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Worldmapper: A New World View
Sarah Rich, 11 May 06

13.png Another great post from our friend Geoff at BLDGBLOG leads us to Worldmapper, a series of dramatically distorted multi-colored maps that show the world according to statistical data, largely obtained from obscure UN reports that glean little attention.

Cartographers Danny Dorling and Anna Barford of the University of Sheffield, UK, have created almost one hundred maps so far, which display information on population, migration, births, freight, imports and exports, and more. As they say in the New Scientist,

No one wants to look at those figures, and it would be hard to provoke any excitement by confronting someone with spreadsheets filled with numbers. But you just can't help looking at these pictures. After all, a new view of the world, rather like the famous Earthrise photo taken by Apollo astronauts, is a compelling sight.

The map here shows the global proportion of refugees and internally displaced persons living there.

The internal movement of people explains why territories experiencing recent instability can simultaneously be a major destination of displaced people, for example Iraq and Afghanistan.

In 2003 there were an estimated 15 million refugees and internally displaced persons. The Middle East and South America are the regions that provide sanctuary to most people seeking it; Pakistan, Iran and Germany are the territories that provide asylum to most people from outside their borders.

The cartographers offer abundant information on their website, on both the process of generating the maps, and the information represented by each one.

The maps presented on this website are cartograms, otherwise known as density-equalising maps. The maps of the world you are used to seeing attempt to represent countries according to their land area. A cartogram re-sizes each country (or other geographical unit) according to some other variable - for example population, GDP, number of people with AIDS, etc. In the population example, densely-populated country such as the UK will appear much larger than it does on a standard map, and sparsely populated countries will appear smaller.
The process of creating a cartogram is not a trivial one, and has occupied researchers for decades. A recent development by Mark Newman and Michael Gastner (described in their paper Gastner and Newman 2004) has led to the creation of this website; they recognised that the process is essentially one of allowing population to flow-out from high-density to lower-density areas, and hence borrowed the linear diffusion method from elementary physics which describes this process. The algorithm used to create the maps on Worldmapper is a variant of the Gastner and Newman one.

Whether or not you're a map-lover, this is very much worth exploring.

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Thousands of Filipinos leave the PHilippines every year to seek greener pastures. The phenomenon is called the Filipino diaspora. We have begun to settle in Europe, United States, other Asian countries and even as far as the Middle East. I would like to see a cartogram of the Filipino settlement (or displacement as you may call it) and how in the future our race could have an impact in society.

Posted by: Tuesday Gutierrez on 11 May 06

Hey, I remember these days. Back when worldchanging posted links to cool websites, and not just articles packed to the gills with whatever `memes' (your word not mine) would roughly fit into a thought.
Bravo, Sarah Rich!

Posted by: Ben Wendt on 11 May 06

Wow. Those trade balance cartograms are very illuminating. If the US were to stop buying toys for Christmas, executives in Shanghai would leap from windows and apparat in Beijing would barricade the city against worker unrest.

I had no idea how strongly Japan and the EU dominated machine exports. It's like the rest of the world doesn't even exist.

I also notice a curious ommission from these cartograms: software and entertainment content.

India would show up pretty big on that, the EU and Japan as well and the US.

Posted by: Pace Arko on 11 May 06



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