Upside Down, Right Side Up

I remember first seeing this map and thinking, “It’s upside down” — then I caught myself. The universe has no up or down. The earth is a sphere. North and south are arbitrary names that we humans have assigned to different magnetic trends. There was no reason that the world couldn’t be represented in this “upside down” but actually “right side up” way. This is where I have been living all this time.

So why is it that this is the map that all of us are familiar with? The eurocentric model with an exaggerated size of Europe, diminished size of Africa, and positioning of U.S. and Europe in the upper half.

Although there were eurocentric models as well, I remembering seeing a different perspective map in Korea — a clearly more Pacific centric model. Every country has a tendency to use a map that places their country in the center, in a position of importance. In that sense, the position and size of other countries must also be significant. According to West Wing, people “subconsciously equate size with importance and even power.”

So what does the eurocentric model of our world tell us? Does the placement of certain countries in the upper half of the map versus the lower half have any implications? What does it mean that Europe is larger than its actual size? Is there a underlying current of imperialism at play? What do maps have to do with social equality?

Cue West Wing! Let the Cartographers for Social Equality tell you the social ramifications of a solely eurocentric model (disclaimer: this clip is actually pretty awesome).

Isn’t this interesting? It’s these little bits of knowledge that make you think, rethink, and question what you see every day.

Basic content derived from TWTP’s 2011 Imperialism workshop. For more information, please visit: http://flourish.org/upsidedownmap/

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