach artists take to see and explain our world.
A very different example of science and art encounters are the sculptures by Bay Area-based artist Jennifer Brazelton who came across my gridded population cartograms that I created as part of my PhD research and published online in the World Population Atlas. Here is an example of her work showing a sculpture based on the shape and structure of the gridded population cartogram of Syria, a country that made the most recent but also so far most lasting headlines in the events of the still so-called Arab Spring:
(click here for a full-size picture of the sculpture – or here for the population map)
Last weekend I was invited to a workshop on future developments of society. The event took place in Berlin and was organised by the German research institution Fraunhofer-Institut für System- und Innovationsforschung (ISI) as part of the Foresight Process initiated by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). The Foresight Process is described as ‘a strategic instrument (…) that provides technology foresight and the determination of future societal needs in terms of research and development‘. The workshop was a day full of creative buzz to squeeze interesting ideas out of the participants. To kick off the discussion everyone was asked to bring an item that symbolises one’s own work. For my work that had to be something abut maps. But to make it a more interesting item than a flat map I decided to craft a more sophisticated version of my maps that also stands for the challenging world views that lie behind the cartographic techniques that I work on. Cubic globes are not a new idea, but are quite handy when wanting just a little bit more than a simple map. They are much less work than creating a spheric version of the earth, and (as said by Carlos Furuti on his online cube globe collection) the cube is an ideal introduction to folding one’s own pseudoglobes.
My very own version of a cubic globe is the World Population Globe which I took with me to the workshop. It shows my gridded world population cartogram including topographic and bathymetric details and is reprojected onto a six-sided figure with square sides. If you want to create your own world population cube from my map, you can use the following template, print it out and have your hands on with a pair of scissors and a little bit of glue. The key instructions are shown on the printout (make sure to click the image or the links below for a full-size DIN A4 version of the template). Change your views of the world – enjoy the world population cube!
(click here for a full-size jpg image – or here for a pdf version)
What happens if you lock two creative people and three geographers in a pub, pour some statistics about their city over them and let their mind work out the rest? You could find out the result at this year’s Festival of the Mind of the University of Sheffield that went on for 10 days throughout Sheffield. Nick Bax and Daniel Fleetwood of Humanstudio were the two creative minds that teamed up with Carl Lee of Sheffield College and Danny Dorling & myself from the University of Sheffield to take a look at the impact of higher education on the city in a slightly unusual way. The result of this collaboration is the short film ‘A City in Context‘ viewed during the festival and now available online. Continue reading