Changing Views of the World

The mental map of the world though the eyes of Guardian Online readers in recent years may look a little bit like the following cartogram adding up the distribution of all online news items in the period of 2010 to 2012 (excluding the coverage of domestic British news):

Map / Cartogram of Global Guardian Online News Coverage 2010 to 2012
(click for larger version)

The picture confirms very much the hotspots of political, economic and in smaller proportions also natural events at the start of the new decade that we are now well into. Following the map series of Guardian Online news coverage in recent years, the following maps demonstrate a different approach to how change can be mapped in cartogram form. Rather than using the absolute values for a topic, when having a time series one can also look at the change between individual moments in time. So when wanting to see how the global news coverage of the Guardian website has changed between 2011 and 2012 one gets two sets of data, one indicating the absolute increase and one indicating the absolute decline in news items in that time. This is what the following two maps show, demonstrating which regions suddenly appeared or became more important in the media, and where the relevance and public attention dropped (while a stagnating news coverage – regardless of it being very high or very low – is not reflected in this approach and better shown in the absolute mappings that were shown in the first part of this data analysis):

Increase in Guardian Online News Coverage between 2011 and 2012
(excluding the United Kingdom)
Map / Cartogram of Global Guardian Online News Coverage Increase from 2011 to 2012
(click for larger version)

Decline in Guardian Online News Coverage between 2011 and 2012
(excluding the United Kingdom)
Map / Cartogram of Global Guardian Online News Coverage Decline from 2011 to 2012
(click for larger version)

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Everything’s Changing: A World of News

This is a map series visualising a comprehensive data set kindly provided to me on request by the editors of the Guardian Data Blog a couple of months ago (special thanks to Peter Martin and Grant Klopper for this!). The work on these maps started with the idea to make an update of the still quite frequently accessed maps of global news coverage of the Guardian.co.uk news website that I created for the years 2010 and 2011. As explained back then, while being the snapshot of one single newspaper this data also gives some indications of the way the countries of the world are represented in the print media in the United Kingdom, hence giving a picture of how the world looks through the eyes of the British people (it’ll vary slightly for other media outlets, though the overall picture will result in similar patterns).
I have now updated this map using the most recent data that the data store team sent to me (unfortunately it is not available in the data store this time). The data lists the total number of news items on the website of the British Newspaper The Guardian that are tagged with a specific country name. For the year 2012 the news coverage (leaving out the United Kingdom) on their website was distributed as shown in this cartogram:

Map / Cartogram of Global Guardian Online News Coverage 2012
(click for larger version)

With the United States being consistently the second largest country represented in the data (after the UK which is excluded in this map) it should be mentioned that this may not only be explained with a certainly quite prevalent US-biased media coverage in most of the British press, but could in the case of the Guardian also be explained with the additional fact that the Guardian is expanding its media activities more and more actively across the Atlantic (also launching a dedicated online US edition in 2011), and indeed worldwide, as the very recent move to the domain http://www.theguardian.com/ suggests.
With having a series of three years (ranging from 2010 to 2012) available, I was now able not only to look at an update to the previous maps, but could also start a little look into the changing patterns that emerge from the data. The following animation shows how the news coverage has shifted in this period:

Map / Cartogram Animation of Global Guardian Online News Coverage 2010-2012
(click for larger version)

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In Focus: The World’s Billionaires

Political InsightIn an article for the “In Focus” section of Political Insight (April 2013, Volume 4, Issue 1) Danny Dorling and I looked at the global geography of wealth. The map that I created for this feature displays data published by Forbes Magazine in spring 2012 (updated annualy). For 2012 Forbes counted 1153 billionaires across the globe (this figure includes families, but excludes fortunes dispersed across large families where the average wealth per person is below a billion). The total wealth of the billionaires was US$3.7 trillion – as great as the annual gross domestic product of Germany. Top of this league table is the US with 424 billionaires (or billionaire families), followed by Russia (96) and China (95). The following cartogram animation shows, how the distribution of billionaires and the distribution of their total wealth compares. Although there are only small changes between the two maps, it is quite apparent that the wealthiest in the wealthier parts of the world accumulate slightly higher shares of wealth than those living in the emerging economies such as China (though this may be some of the less worrying inequalities that exist globally):

