Art meets Science: Views of 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 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:

Syria
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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World Population Cube

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!

World Population Cube Cutout template
(click here for a full-size jpg imageor here for a pdf version)

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The Population of the European Union

Europe appears to be far from being a perfect union these days, with many countries suffering severely from high debt levels as a lasting legacy of the financial crisis that brought the slowly shifting economic equalisation between East and West to a halt. In a symbolic move the Nobel Committee made the decision to award the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union. It reflects a plea for European Unity which is seen as a great achievement for a continent where countries had repeatedly been at war for centuries. The Committee argues that the EU “for over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe“. The European Union is a project to unite the population of the continent peacefully in all its diversity, a population which is shown in the following map. The map displays a gridded population cartogram of the EU27 member states without any borders drawn onto it. The map is as a reminder that here we really are all in this together regardless the place we live on the continent (and the islands surrounding it), instead of all against each other:

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Global Publishing Markets

From 10 to 14 October book lovers and publishers look to Frankfurt where the annual Frankfurt Book Fair takes place. However nostalgic one may see books, they are as much a commodity as any other traded good, and publishers – however committed to their business – look for a good business deal and reasonable revenues when agreeing to a new book project. On Worldmapper we looked at the number of books published in 1999. At request and with the help of the International Publishers Association (IPA) we have now updated this map using the most recent data that we could get. The following map takes a slightly different methodological approach and therefore displays not the total number of books, but represents domestic publishing markets by market value at consumer prices: Continue reading

2012 Paralympic and Olympic Medal maps

No more bread and circuses: London 2012 has turned into history while the Paralympic cauldron has been extinguished in a ‘Festival of Flame’. Just about time for a final roundup of the statistics of the games and the last maps that were still missing.
In the United Kingdom the spirit of the Olympics lived on in the Paralympics as created a similar media coverage (which has less been the case in many other countries). A lot of the public debate in Britain in the final debate of the Paralympics focussed on an increased relevance of the games – and that the results have started getting an equal importance as the Olympic medal counts. As already noticed at the Vancouver winter games, a comparison of the results showed some interesting differences in the achievements of the participating nations. This is shown in the following map animation of two cartograms showing each country’s share in the total medal counts (switching between the Paralympics and the Olympics 2012):

Cartogram / Map animation of the medal counts at the 2012 London Paralympic and Olympics Games in comparison
(click for larger version)

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Medals vs Athletes

Almost everything has been said and shown about the Olympics by now – not just in the maps on this website, but virtually everywhere. The Guardian did extensive juggling of Olympic data resulting in alternative ways of looking at medal counts, and so did many others (such as the excellent graphics team of the New York Times). One last thing from here though…
What was quite interesting to see while working out the statistics for the cartograms featured on this website was the perhaps obvious correlation between the size of a national team and the number of medals that it received. That is of course a correlation that one would expect:
Scatterplot of the medal counts and number of athletes at the 2012 Olympics Continue reading