Political Landscapes of the United Kingdom in 2017

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How much has the United Kingdom changed following the second general election within two years, and following the referendums on independence in Scotland in 2014 and the membership of the European Union in 2016? Each poll appeared to have had a significant impact on the political debate and the next vote which never seemed far away. As such, the 2017 general election looks like the culmination of the preceding ballots where all of the previous debates got a more or less prominent mention during the electoral campaign. Ultimately this led to some significant changes in the political landscapes of the country with each corner of the United Kingdom being affected by these dynamics.
Politicians, spin doctors and commentators quickly aim to interpret the outcome according to their views. In contrast, the following series of maps showing some key statistics and data from the election results aims to provide a more neutral as well as more comprehensive look at the underlying geographies. It shows different angles on key characteristics such as winners and runners-up in each constituency, changes in votes, vote shares of the two largest parties, turnout and changes in turnout between the last two general elections.
In this feature, different cartographic techniques are used to show how the electoral landscape in the UK is shaped not only by physical space, but also by political dimensions as well as from the perspective of people. The conventional (land area) map is therefore complemented by a hexagon cartogram where each parliamentary constituency is represented by a hexagon (some changes in constituencies over the past decades are reflected in split and merged hexagons), and by a gridded population cartogram where each area is resized according to the number of people living in that area.
Each of the three maps therefore provides a unique insight into the diverse spatial patterns of politics that emerged from the 2017 general election. To fully understand the new political landscapes of the United Kingdom, only a combination of different perspectives as shown here can help to gain a more complete picture. Geography matters not only in its physical dimension, but just as much in its social and political spaces that are depicted in these maps.
Here is the ultimate cartographic wrap-up of the 2017 general election in 21 maps:

Conservative vote share
Gridded Population Map and cartogram series of the UK General Election 2017: Conservative Vote Share
(click for larger and labelled version)

Labour vote share
Gridded Population Map and cartogram series of the UK General Election 2017: Labour Vote Share
(click for larger and labelled version)

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Britain elects: The changes

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Nothing has changed” was the infamous quote made by Theresa May during this year’s UK election campaign over a policy u-turn. This marked the beginning of a reverse of the Conservative support in the polls which eventually led to the changes that changed the political geography of the United Kingdom significantly when compared to the just as surprising result of the 2015 election. The following map uses the same approach as the previous map series showing the winning party in each constituency, but adds further detail to the picture by also highlighting how seats have changed between the last and this election:

Gridded Population Map and cartogram series of the UK General Election 2017
(click for larger and labelled version)

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Britain elects: The results (summer edition 2017)

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The United Kingdom went to the polls…again. Following the general election in 2015 and the referendum on the country’s membership in the European Union in 2017, the British electorate had yet another chance to have their say about the country’s future. After the then prime minister David Cameron delivered referendum which he had promised to win the 2015 election, the British electorate voted for leaving the European Union by a small majority of 51.9% which led to Cameron’s resignation. Theresa May took over leadership of the Conservative party and became Prime Minister in July 2016. After first resisting calls for a general election, she eventually decided otherwise in the expectation of strengthening her conservative majority during the Brexit process. However, the election on June, 8th led to the opposite. The Conservative party lost its majority in parliament with the Labour party making significant gains. The following map series shows the result of the election from three perspectives. The conventional map (left) provides the most common perspective, while the hexagon-map gives a clearer picture of the distribution of parliamentary seats where each seat is represented by a hexagon (middle, changes in constituencies results in some hexagons being split). The gridded population cartogram (right) provides the most accurate depiction of how many people are represented by each party, as it gives each person in the UK an equal amount of space (while constituencies vary sometimes significantly in their population size):

Gridded Population Map and cartogram series of the UK General Election 2017
(click for larger and labelled version)

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French Presidential Election 2017

