This year’s New Teacher Subject Day organised by the Prince’s Teaching Institute took place at Altrincham Grammar School for Girls near Manchester. For the geography teachers the focus was on the topic of Geopolitics and Borders to which I contributed a talk about ‘The Power of Maps: A Cartographic Journey along the World’s Borders’ (see slides at the end of this page) and also organised a practical session where the participants learned to create their own cartogram. Related to the theme and linking to the content of my talk, this cartogram was an update of the Refugee arrivals map from 2015 using the latest data by UNHCR. The following map shows the number of refugee arrivals by sea in the Mediterranean in the first months of 2016 (as of March, 3):
The map clearly shows how Greece remains the main hotspot for arrivals of refugees in the European Union with all the related political implications that reach beyond the borders of the EU.
The following slides (also available on Slideshare) show this in a broader context as to how borders find their manifestation in maps, but also how they relate to the ‘real-world’ geography. Maps are one key element in creating borders in our minds and cartographic images quite often reflect and sometimes create geopolitics:
For the practical session where the participating teachers created their own version of the above cartogram I used a portable version of the OpenSource software QGIS to edit a shapefile containing the 28 countries of the European Union (download the shapefile here; freely available basemaps for the countries of the world can e.g. be downloaded from GADM or NaturalEarth). As this cartogram is a fairly straight forward one to produce, we used the Java-based ScapeToad for the actual cartogram transformation which builds upon the method developed for creating density-equalising maps by Gastner and Newman.
Technical note: The above map is using a colour scheme developed for the Social Atlas of Europe. Each country shown has a unique colour which allows it to be identified in the differently distorted maps. Furthermore, all countries in these maps are shaded using a rainbow colour scheme, starting with shades of dark red to demarcate the countries with the most recent association with the EU and moving through to a shade of violet for the oldest member states.