RESOURCE: Earth-Picker – Web based map game

Earth-Picker is a web-based game that presents players with GoogleEarth panoramic images while in street view and asks them to place where they think it is on a map.

What is great about this is that you have to use cultural and physical land clues as to where you think the location is. There are 5 rounds that provides a score.

If players get stuck, they can click on the arrows to move around and perhaps find more clues such as a street sign that hints to a language used.

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via Telegraph: The maps which explain the Ukraine crisis

The maps which explain the Ukraine crisis

As Russia and Ukraine come ever closer to blows over Crimea, we explain, using maps, the issues at stake

10:35AM GMT 04 Mar 2014

Ukranian and Russian Military Balance

Ukraine’s regular army has only 65,000 soldiers, compared with almost 300,000 deployed in Russia’s western and southern military districts, which border Ukraine. Russia also has an established military presence inside the Ukrainian region of Crimea, centred around the Black Sea Fleet base at the port of Sevastopol. These forces have now fanned out across Crimea and seized de facto control of the territory.

EU gas dependency

The three pipelines that carry gas across Ukraine to Poland and Slovakia and on to the EU. Trade sanctions are unpopular among European countries, which are heavily dependent on Russian oil and gas. Europe gets 40 per cent of its natural gas from Russia. Germany is particularly reluctant to get into a sanctions war since it imports more than a third of its oil and gas from Russia.

Distribution of the population speaking Ukrainian or Russian

via Time: This Map Shows Where in the U.S. You Have the Highest Chance of Getting Struck by Lightning

This Map Shows Where in the U.S. You Have the Highest Chance of Getting Struck by Lightning

PSA of the day

By Olivia B. Waxman @OBWaxFeb. 28, 2014

Today, Atlantic Cities points out that the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has published a map of lightning strikes in the U.S. According to the description of the map in the Google Maps Gallery, the map is organized by county and represents incidents over “the years 1995-2000 and 2001-2009.” The darker the shade of red, the more “events” have occurred, and the map breaks down each county’s data in terms of total number of injuries, fatalities, cost of property damage, and cost of crop damage.

Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 12.03.59 PM

Read more: Lightning Map by USGS Shows Where You’re Most Likely to Get Struck | TIME.com http://newsfeed.time.com/2014/02/28/this-map-shows-where-in-the-u-s-you-have-the-highest-chance-of-getting-struck-by-lightning/#ixzz2ukzqKKPT

via Al Jazeera: How the North Ended up on Top of the Map

How the north ended up on top of the map

by Nick Danforth @ajam February 16, 2014
A cartographic history of what’s up

map

McArthur’s Universal Corrective Map of the World.
Flickr
map
A world map drawn by the Moroccan cartographer Muhammad al-Idrisi for King Roger of Sicily, 1154.
 Wikipedia

Why do maps always show the north as up? For those who don’t just take it for granted, the common answer is that Europeans made the maps and they wanted to be on top. But there’s really no good reason for the north to claim top-notch cartographic real estate over any other bearing, as an examination of old maps from different places and periods can confirm.

The profound arbitrariness of our current cartographic conventions was made evident by McArthur’s Universal Corrective Map of the World, an iconic “upside down” view of the world that recently celebrated its 35th anniversary. Launched by Australian Stuart McArthur on Jan. 26, 1979 (Australia Day, naturally), this map is supposed to challenge our casual acceptance of European perspectives as global norms. But seen today with the title “Australia: No Longer Down Under,” it’s hard not to wonder why the upside-down map, for all its subversiveness, wasn’t called “Botswana: Back Where It Belongs” or perhaps “Paraguay Paramount!”

The McArthur map also makes us wonder why we are so quick to assume that Northern Europeans were the ones who invented the modern map — and decided which way to hold it — in the first place. As is so often the case, our eagerness to invoke Eurocentrism displays a certain bias of its own, since in fact, the north’s elite cartographic status owes more to Byzantine monks and Majorcan Jews than it does to any Englishman.

