In January of this year I made a hopeful prediction that 2013 would be the year of the tangible map.
The boundaries of Europe’s constituent countries have changed a lot in my lifetime. Some countries don’t exist anymore whilst others have come into existence. But it takes a map visualisation to make you realise just how much the map of Europe has changed.
Actually, it takes two map visualisations. The first, courtesy of the BBC, dates from 2005 and covers the years between 1900 and 1994. Starting wit Imperial Europe and fast forwarding though two world wars, plus the Cold War and taking in the collapse of the Communist Bloc and the expansion of the European Union.
The other map takes a much wider view, ranging from 1000 AD to the present day. It’s oddly fascinating to watch the Holy Roman and Byzantine Empires go from dominance to vanishing entirely.
But the purist in me finds as much to dislike as to like in both of these maps. The BBC one is just two small and cries out for the ability to pan and zoom the map. For some unexplained reason, the map is … tiny and, though I hesitate to use the word in this content, the cartographer has obviously been experimenting with differing shades of colour to try and clearly delineate the countries but didn’t experiment hard enough.
The LiveLeak map is also small and while the video containing the map can be enlarged to full screen, there’s a loss of crispness to the map. For a map with such a wide timespan, it would have helped massively to have some kind of timeline accompanying the animation, so you can see just where in history you are.
Two maps. Both interesting. Both, for me, ultimately flawed. This sort of map just cries out to be reworked. If only I could find a suitable boundary data set spanning over a thousand years.
Some maps are works of art; this miniature marvel is no exception. You’d be forgiven for thinking it’s deserved of a place hanging on someone’s wall, but the truth is that this map is far more likely to end up in a rubbish bin.
That’s because this marvellous miniature map lives on the cover of a box of matches and empty boxes of matches have a very short shelf life before they end up in the rubbish. Which is a crying shame as this beautiful map with Mount Fuji in the background, a house and what looks like a tram deserves a kinder fate than that.
Back in February of this year, at the height of the madness that was the Vaguely Rude Places Map, Ed Freyfogle from London’s #geomob meetup got in touch and asked me to come and tell the story behind the map. This is that story.
And so last night, in the Chadwick Lecture Theatre in the basement of London’s UCL, after listening to some amazing presentations on building a map of mobile cell tower coverage, of building a seismically powered alternative to GPS and a whole host of other great talks, I took my place on the podium and started where any good story needs to start … at the beginning.
In 1943 psychologist Abraham Maslow wrote a paper called A Theory Of Human Motivation which set out what he perceived as our basic needs, laid out in a hierarchy.
Maybe it’s time to update Maslow’s hierarchy to fit in with the times we live in. Maybe someone’s already done this.