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The second (and decisive) round of this year’s French presidential election has led to a decisive victory of Emmanuel Macron of the social-liberal En Marche! party which was founded just a year before. Unlike other recent votes that have reached global attention, this vote was not close and was widely described as a sweeping victory. Macron secured 66.1% (20,743,128) of the second round votes against Marine Le Pen of Front National who received 33.9% (10,638,475) of the votes. Another difference was also the political message which did less resonate with nationalist or far-right rhetoric but was built on a pro-European and liberal campaign. 11.52% of the voters gave neither of the two candidates their vote by handing in blank or null ballots. Turnout was at 74.46%, only slightly lower than in the first round (77.77%) where none of the 11 candidates could secure an overall majority (Macron received 24.01%, Le Pen 21.30% which put them in the second round).
The following cartogram shows how decisive the political landscape of France in the second round of the election including the winning candidate’s vote share at municipal level (commune) in an equal-population projection, complemented by a normal map showing the overall distribution of winning votes at the same geographical level:

Gridded Population Cartogram of the French Presidential Election 2017
(click for larger and labelled version)

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Celebrate Diversity: Eurovision 2017

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While the motto of the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest‘s motto ‘Celebrating Diversity‘ was not a reference to the European Union’s motto, it has not been without controversy either. And also the wider geopolitics of the event caused some tensions, first and foremost over a controversy between the host country Ukraine and Russia.
Putting geopolitics aside, the performances were widely regarded as a celebration of diversity. Portugal – rather uncontroversially – is seen as a deserving winner, having scored 758 points for the song ‘Amar Pelos Dois’ performed by Salvador Sobral. The following cartogram shows all countries who participated in the final round of this year’s Eurovision Song Contest resized according to the total number of points received:

Map of the Eurovision SOng Contest 2017
(click for larger version)

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The regional geography of poverty, austerity and inequality in Europe

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Europe is currently suffering a deep political and economic crisis following years of turmoil and austerity measures that have disproportionately and brutally hit the most disadvantaged regions and citizens across most of the continent. At the same time, there has been a revival of nationalisms and divisions in this part of the world that, a decade ago, seemed to be united in diversity and moving towards ever-closer union. Concentrated poverty near to riches and profound spatial inequality have long been persistent features of all European countries, with disparities often being most stark within the most affluent cities and regions, such as London. In other parts of Europe levels of inequality and poverty have been reducing and are often much lower. However, the severe economic crisis and austerity measures have led, in many cases, to an enhancement of existing disparities. The following eight maps show how the regional geography has changed in the light of these developments:

GDP
Analysing the regional geography of poverty, austerity and inequality in Europe: Mapping GDP
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Country File: Mapping rural-to-urban migration

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Within the next five years rural living will have reached its climax. According to the United Nations World Urbanization Prospects (a biennial publication from the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs), rural populations will have reached their absolute high in 2022 with approximately 3.38 billion people. This is only slightly up from the current 3.37 billion people, showing how the number of people not living in cities has flatlined since the turn of the century and comes after a period of continuous growth since the 1950s when only 1.78 billion people lived in the countryside. The current long-term projections see this number going slightly down to 3.2 billion people by 2050.
While the rural population has become a minority globally (at approximately 46 per cent), the majority of those are increasingly concentrated in the poorer parts of the world. Sixty-nine per cent of people in the least developed countries live in rural areas, while this number is at only 20 per cent in higher-income countries.

Cartogram: Map of Global Rural Populations and Rural Population Changes
(click for larger version)

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Atlas of Organics: Mapping organic agriculture

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Building upon a previous publication investigating organic agriculture based on the reported hectares of certified organically managed agriculture land I have continued this little project in collaboration with John Paull to extend our attempt to quantify and map the world of organic agriculture, which led to the creation of a new atlas of organic agriculture. Here we compiled the following global organics data: (1) certified organic agriculture hectares; (2) certified organic producers; (3) total certified organic production hectares (organic agriculture plus wildculture plus forestry plus aquaculture); (4) certified organic wildculture hectares and mapped these using Worldmapper-style density-equalising cartograms. The maps illustrate the broad global diffusion of the organics meme, visually highlight leaders and laggers, and indicate opportunities for growth and better reportage.
In the world map of the organic agriculture hectares Australia dominates the picture, while Europe is strongly represented, and Africa is weakly represented:

Atlas of Organics: Mapping organic agriculture using cartograms
(click for larger version)

