Yesterday, I posted this map on the Polemicist Facebook page:
After seeing some of the responses, I realized that many people may never have seen, and are not aware of, the famous Peters Projection Map, and the issues it addresses:
To summarize the issue: As pointed out on the Peters Map site, any flat map has a problem "projecting" a three-dimensional globe on a two-dimensional surface, and any such map will introduce some distortion. No map will show both the size and shape of geographical formations accurately. The map with which we are all familiar, the Mercator projection map, which was designed around 1659, was not designed to depict relative
As discussed here:
The ideal is an 'equal-area' world map. There is a long history of professional bodies recommending 'equal-area' world maps for schools. In 1907-08, the Geographical Association printed a recommendation that world maps in school atlases should be equal area. A century later, there can surely be no justification today for schools to use a world map that shows one part of the world bigger than another area of the same size.”
It’s necessary to recognize the relation among three facts: 1) the Peters projection map “remains a curiosity in the United States,” 2) “national surveys show… U.S. schoolchildren have among the lowest levels of geography awareness of all developed nations, and 3) many professional cartographers have resented the ‘politicization’ of their field. Arno Peters was one of the first to assert that maps are unavoidably political.”
Equal area maps have been around since at least 1805. The Peters projection is only the boldest recent version. It was, predictably, the object of scorn and derision from conservative pundits and educators, and it, along with other equal area maps and the whole notion of what’s at stake in them, has been largely disappeared from American education and culture. In post-modern, iPad America, the 100+-year-old professional educational recommendation is ignored, while the 450-year-old Mercator projection has remained the dominant, the norm. That effect is certainly on purpose.
This is important because the maps we are shown constantly in the course of our compulsory school education and our elective, but corporately managed, media education give us the picture of the world we carry around in our heads. That picture forms the most concrete and primal foundation upon which is built everything about, you know, the way we see the world.
You see before you think, and what you think is usually based on what you see. It is not intellectually-coherent political theories that form “ideology” in the most powerful sense, but, precisely, those images like this that make for a sense of “reality” and ‘common sense” which takes for granted all that’s most necessary to question. This is the “ideology” that precedes, and forms the prerequisite of, any thought-out political position, the “ideology” that is the most resistant to change. And that ideological resistance often takes exactly the form of resenting the ‘politicization’ of practical, convenient, widely-accepted, common-sense cultural memes.
To get down to cases: If you see the reality around you as one in which Dennis Kucinich is twice as big as Yao Ming, you might be…uh, psychotic? You’d certainly get yourself into trouble if you were deciding with whom to pick a fight. Well, what do you think – no, what do you picture -- is involved when the President announces he’s sending American soldiers and establishing American military bases in more and more places in Africa? What all does that picture make you
think imagine is
involved? For our
CBS-ABC-NBC-CNN-Fox-MSNBC report this,
they may show you the good old
Mercator projection map -- just so as not to confuse you, and all. But I promise, the
Pentagon knows how big
This is why, as with so many other images, we have to replace the Mercator map with the Peters map as the dominant picture of the world in our minds. And why, across the board, whatever your explicit politics, that’s not so easy to do.