Posts Tagged ‘maps’
We expect maps to tell us the truth. That is their eternal promise. But maps can’t help lying to us. That is their original sin. To be more precise: the map’s lie (or sin) is one of omission. They show us just one version of the truth, carefully edited by the cartographer.
This map does one better: it gives us not one but two versions of reality. Both are contained within the same frame, staged on a single world, denoted by an identical set of shading. All you need to do is tilt the image a quarter turn, and the cartographic form reveals an alternate version of the truth, while remaining entirely commensurate with the first one.
Clever and simple, as most brilliant things are.
The map shows you the world as it is in Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell’s political parable of a dystopian future (he wrote it in 1948) in which the world is dominated by three totalitarian superstates.
The book is set in Airstrip One, “once called England or Britain”, a province of Oceania. This superstate covers North and South America, Australia and New Zealand, southern Africa and large parts of middle and western Africa.
The second superstate is Eurasia, which covers continental Europe, Russia all the way to the Bering Strait, a small sliver of North Africa and a big chunk of the Middle East and Central Asia. The smallest superpower, at least in area, is Eastasia, essentially China, Japan, Korea and the northern half of the Indian subcontinent.
These three superstates are engaged in a war for global dominance. The battle is fought in two contested zones: the Polar Front, covering the North Pole plus northern Greenland and bits northern Canada and Siberia; and the Equatorial Front, a zone stretching from North Africa via the Arabian peninsula and the southern half of the Indian subcontinent all the way to New Guinea.
No single superstate is strong enough to win a victory on its own. So one superstate allies itself with another against the third. But no single superstate is weak enough to be defeated by the other two. With alliances shifting over time according to perceived strategic advantages, this is an eternal war…
Winston Smith, Nineteen Eighty-Four‘s protagonist, works at the Ministry of Truth, where his job is to eradicate newly inconvenient truths from photos, newspaper archives and encyclopaedia entries. All evidence of what was previously self-evident and true must be destroyed by throwing it in the Memory Hole.
This map, by pointing out the before and after simultaneously, would have been tantamount to blasphemy. But, by pointing out the similarities between two opposites, it hints at the frightening ease with which an audience preconditioned to Doublethink can process cognitive dissonance in accordance with the ruling ideology.
Or, as David Kendall, who found this map here on The Visual Telling of Stories, puts it rather more straightforwardly: “You tell me that isn’t the most clever use of shading, orthography, and legend placement to ever grace the printed page.”
Read the whole story at “Orwellian Cartography 101: How to Tell Two Truths with One Map“… and remember: the map is not the territory.
* William Irwin Thompson
As we toe the line, we might spare a thought for Orwell’s critical antagonist, Evelyn Waugh; he died on this date in 1966. A prolific journalist and writer of non-fiction, Waugh is best remembered as a novelist (e.g., Decline and Fall, A Handful of Dust, Brideshead Revisited, and his trilogy of Second World War novels, Sword of Honour. Waugh was a “difficult” man; writer James Lees-Milne judged him “the nastiest-tempered man in England.” Indeed, when asked by Nancy Mitford how he reconciled his often objectionable conduct with being a Christian, he replied that “were he not a Christian he would be even more horrible.” On his passing, long-time acquaintance and photographer-to-the-stars Cecil Beaton reckoned that Waugh “died of snobbery,” observing that “his abiding complex and the source of much of his misery was that he was not a six-foot tall, extremely handsome & rich duke.”
Designer Yanko Tsvetkov is a man of many projects. The maps above are an excerpt (from an excerpt) from his recent book Atlas of Prejudice, Volume 2. See all 20 of his painfully-funny dissections of Europe here; then browse through more of his wonderful work.
As we stuff our backpacks, we might recall that it was on this date in 1963 that Josip Broz Tito was named President-for Life of the newly re-named Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The Yugoslav state had been during World War II; it was a socialist state, a federation made up of six socialist republics: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia,Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia. (Serbia included two autonomous provinces: Vojvodina and Kosovo). Tito had served as Prime Minister of the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia from it’s formation; he had become the first President of Yugoslavia when that office was created in 1953.
Initially aligned with Stalin and the East, Yugoslavia declared itself non-aligned in 1948. It refused to participate in the Warsaw Pact, pursuing instead it’s own brand of market socialism, sometimes informally called “Titoism.” Steady increases in economic and political freedoms helped Yugoslavia’s economy grow, and made the country far more humane than other Socialist/Communist regimes. At the same time, in devolving more power/autonomy to the regions– originally separate countries– that made up Yugoslavia, it sewed the seeds of the Balkan conflict that began to kindle on Tito’s death in 1980.
Still, maps hold us in thrall. Consider, for example, this exquisite piece created around 1715 by Johann Baptist Homann, a German mapmaker working in Nuremberg. It measures 2 ¾ inches in diameter.
