Monday, November 08, 2010

Could geography matter?

I remember the first time my father showed me what the world actually looked like. I was standing on the soft blue carpet of his book lined study and asked why the map pinned up on his door looked so funny. He looked up from his desk at my childhood self and explained that everything I thought I knew was wrong.

This is what I thought the world looked like:

But in actual fact, my father explained, this is how the world really was:

My american sister (because in-law sounds like a government is forcing me to care about her) came across a map detailing the actual size of africa in relation to other countries and areas of our planet. Because that sneaking suspicion you could never shake is in actual fact terrifyingly true.

Geography teachers lie.

(Click here for a more detailed version of this)

In an episode of The West Wing some lobbyists came for a meeting with staff in the White House to argue that the traditional world map's distortions subconsciously help feed a northern hemisphere bias. Their solution was not just to do a better job of getting the sizes right, but to turn the way we represent the world on its current head. There is, after all, no 'up' in space and why should long dead Europeans get to decide everything? While their solution was not taken seriously, in the sense that it is unrealistic, the writers of the show clearly believed that their general argument should be.

The question then is what impact have our various ways of seeing and representing the world had on us and had on it?

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...