There is nothing inevitable or intrinsically correct — not in geographic, cartographic or even philosophical terms — about the north being represented as up, because up on a map is a human construction, not a natural one. Some of the very earliest Egyptian maps show the south as up, presumably equating the Nile’s northward flow with the force of gravity. And there was a long stretch in the medieval era when most European maps were drawn with the east on the top. If there was any doubt about this move’s religious significance, they eliminated it with their maps’ pious illustrations, whether of Adam and Eve or Christ enthroned. In the same period, Arab map makers often drew maps with the south facing up, possibly because this was how the Chinese did it.

map map

Konrad Miller’s 1929 re-creation of al-Idrisi’s famous Tabula Rogeriana from 1154.
Bibliotheque nationale de France/Wikipedia
map
A reproduction of Jorge de Aguiar’s chart of the Mediterranean, Western Europe and African coasts, 1492.
 Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library/Wikipedia

Things changed with the age of exploration. Like the Renaissance, this era didn’t start in Northern Europe. It began in the Mediterranean, somewhere between Europe and the Arab world. In the 14th and 15th centuries, increasingly precise navigational maps of the Mediterranean Sea and its many ports called Portolan charts appeared. They were designed for use by mariners navigating the sea’s trade routes with the help of a recently adopted technology, the compass. These maps had no real up or down — pictures and words faced in all sorts of directions, generally pointing inward from the edge of the map — but they all included a compass rose with north clearly distinguished from the other directions.

compass rose
The first known compass rose depicted on a map, in a detail from the Catalan Atlas from 1375, attributed to cartographer Abraham Cresques of Majorca.
 Bibliotheque national de France/Wikipedia

Members of the Italian Cartographic School preferred to mark north with a hat or embellished arrow, while their equally influential colleagues from the Spanish-ruled island of Majorca used an elaborate rendering of Polaris, the North Star. These men, who formed the Majorcan Cartographic School, also established a number of other crucial mapping conventions of the era, including coloring in the Red Sea bright red and drawing the Alps as a giant chicken foot. Among other hints of the school’s predominantly Jewish membership was the nickname of one of its more prominent members: “el jueu de les bruixoles,” or “the Compass Jew.”

But this is only part of the explanation. The arrow of the compass can just as easily point south, since the magnetized metal needle simply aligns with the earth’s magnetic field, with a pole at each end. Indeed, the Chinese supposedly referred to their first compass magnets as south-pointing stones. Crucially, the Chinese developed this convention before they began to use compasses for navigation at sea. By the time Europeans adopted the compass, though, they were already experienced in navigating with reference to the North Star, the one point in the heavens that remains fixed anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere. Many mariners saw the compass as an artificial replacement for the star on cloudy nights and even assumed it was the pull of the star itself that drew the needle north.

vinland map
The Vinland map, a 15th century world map purportedly based on a 13th century original. If authentic, it is the first known depiction of the North American coastline.
 Yale University/Wikipedia

Yet even as this north-pointing compass became essential to navigation and navigational charts in the 15th century, less precise land maps showing the entire known Old World continued to offer a disorienting array of perspectives. Some had the east on top, in keeping with European tradition, while others preferred the south, in keeping with Arab tradition, and others went with the north, in keeping with the point on the compass rose. Among other things that stand out in these maps is that, given the extent of the known world, the location of the Mediterranean and a bit of uncertainly about the equator, Italy was more or less centered between the north and the south — meaning that whichever way you turned the map, Italy remained more or less halfway between the top and bottom. Conveniently, Italy was at roughly the same latitude as Jerusalem, which through most of the century map makers assumed was at the center of the known world. In fact, the first blow to this pious assumption came with the discovery of just how much of the Old World lies to the east of Jerusalem. Only later did it become apparent just how far north of the equator Jerusalem — and by extension, Italy — really was.

Ptolemy
Ptolemy’s map.
 The British Library Board/Getty Images

The north’s position was ultimately secured by the beginning of the 16th century, thanks to Ptolemy, with another European discovery that, like the New World, others had known about for quite some time. Ptolemy was a Hellenic cartographer from Egypt whose work in the second century A.D. laid out a systematic approach to mapping the world, complete with intersecting lines of longitude and latitude on a half-eaten-doughnut-shaped projection that reflected the curvature of the earth. The cartographers who made the first big, beautiful maps of the entire world, Old and New — men like Gerardus Mercator, Henricus Martellus Germanus and Martin Waldseemuller — were obsessed with Ptolemy. They turned out copies of Ptolemy’s Geography on the newly invented printing press, put his portrait in the corners of their maps and used his writings to fill in places they had never been, even as their own discoveries were revealing the limitations of his work.

For reasons that have been lost to history, Ptolemy put the north up. Or at least that’s the way it appears from the only remaining copies of his work, made by 13th century Byzantine monks. On the one hand, Ptolemy realized that, sitting in Alexandria, he was in the northern half of a very large globe, whose size had been fairly accurately calculated by the ancient Greeks. On the other hand, it put Alexandria at the very bottom of the inhabited world as known to Ptolemy and all the main civilizational centers in the Greco-Roman Mediterranean.