Map animation of the distribution of the World's billionaires and their personal wealth
(click for larger version)

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A Military World

World military spending for 2011 is estimated to be over $1.7 trillion at current prices, and has come to a relative stagnation after it has been steadily rising in recent years. As summarised on the Global Issues website, “the 15 countries with the highest spending account for over 81% of the total; The USA is responsible for 41 per cent of the world total, distantly followed by the China (8.2% of world share), Russia (4.1%), UK and France (both 3.6%).” The data cited here comes from the SIPRI Military Expenditure Database compiled by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute who use publicly available data sources for its reports. Military expenditure is defined asall current and capital expenditure on: (a) the armed forces, including peacekeeping forces; (b) defence ministries and other government agencies engaged in defence projects; (c) paramilitary forces, when judged to be trained and equipped for military operations; and (d) military space activities. Such expenditures should include: (a) military and civil personnel, including retirement pensions of military personnel and social services for personnel; (b) operations and maintenance; (c) procurement; (d) military research and development; and (e) military aid (in the military expenditure of the donor country). Civil defence and current expenditures on previous military activities, such as veterans’ benefits, demobilization, conversion and weapon destruction are excluded.
SIPRI’s long term observations show how the decrease in military spending following the end of the cold war in the 1990s slowed down at the turn of the century, and has significantly been rising again over the last 10 years – now exceeding the levels of the 1980. A major impact on these figures has the revival of military spending in North America, as the regional breakdown of the data shows. Compared to that, the rise of Asia appears much less significant than one would expect, although the region is clearly gaining importance (see an interactive graphic of the data on the Guardian datablog).
The following cartogram uses the latest available figures of military expenditure from the 2012 update of the database, completed by own estimates for the missing countries. It shows the estimate absolute expenditure in current (2011) US$ for the year 2011:

Cartogram / Map of the global military expenditure
(click for larger version)

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On the grid: Worldmapper and beyond

My research on gridded cartograms has its roots in the works of the Worldmapper project, which was originally released in 2006/07 and extended in the following years. While the first phase of the Worldmapper project has visually describes the world, mapping the national contours of hundreds of variables, it did so only in one way and a way easily open to criticism despite its novelty and wide scope. To tackle this, I conducted further research to help address these potential criticisms, to work on moving the resource beyond its simple descriptive form. This included a look at more theoretical issues of how world resources, flows and shares are understood, particularly visually understood – and how this can be improved.
The gridded cartograms are one of the key results of this second phase of the Worldmapper project to advance and improve the capabilities of the Worldmapper maps. So far we integrated gridded cartograms on the Worldmapper website only in form of the World Population Atlas that shows an extensive collection of gridded country cartograms. These are the first ever made compilation of maps showing population distributions in cartogram form at that level of detail for every country of the world, but there is more to the underlying technique than this.
Following the release of these first maps using a gridded cartogram approach, I have made progress not only in enhancing the accuracy and quality of these country-level maps, but also in advancing the technique to a stage where gridded cartograms can be utilised as an alternative map projection (explained and discussed in full detail in my PhD thesis). Some examples are shown on this website: One example for the new capabilities at country level is the map of population changes in Germany. At global level the example of agricultural spaces presented at last year’s Annual Meeting of the Society of Cartographers demonstrates their applicability not only for population-related issues, but beyond that for other quantitative dimensions with a new level of detail, but also new capabilities of showing additional layers of information that the original Worldmapper approach was not capable of achieving.
There sometimes is a certain confusion about the differences between the maps drawn in the first stage of the Worldmapper project (and that we carry on producing as well), and the new gridded cartograms. The following map series shows the differences by using the Worldmapper colour scheme applied to the different map types (for full clarity, the map series starts off with a conventional map projection):

Map comparison series: Conventional map vs cartogram vs gridded cartogram
(click for larger version)

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The Worldmapper Rainbow

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:
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