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(Un)Happy Nations

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March, 20th is the United Nations’ International Day of Happiness, recognising ‘the importance of happiness in the lives of people around the world’. Bhutan is credited as the first country to have implemented the concept of ‘Gross National Happiness’ as an official measure for the state of a nation, introduced in 1972. After the global financial crash in 2008, ideas about giving the ‘spiritual, physical, social and environmental health of [people] and natural environment’ more prominence over mere economic development are reflected more and more in international efforts towards a sustainable future.
The Happy Planet Index (HPI), developed by the New Economics Foundation, takes a rather radical approach on this issue. It aims to measure well-being and happiness by taking a universal and long-term approach to understanding, how efficiently people in a country are using their environmental resources to live long and happy lives.
This cartogram maps the results of the 2016 Happy Planet Index from the perspective of people. The gridded population cartogram shows the world resized according to the number of people living in each area, combined with the national HPI score:

Cartogram Map of the Happy Planet Index
(click for larger version including additional detail)

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EU Migration to and from the UK

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The recent UK government defeat on its Brexit bill by the House of Lords based on the demand that ministers should guarantee EU nationals’ right to stay in the UK after Brexit was just the latest tale in the debate about EU migration and the United Kingdom’s role in it. The topic of migrants in the UK was an important element of the EU referendum campaigns in 2016 which led to the decision to leave the European Union. The government’s position sees the question of the rights of EU migrants as part of the upcoming negotiations with the EU where also the rights of UK citizens living in the European Unions need to be agreed. In terms of absolute numbers, this is a much smaller share of affected people (approximately 1.2 million UK citizens are estimated to live in other EU countries) compared to other EU citizens living in the UK (estimated at around 3.2 million). The following two maps show these numbers in comparison in their geographical dimension. Using the most recent annual estimates (published in late 2016 by the ONS and further data from the UN) the cartograms show the countries of the EU (excluding the UK) distorted by the number of UK citizens who are living in another EU country (left map) and by the number of other EU citizens who are living in the UK. The countries are shaded by their ratio between the number of UK migrants in the EU and the number of other EU migrants in the UK:

Migration maps between the UK and the EU
(click for larger version)

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Destination: Iceland

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1,767,726 people have visited Iceland through Keflavik Airport in 2016. These statistics from the Icelandic Tourism Board (Ferðamálastofa) confirm that there has been an exponential growth in tourism to the country. Six years ago, when this latest growth really started after the infamous Eyjafjallajökull eruption. It looks as if this incident triggered a new wave of tourism, Inspired by Eruptions?, further fueled by new flights not only from established European mostly low cost carriers but also from the new Icelandic carrier Wow air founded in 2011. Globally successful movies and TV series further helped putting Iceland on the map of the global tourism industry.

Tourism in Iceland 1949-2016
(click for larger version)

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Connecting people: A world map of undersea cables

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Despite satellite technology, global communication heavily relies on undersea cables to keep people connected. “A submarine communications cable is a cable laid on the sea bed between land-based stations to carry telecommunication signals across stretches of ocean.” (Wikipedia) Undersea cables are the backbone of the internet, so that being connected determines a region’s ability to participate in global communication flows.
The following cartogram shows data from Greg’s Cable Map reprojected onto an equal population projection, giving a perspective of how people rather than land areas are connected to the global communications infrastructure. Landing points where the cables connect to land are marked as red dots in the map, while the background also shows very faded shipping lanes (over sea) as well as the gridded cartogram projection (over land):

Cartogram of undersea cables shown on an equal-population projection
(click for larger version)

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In Focus: Trade Inside the European Union

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Political InsightThe outcome of the referendum over the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union raises some crucial questions over the country’s economic relationship with the remaining 27 member states. Economic issues over trade were among the most heavily debated issues throughout the campaign. Now that the decision has been made, existing ties with the EU need to be carefully considered in any future trade relationship with the European Union. In a contribution for the “In Focus” section of Political Insight (December 2016, Volume 7, Issue 3) I mapped out Britain’s complex trading relations with the rest of the European Union and created a series of cartograms from the underlying statistics:

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Nuclear Energy and Risk

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Nuclear power contributes only a small share to the global energy production. According to the World Energy Statistics 2015 published by the International Energy Agency (IEA) nuclear power accounts for 4.8% of the total primary energy supply worldwide, far behind oil (31.1%), coal (28.9%), natural gas (21.4%) and even behind biofuels and waste (10.2%).
Of the producers of nuclear power, the United States are by far the largest with 33.2% of the world’s total, followed by France (17.1%) and Russia (7.0%). The United Kingdom’s production accounts for 2.9%. In contrast, France generates the largest share of its domestic electricity generation from nuclear power (74.4%). It is followed by Sweden (43.4%), Ukraine (43.0%) and South Korea (25.8%), while the United Kingdom comes fifth with 19.2%.