This particular pocket globe came in four pieces that nest inside each other like matryoshka dolls. The outside case, made of leather and featuring an S-shaped hook that secured the two pieces together, is lined with concave representations of a celestial map, showing constellations as seen from the earth. (Celestial globes were among the earliest globes produced, and were once commonly sold alongside their terrestrial cousins.)
Inside, the terrestrial globe (on which California is depicted as an island, a common misconception of the time) is hollow. Split into two parts, it reveals an armillary sphere: a type of skeleton celestial globe that represents the movement of heavenly bodies through circles. This armillary sphere has a band around it that’s illustrated with zodiacal symbols.
Katie Taylor, of the Whipple Museum of the History of Science in the U.K., writes that pocket globes could have served as “status symbols for wealthy gentlemen,” or functioned as educational tools for children. Homann made no other globes, specializing instead in maps and atlases; he might have sold this pocket version as a trinket…
The globe is featured in Sylvia Sumira’s Globes: 400 Years of Exploration, Navigation, and Power. Read more in “An Itsy-Bitsy Early 18th-Century Pocket Globe” at Rebecca Onion’s essential The Vault.
* Herman Melville
As we plot our courses, we might spare a thought for Samuel Warren Carey; he died on this date in 2002. As a geology graduate student in Australia, he read a translation of Alfred Wegener‘s The Origin of Continents and Oceans, the book largely responsible for introducing the concept of continental drift to the English-speaking world; as a result, he became an early advocate of Wegener’s theory. Carey’s plate tectonics reconstructions led him to develop the Expanding Earth hypothesis– a theory now largely rejected by the scientific community, but one that generated research and debate that helped advance the field of tectonics materially.
The resulting map reads like a list of New Year’s resolutions made by Civil War veterans. Did you know, for example, that more than anything, Wyoming evidently wants an aircraft carrier? Are you close enough to Wisconsin that residents revealed their secret wish to be called “The Mitten State?” Who could forget existential Florida, whose only desire is simply “to know.”
Check out the map below and see what Google thinks your state wants most. If your state happens to be blank, it’s because Google says it doesn’t want anything, which has to count for something, right?
Mashable’s map was inspired by the somewhat more existential work of of Tumblr user Gaysquib, who used Google’s auto-complete to determine what each state is…
* Charlie Chaplin
As we deliberate on desire, we might recall that it was on this date in 1964 that the Beatles occupied the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 for the first time, when “I Want to Hold Your Hand” reached #1. It had already ascended to the pinnacle of the British charts: indeed, with advance orders exceeding one million copies in the U.K., “I Want to Hold Your Hand” would ordinarily have hit the top of the British record charts on its day of release (November 29, 1963), but it was blocked for two weeks by the group’s first million-seller, “She Loves You.” The release order was reversed in the U.S.: “I Want to Hold Your Hand” held the number one spot for seven weeks before being replaced by “She Loves You.” It remained on the U.S. charts for a total of fifteen weeks, and became the Beatles’ best-selling single worldwide.
Lake Superior contains a phantom island. After the American Revolution, the Treaty of Paris established the boundary between the United States and Canada as running “through Lake Superior northward of the Isles Royal and Phelipeaux to the Long Lake,” following an inaccurate map created by John Mitchell. In the 1820s surveyors discovered that Phelipeaux does not exist, and the boundary had to be negotiated anew.
Around the same time, the dramatically named Mountains of Kong appeared on maps of West Africa, apparently placed there originally by English cartographer James Rennell. It wasn’t until the 1880s that French explorer Louis Gustave Binger discovered that they don’t exist either. They persisted in Goode’s World Atlas until 1995.
One of the wonders at The Futility Closet– “an idler’s miscellany of compendious amusements.”
As we remember that the map is not the territory, we might recall that it was on this date in 1759 that the the first exhibition galleries and the reading room of the British Museum opened. The institution had been established in 1753 by King George II and Parliament– the first of a new kind of museum: belonging to neither church nor king, freely open to the public, and aiming to collect everything. With the subsequent acquisition of of Montagu House in Bloomsbury, and the inclusion of several “foundation collections” (including the Lindisfarne Gospels, the sole surviving copy of Beowulf, and many others of the most treasured books now in the British Library), the museum moved toward reality. (The Trustees had rejected Buckingham House, on the site now occupied by Buckingham Palace.)
Among the earliest treasures on display in 1759 were a starved cat, a rat, a tree trunk gnawed by a beaver, and a mummified thumb found beneath the St. James’s Coffee House. This emphasis on books, manuscripts, and “natural history” (perhaps better said, “cabinet of curiosities”) began to shift when in 1772 the Museum acquired for £8,400 its first significant antiquities: Sir William Hamilton’s “first” collection of Greek vases.