This iconic composite image of the earth at night of NASA’s Defense Meteorological Satellites Program is the world as we imagine it when the earth is not facing the sun. But this image does not tell the full story of the night’s world, as it suggests that it shows where people are (because there is light). There are actually many people living with little light at night (and perhaps many others wish for some less light, but live in one of the bright spots of this image). Therefore, this image is some kind of fake thing when it comes to the real world at night. The real world at night for the world’s population looks more like the following map, which has been shown on this website before (see here). The reason for showing it again is not only that it has become the header-image of this website, but because the theatre performance What I heard about the World recently incorporated this map in the show’s announcements:
The show does not only show the unusual perspective of the nocturnal planet earth on its advertisements, but was created in a collaboration with the worldmapper project, as this press release from the University of Sheffield explains:
The show, ‘What I Heard About the World’, will be staged at the Crucible Studio Theatre in Sheffield and features three narrators who share stories from various countries around the world, in an attempt to map a new version of the planet onto the stage. The men try to make sense of what they have heard about the world that is outside of the room in which we find them, by creating a large map of stories connected to certain places.
The performance uses the expertise from academics working on the Worldmapper project. […] The performance draws on a key idea from the Worldmapper project by using both geography and mapping to help you see natives of other countries, as `yourself in another place´.
Third Angel collected stories via the internet, conversations, and through work-in-progress performances at Sheffield´s Forge Festival, and the Pazz Performing Arts Festival in Oldenburg to contribute to the final map which is drawn on stage, using post-it notes and little icons to refer to each tale.
Benjamin Hennig, a PhD student in the Department of Geography who contributed to the project, said: “During this project, we have combined art and cartography to present new insights into our world. We´ve found that the two subjects really complement each other and it is the unusual and surprising views of the world that make us think about our planet and challenge our way of seeing the complex realities we´re living in.”
Alex Kelly, Co-Artistic Director at Third Angel, said: “It has been fantastic working with the Worldmapper team. Any map is only properly useful if you understand what it was created for, and similarly to the Worldmapper project, the map we create during the play is drawn through the stories we tell, rather than any physical borderlines of countries. I found the team´s animated morphing maps inspirational really early on in the process, and working with them has really influenced the direction the project has taken, and has led to two distinct pieces of work – the research version in which mapping the whole world is very clear, and this new show, in which we explore the human stories that the research map gave us.”
What I heard about the world is currently on stage at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield (event details here) and will then staged in Portugal. More on Third Angel and this performance can be found on their website at http://www.thirdangel.co.uk/.