Cartogram of Nuclear Power Plants in the World
(click for larger version)

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US Presidential Election 2016

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The electorate of the United States of America has come to a decision about who is to become their next president. But not quite the whole electorate went to the polls: Turnout was at a long-term low with about 55% of voting age citizen having cast their ballot in the 2016 presidential election. Long gone are the days in which up to around 80% of the electorate went to the polls: This was last seen in the 19th century.
62,979,636 votes (46.1%) were cast for Donald Trump, while Hillary Clinton received 65,844,610 votes (48.2%). Other candidates put together reached 7,804,213 votes (5.7%). The following cartogram shows the distribution of votes for the two main candidates. Shown in diverging colours is each respective candidate who received the largest share of votes in each county. The cartogram itself shows an equal-population projection (gridded population cartogram) where each grid cell in the map is resized according to the total number of people living there. The main cartogram is accompanied by a second cartogram showing the distribution of votes that went to neither of the two candidates, and a ‘conventional’ reference map that also shows the states of Alaska and Hawaii:

Gridded Population Cartogram of the US Presidential Election 2016
(click for larger and labelled version)

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Beyond fire and ice: Mapping Iceland in the 21st Century

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Iceland and maps have a long tradition in the history of cartography. From the first maps of the country in the 16th century (including works from cartographers such as Ortelius and Mercator, also featuring some nice sea monsters) to today’s advanced digital mappings of Iceland’s diverse natural environment (such as this innovative mapping of water in Iceland or this quite beautiful representation of contour lines), Iceland never really had a lack of quite good cartographic works. Much less covered than the natural environment are the social landscapes of the country, such as this just recently updated version of a gridded population cartogram of the country where each grid cell is proportional to the number of people living in that area:

Gridded Population Cartogram of Iceland
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Renewable Energy

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Renewable energy is defined as ‘energy from a source that is not depleted’. Main sources include biomass, hydropower, wind, biofuels, solar, heat pumps, biogas, geothermal, and marine (such as tidal power). Data by the International Energy Agency sees the share of renewable energy in global power generation at 22 per cent in 2013, with an estimated increase to 26 per cent by 2020 as a result of supportive policies by a large number of governments.

Map of renewable energy in the world
(click for larger version)

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The EU Referendum

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EU Referendum 2016 Cartogram
(click for larger version)

The decision has been made: 17,410,742 people of the United Kingdom’s 65 million population voted for leaving the European Union. These are about 26.8% of the UK’s resident population, or 37.4% of the electorate in this EU referendum. It also equals 51.9% of the valid votes cast, as stated in the official figures from the electoral commission. Continue reading

World Population Cube

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World Population CubeLast November’s theme of the Super Science Saturday at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History was Planet Earth. As part of the activities I contributed a map cube which I created a few years ago.
Cubic globes are not a new idea. They put a nice twist to showing just a simple map, and more importantly, they allow for some activity which get the kids involved just as much as adults. A cube is much less work than creating a spheric version of 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.
At last November’s Super Science Saturday I displayed some of my work and offered a ‘Map Cube Activity’ where children (and adults) could cut, fold and glue their own globes. My version of a map cube does not display a normal world map, but a gridded population cartogram (hence the name ‘World Population Cube’). You can create your own cube by using the following template: Continue reading

Mapping the Anthropocene

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The effects of humans on the global environment are perceived to be so significant by some scientists that they argue the onset of industrialisation (in the eighteenth century) has been a major driving force in environmental change on a par with the forces of nature. It is this rapid impact that has led some geologists to unofficially name (but not, as yet, officially recognise) this recent period of the earth’s history (from around 1760-onwards) as the Anthropocene (roughly translating as the era – or epoch – shaped considerably through the actions of humanity).

