We could easily be fooled by maps, thinking that, to know and understand one by just looking at it is enough to understand it, sometime from the first glance, not thinking that a map may require a lot of studying to analyze its shape, purpose and its significance in order to understand it. Mapping the world is a very interesting subject to examine and discuss, for its terminology’s significance and its history’s wild range of attempts for many to have control over this planet, yet most of the fun lies in the fact that maps are more capable of defining globalization than words.
Once we try to study a map or investigate its purposes, we won’t be able to avoid facing the complexity of its abstractions. Maps in general, are not made for nothing; some are made for guidance to lead us through roads or directions, and can take us to our journeys as accurately as possible, others would help us navigate through the sees without getting lost. Nevertheless, the map we have at stake here emphasizes wider representations of reality intended by those who make them. Therefore, maps reflect and influence certain views of understanding and interpreting the globe.
Globalizing maps that map the globe in such a particular way is a fundamental problem, as an attempt of using a map to serve a form of popular representation of a world in two dimensions put-down on a piece of paper instead of its three- dimensional ’round’ reality.
Initially, the world map was done by Mercado’s projection; the usual way a map of the world is drawn. To serve European traders in navigating around the world, which gave their nations ahead- start and an advantage to describe, draw and make world borders carefully where people can understand it. Yet, many thought that map’s shape implied unfair impacts on its readers, by showing the northern hemisphere are bigger than the southern ones. Coinciding with the colonial dominance period in which Europe and the US enjoyed, with borders are drawn only for them and their colonial possessions.
And later the color pink was given only to highlight Britain’s imperial expansion in the 19th-20th century, which makes the UK larger than it really is or, even worse, the map focused on the Greenwich meridian; “an area of southeast London on the River Thames. The original British Royal observatory (=a special building from which scientists watch the moon, stars etc) is there, and the meridian (=an imaginary line which divides the eastern and western halves of the world) passes through the grounds of the Observatory, (Longman Dic.)”.
Intentionally putting the UK at the center of the globe, and sending the wrong message to the readers of such a map by impressing and making the importance of some countries clear to them over lessen other ones by drawing them smaller in size, importance, or value. Also, if we try to draw an up-side-down map with Australia at the top of it, the opposite of what the old and initial presentation did, which placed the northern countries at the top of the map that should influence readers to suppose that those are the most powerful and most important nations since they locate at the ‘North’ of the globe, as in; the best seats of the house are per se strictly for the VIP’s. [Held, D.]
So, was there ever a map that could make my view a little rational, one that is free of its own-serving compromises of cartographic representations? No! There is no such map, the question ought to be, how much of our views of the world are shaped by such representations?.
Different projections can produce different views of different maps by different messages of different presentations of the world such as Peters projection, showing what was called an ‘equal area’ map. Despite the modesty that this project may have expressed and the understanding that other parts of the world are as important as the UK and Europe, it showed a weird appearance of the actual size of the continents.
Nowadays, recent global changes effected world’s map-makers whom just started to include borders drawn to identify each country and the boundaries between it and the other countries, seeing that as necessary as those changes may effect on understanding every single and up-dated map. Even though, historically borders served the nation-states, and despite how significant the idea of globalization can be, boundaries are still of importance by all means, in identifying the areas of each countries jurisdiction. [Held, D.]
A straightforward picture of the world taken by a space flight is not a map with borders, it’s the real thing, and it’s another type of representation, a powerful one which gives us a different message and a new view of a unified world that has no boundaries, it reminds us of its oneness, and with the fact that we’re only here for the ride, a timed one. This draws a more accurate representation than the hand-made map with imaginary political borders.
Another attempt is seen in a ‘world map showing GDP in range of countries (1997)’, where not all countries were shown and many were not represented. In this map there is the size factor of great importance, the bigger the size of the country, the bigger the Gross Domestic Product of it. This highlights some of inequalities in the world by the clear division between the wealthy Northern countries and the poor Southern ones. Castells (1998) argues, that globalization creates a new pattern of connection between people, and new global elite of those who rank in high classes living and enjoying a similar high life-style in similar high-standard areas.
Along with that comes the local labor that forms the low income classes. Then the Fourth World of those who refuse to indulge or associate with the notion of globalization, they are excluded from the new global economy; they could be a mixture of different people from different parts of the world, such as the US ‘ghettos’, the French ‘banlieues’ and Japanese ‘yoseba’, in addition to those who would go against the flow, and of the homeless, incarcerated, ill and illiterate ones. If we try to put all that on a new world map, it would make it look a little odd, wouldn’t it?. [Held, D.]
Yet, we can make maps to serve different purposes, as to show some of the global complexities, flows and interconnections, as well as differences and disagreements, in other words, now we can map a new globe every day if we decide to, but each time we map the globe it reflect our perspective and understanding of it. Such a new map would require us to acknowledge and connect flows (the steady movements of money, goods, information and powerful individuals) between the key nodes across the globe. As in connecting world cities and identify the flows between them, another one, for example; is to map the international production system of a certain monolith.
Such valuable information would let us view the world as if it’s between our hands, for there are almost no limits or national boundaries that would stop us from reaching information.
There is another way to see the world in terms of time and space instead of the usual ideas of distance, as when it’s based on time accessibility by scheduled airlines.
In order to define globalization we need to emphasize the fact that social and economic relations need to reach farther than the usual limits, to increase in the degree of communication or strength the linkages of them, to spread through economics or spread through social practices, and finally to respect the fact of the emergence of global basic systems and structures that the world needs in order to work properly.
1 Held, D. (2003) DD122 A globalizing world? Culture, economics, politics. Milton Keynes, The Open University.