Shaping the Arab World

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 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:

Sculpture and Gridded Population Cartogram of Syria
(click here for a full-size picture of the sculptureor here for the population map)

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Shared rain

This April has been the wettest April on record in the UK, while parts of the country are also in official drought – leading to headlines of the wettest drought on record.
The miserable weather was (is) a good opportunity to finally produce a high-resolution version of the map series that I created during my PhD research and which I presented at last year’s conference of the Society of Cartographers in Plymouth. Continue reading

What I heard about the world

The Earth at Night as seen by NASAThis 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 Earth at Night shown on a World Population Cartogram(click for large image)
See here for an updated and more detailed version of this map

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Serpentine Gallery Map Marathon

This map is part of this weekend’s Map Marathon at the Royal Geographical Society in London. It is an event of Serpentine Gallery and was conceived by curator Hans Ulrich Obrist (here an interview with him talking about the event) . This is a quote from the official announcement:

The Serpentine Gallery Map Marathon will bring together an unprecedented group from diverse fields to showcase possible maps for the coming decade. The Map Marathon will explore all forms of mapping, of data, space and time, multiple dimensions, language and the body. The event will uncover the influence and possibilities of mapping in our world today.

A similar version of this map has already been shown in some of my presentations (and those of the Sasi Research Group), and it is also a contribution for the forthcoming “Maps for the 21st Century” book to be published in 2011:

World Population Cartogram with a topographic map view
(click for larger view)

And this is part of the caption that goes along with the map: The new world map creates an unprecedented view on the world’s population which allows new perspectives for mapping the social dimension of our planet. The projection creates space in areas that matter most in a human world. Mapping the physical terrain onto this map reveals at which elevation most people live on earth. Most people living at high elevations live in East and South Africa, whereas in East Asia the densely populated coastal plains become apparent.
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