The Human Planet: Gridded Population Cartogram
Gridded population cartogram displaying the topography of the world in relation to the population distribution (click here for larger version)

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Ecological Footprints

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COP21 Paris Logo“There is no planet B”. This slogan has become widely mentioned recently in relation to COP21, the United Nations conference on climate change in Paris. The slogan highlights that the debate about climate change relates to much more than simply a changing climate. The underlying processes have a lot to do with our lifestyles and the related patterns of consumption and waste which cause severe damages to the environment (including the global climate). Carbon emissions are therefore one major trigger of climate change, but are also an effect of our unsustainable ways of life. The ecological footprint shown in the following map is a measure that looks at the impact that humanity has on our planet:

The Ecological Footprint Map of the World: A gridded cartogram projection
(click for larger version)

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Earthquake risk zones: A people’s perspective

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In a paper for the Journal of Maps published in 2014 I have analysed and visualised data documenting earthquakes that have occurred since 2150 BC. The following map was part of the material supplementing the publication showing the results of the analysis shown on an equal population projection. The gridded cartogram gives every person on the planet an equal amount of space while highlighting the most densely populated spaces in relation to the earthquake risk (calculated via the intensity of earthquakes recorded since 2150 BC). Also shown are the world’s megacities (over 5 million population). The map shows the large populations that make even Nepal (with its almost 28 million people) much more visible than it would be on a conventional map, highlighting why this event turns out to be quite disastrous. The map also shows what the USGS statement above mentions that Nepal is amongst the areas in the region which are far less subject to major earthquakes (as indicated by the yellow to blue shading in the map there):

Map of earthquake risk zones on an equal-population projection
(click for larger version)
Download as poster (PDF, 62MB)

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Water worlds: Ocean Chlorophyll levels

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The ocean is the last frontier that has not been discovered by cartogram techniques before. As such, it was an inevitable step in my PhD research some years ago to test the creation of a gridded ocean cartogram, a cartogram that is limited to the extent of the world’s oceans (also linking nicely to my past research on coastal ecosystems).
Chlorophyll concentrations in the world’s oceans are important indicators for the presence of algae and other plant-like organisms that carry out photosynthesis. As such, phytoplankton (which contains the chlorophyll) is an essential element of the food chain in the seas as it provides the food for numerous animals. Variations and changes in the chlorophyll levels are also relevant for the study of the ecology of the sea. Changing chlorophyll levels can indicate changing sea temperatures and other conditions in the oceans that cover about 72 percent of the planet’s surface.

Gridded cartogram visualisation of Ocean Chlorophyll concentrations
(click for larger version)

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Geographic visualization in social sciences: Draw more maps!

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Wordle Data Visualisation
Geographic visualization in social sciences – or draw more maps! Continue reading

In Focus: Wealth on the British Isles

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Political InsightThe debate about the relevance and impact of the super-rich on society has gained greater currency as evidence continues to grow that the widening gap between the poor and the rich has a negative impact on societies as a whole. In otherwise affluent countries where the richest one per cent owns the most, child poverty is common, school attainment is lower and medium household incomes are depressed. Along with reduced average living standards, housing is of poorer quality, and health suffers as anxiety rises.
In an article for the “In Focus” section of Political Insight (December 2014, Volume 5, Issue 3) Danny Dorling and I looked beyond the economic, social, educational and medical implications, focussing on the geographical lessons to learn when wealth concentrates. Where the richest of the rich live, work and where they keep their assets is even more imbalanced than the wider and growing underlying inequalities between rich and poor. In societies where the rich have less they tend to be more spread out across a country, but when the wealth of those at the top rises greatly there is a tendency to congregate – with London a prime example.

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Demographies of China

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This week I joined the Department of Asian Studies at Palacký University Olomouc (Czech Republic) as a visiting lecturer by invitation of the CHINET project. In my lecture about New Geographies of China I built on the work I have presented earlier this year at the Conference on the Socio-Economic Transition of China at the same place, teaching the students not only how China’s position is in the global context of demographic, social and economic change, but also how we can visualise this in novel ways. The following three maps are an extract from my presentation that gave an overview of this lecture.
The maps show the distribution of the different age groups in the country divided into children (age 0 to 14), working age (age 15 to 64) and elderly (above age 64) as they are counted in the official Chinese Census released by the National Bureau of Statistics. As the most recent Census figures have not been released at the same level of detail, the following three maps show the state of 2000. Here is an animated version of the three maps showing all three groups one after another (the individual maps are displayed below):

