004 - Differing World Views

Debatable Question

Is it possible to accurately communicate 3-dimensional data in a 2-dimensional form?

Key Terminology

            • Disruptive Technology

Define the key term above by using the 'Useful Link' below.

Useful Link

Activity One - Explain

So far you have focused on why maps have changed over time, how to read a map and the perceptions that people have of maps. What we are now going to explore whether 2D images accurately represent 3D forms. We mainly have the Mercator map up around the classroom and this is commonly used in schools, but should we have different representations? Watch the YouTube clip below and answer the following questions:

      1. Why is it difficult to represent a 3D image in a 2D form?
      2. What are the benefits of using Mercator's world map projection?
      3. What are the problems of using Mercator's world map projection?
      4. What are the benefits of using the Gall Peter's world map projection?
      5. What are the problems of using the Gall Peter's world map projection?
      6. What has created a dynamic shift in map projections?
      7. What map designs do we use today and why?
      8. Why can maps created by satellite images be classified as disruptive forms of technology.
      9. Click on the link in the 'Useful Resources' box and compare the sizes of five different countries. Do any of the results surprise you? Explain your answer.

Activity - Differing Views of the World

As we saw in the previous activity we often view the world from a distorted perspective.

      1. Look at the maps in the classroom and write down what they all have in common.
      2. Look at Source Four below and identify when we started to look at the Earth from different points or perspectives?
      3. Choose one map and suggest how it may represent scientific and technological innovation.
                    • Remember to relate to Mathematics and Individuals and Societies.
                    • Use evidence from the map in your answer.

Useful Resources

"Mercator is used for navigation or maps of equatorial regions. Any straight line between two points is a true line of constant direction, but not usually the shortest distance between the two points. Distances are true only along the equator, but are reasonably correct within 15° either side. Areas and shapes of large areas are distorted. Distortion increases away from the equator and is extreme in polar regions (Greenland appears larger than Africa but is actually 14 times smaller). Parallels and meridians are straight lines which meet at right angles. Meridians are equally spaced but parallels are stretched towards the poles. Poles are not shown."

Taken from 'The Guardian' 2009

"Peters is an equal-area projection which became the centrepiece of a controversy surrounding the political implications of map design. The argument goes something like this: Mercator inflates the sizes of regions as they gain distance from the equator. Since much of the developing world lies near the equator, these countries appear smaller and less significant. On Peters's projection, by contrast, areas of equal size on the globe are also equally sized on the map so poorer, less powerful nations could be restored to their rightful proportions."

Taken from 'The Guardian' 2009

“Only in recent decades have alternative views of the globe made their way into maps. In 1974, Arno Peters offered a projection […] that corrected Gerardus Mercator’s 1569 map of the world […], which placed the Equator deep in the bottom half of the map, thus distorting the size of the Northern Hemisphere. In 1982, Jesse Levine created a 'turnabout map' of the Western Hemisphere, with its view from the south.”

Source: extract from “Americas: The Changing Face of Latin America and the Caribbean”, by Peter Winn

"An alternative is to place the North Pole in the centre. It is strangely disorienting to gaze on the world from a polar perspective. The lower hemisphere should be hidden from view by the curve of the Earth because you can only see half a sphere at a time.

But on the azimuthal polar projection from the north, the southern hemisphere has been pulled into view on the page, with the consequence that Antarctica centrifuges into a doughnut around the edge of the circular map. This highlights the disadvantage of the projection as it distorts both the area and shape of landmasses, but distances from the North Pole are accurate in all directions, with those further from the centre becoming more enlarged on their east-west axis."

Source: extract from "Five maps that will change how you see the world." by Donald Houston

"North is up, right? Only by convention. There’s no scientific reason why north is any more up than south. Equally, we could do east-up, west-up or any other compass bearing. Purposefully reversing the typical way world maps are drawn has a similar political effect to using the Peters projection, putting more developing countries in the generally poorer southern hemisphere at the top of the map and so giving them greater significance."

Source: extract from "Five maps that will change how you see the world." by Donald Houston

"Another convention of world maps is that they are centred on the prime meridian, or zero degrees longitude (east-west). But this is scientifically arbitrary, deriving from the location of the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, London. The result is that Europe (although also Africa) is in the centre of the conventional world map – a rather colonial perspective. The familiar meridian-centred map conveniently places the map edges down the middle of the Pacific Ocean so no continent is chopped in two. But maps centred on the Pacific Ocean also work well because the edges of the map conveniently run down the middle of the Atlantic. This places east Asia in a more prominent position and pushes Europe to the edge. "

Source: extract from "Five maps that will change how you see the world." by Donald Houston