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Mapping Globalization Project
Sarah Rich, 30 Aug 06

starbucksmcdsweb.jpg One great paradox of globalization is that although geographical locations (and the connections between them) are at its very core, the phenomenon nevertheless makes it easier than ever for us to forget the identity and meaning of a particular place. In other words, globalization is simultaneously everywhere and nowhere. This is the crux of the Mapping Globalization Project (MG). A joint undertaking of Princeton University and the University of Washington, MG combines maps, narratives, and data and analysis, in order to examine trade networks, mass migration, and other patterns and impacts of globalization.

The notion of a network may be the best means through which to appreciate the particular qualities of globalization. Most literally, networks are arrangements of connections into nets, or systems linking groups of points and intersecting lines...A focus on networks allows us to examine the integration of economic, social, political, and cultural regimes as a process in and of itself. Viewing globalization as a network allows us to combine different forms of interaction (e.g., trade, migration, conflict) into a cohesive portrait of international integration.

This project is connected to the International Networks Archive's (INA) Remapping Our World project, which Dawn wrote about here some time ago. The infographics at INA's site also document the spread of globalized cultural phenomena, such as entertainment and consumer goods. The maps pictured here, which was what caught my attention today at Core77 shows McDonald's and Starbucks chains as distributed throughout the world.

The MG team provides a list of free downloadable data on a wide range of industries and institutions touched by globalization, from arms trade to piracy to tourism. It's very interesting, useful information, and it paints a clear visual picture of the connections we too often forget.

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The value here is likely in the underlying data, since most of the maps are either way too complex and indigestible (the 'Portrait of Trade' might as well have been left in spreadsheet form) or oversimplified for effect (the infographics). A couple of the interactive ones were interesting. It's just really, really difficult to visually represent complex systems, and I find most attempts to end up as either works of art or lists of data, but rarely good tools of communication. Always worth trying though -- another group doing interesting stuff here is Maplecroft (, founded by a Silicon Graphics vet and his wife, a professor of business ethics.

Posted by: jesse black on 31 Aug 06



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