Animation of demographic groups in China projected on a gridded population cartogram
(click for larger version)

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In Focus: The real size of Offshore Financial Centres

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Political InsightIn an article for the “In Focus” section of Political Insight (December 2013, Volume 4, Issue 3) Jan Fichtner of the University of Frankfurt a.M. and I analysed the size of the foreign assets in the world’s largest offshore financial centres. All ‘offshore financial centres’ (OFCs) have one characteristic feature in common; they offer very low tax rates and lax regulations to non-residents with the aim to attract foreign financial assets. OFCs essentially undercut ‘onshore’ jurisdictions at their expense. The main beneficiaries are high-net-worth individuals and large multinational corporations that have the capital and expertise required to utilise OFCs. Beyond its geographical connotation the phenomenon of ‘offshore’ represents a withdrawal of public regulation and control, primarily over finance. Some important OFCs are in fact located ‘onshore’, e.g. Delaware in the USA and the City of London in the UK. However, historically many OFCs have literally developed ‘off-shore’, mostly on small islands.
OFCs as defined by Zoromé (2007) are jurisdictions that provide financial services to non-residents on a scale that is excessive compared to the size and the financing of their domestic economies. The graphic shows combined data on securities (Coordinated Portfolio Investment Survey by the IMF) and on deposits/loans (Locational Banking Statistics by the BIS) at the end of 2011. Capturing the two by far most important components of financial centres allows a reasonable approximation of the real size of OFCs while avoiding double counting. The larger the size of the circles on the map, the more foreign financial assets have been attracted to the particular jurisdiction. The vast majority of the almost US$70 trillion foreign financial assets are concentrated in North America, Europe and Japan. Areas with assets below $US50bn are not shown for their relative insignificance in the global context.

Offshore Financial Centres

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The Human Planet: A modern Mappa Mundi

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A mappa mundi […] is any medieval European map of the world. […] To modern eyes, mappae mundi can look superficially primitive and inaccurate. However, mappae mundi were never meant to be used as navigational charts and they make no pretence of showing the relative areas of land and water. Rather, mappae mundi were schematic and were meant to illustrate different principles. The simplest mappae mundi were diagrams meant to preserve and illustrate classical learning easily. The zonal maps should be viewed as a kind of teaching aid—easily reproduced and designed to reinforce the idea of the Earth’s sphericity and climate zones” (cited from Wikipedia).
What would a mappa mundi of our times look like? A modern equivalent of such a map would have to focus on those spaces of our planet that we have a less vivid imagination of than the physical shape of the world that in medieval times was a much less familiar view than it is today. The following gridded population cartogram generated over the whole surface of Earth could be such a contemporary depiction of the world. It divides the world into equal spaces of population realigning the map view to show the human planet in a similar way as mappae mundi showed the world centuries ago:

Equal population projection map of the Earth's land and water surface
(click for larger version)

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Global Spaces of Food Production

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Global Spaces of Food Production
In the year 2000 there were approximately 15 million square km of cropland and 28 million square km of pasture which are represented in the two main maps. These are equal to 12% respectively 22% of the ice-free land surface. This is according to estimates of a study on the geographic distribution of global agricultural lands by Ramankutty et al (published in Global Biogeochemical Cycles, 2008) who used a methodology of combining agricultural inventory data and satellite-derived land cover data to come to these figures (data can be accessed via Columbia University’s SEDAC). Continue reading

One world, many faces: A brief look at map projections

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Each and every map represents a distorted view of reality. Therefore, cartograms are not as unusual as they might appear at a first glance. Map projections are a central aspect of the Worldmapper project because the maps (respectively cartograms) featured in the project are basically not different from some sort of re-projection of the world, albeit in a different way than conventional projections used in cartography. Rather than trying to solve the conflicts of distortion when drawing a three dimensional surface on to a two dimensional area (be it a screen or a paper map), the worldmapper cartograms distort our image of the world on purpose and show each country in proportion to a specific topic. This is reason enough to reflect a little bit on what map projections are and in what way they create a distorted view of the world.

Worldmapper map using different projections

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