 For Americans, it’s easy to think that our position, at the top left of most maps, is the intrinsically preferable one. It’s unclear why Arabs or Israelis, who read from right to left, would necessarily think so.

Even if compasses and Ptolemy had both pointed to the south, northerners could still have come along and flipped things around. In fact, with north seemingly settled at the top of the page in the 16th century, there were still some squabbles over who in the Northern Hemisphere would end up left, right or center. The politics of reorientation are anything but simple. For Americans, it’s easy to think that our position, at the top-left of most maps, is the intrinsically preferable one; it certainly seems that way if you happen to be from a culture that reads from left to right. But it’s unclear why Arabs or Israelis, who read from right to left, would necessarily think so. And while map makers usually like to design maps with the edges running through one of the world’s major oceans, it is certainly possible to put North America in the very center by splitting the world in half through Asia.

As the United States was just beginning to emerge on the world stage in the 19th century, American cartographers made some earnest efforts to give the U.S. pride of place. While there is something endearing about the idea of an Indiana map maker in 1871 preparing an atlas with Indiana squarely in the center of the world, the unfortunate side effect was that most of the Midwest disappeared into the gaping crease between atlas pages. Nepal, of course, gets a bit cut off on the sides, but that is nothing compared with what happens to Nebraska. And ironically, accepting the United States’ position in the top left leaves Africa at the very center of the map, which is hardly in line with the politics of the time. Though this puts Africa in what was once considered the map’s prime real estate, it also reduces the continent’s relative size on the standard Mercator projection — another source of complaint for carto-critics.

The orientation of our maps, like so many other features of the modern world, arose from the interplay of chance, technology and politics in a way that defies our desire to impose easy or satisfying narratives. But at a time when the global south continues to suffer more than its share of violence and poverty, let’s not dismiss McArthur’s Universal Corrective Map of the World too quickly. It continues to symbolize a noble wish: that we could overturn the unjust political and economic relationships in our world as easily as we can flip the maps on our walls.

apollo 17

Earth seen from Apollo 17.
NASA

Nick Danforth is a PhD candidate at Georgetown University. He writes about Middle East maps, history and politics at Midafternoon Map.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera America’s editorial policy.

Interactive: Racial Dot Maps via: University of Va.

The Racial Dot Map

One Dot Per Person for the Entire United States

Created by Dustin Cable, July 2013

Access and Use Policy


Link to Full Screen Map

Download a High Resolution Image of the U.S. Racial Dot Map (33 MB)

Please read the Access and Use Policy, which describes how this map can be used and how it should be cited.

NEW: You can see the new Congressional Dot Map project with election results here.

The Map

This map is an American snapshot; it provides an accessible visualization of geographic distribution, population density, and racial diversity of the American people in every neighborhood in the entire country. The map displays 308,745,538 dots, one for each person residing in the United States at the location they were counted during the 2010 Census. Each dot is color-coded by the individual’s race and ethnicity. The map is presented in both black and white and full color versions. In the color version, each dot is color-coded by race.

All of the data displayed on the map are from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2010 Summary File 1 dataset made publicly available through the National Historical Geographic Information System. The data is based on the “census block,” the smallest area of geography for which data is collected (roughly equivalent to a city block in an urban area).

The map was created by Dustin Cable, a former demographic researcher at the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service. Brandon Martin-Anderson from the MIT Media Lab deserves credit for the original inspiration for the project. This map builds on his work by adding the Census Bureau’s racial data, and by correcting for mapping errors.

The Dots

Each of the 308 million dots are smaller than a pixel on your computer screen at most zoom levels. Therefore, the “smudges” you see at the national and regional levels are actually aggregations of many individual dots. The dots themselves are only resolvable at the city and neighborhood zoom levels.

Each dot on the map is also color-coded by race and ethnicity. Whites are coded as blue; African-Americans, green; Asians, red; Hispanics, orange; and all other racial categories are coded as brown.

Shades of Purple, Teal, and Other Colors

Since dots are smaller than one pixel at most zoom levels, colors are assigned to a pixel depending on the number of colored dots within that pixel. For example, if a pixel contains a number of White (blue dots) and Asian (red dots) residents, the pixel will be colored a particular shade of purple according to the proportion of each within that pixel.

Different shades of purple, teal, and other colors can therefore be a measure of racial integration in a particular area. However, a place that may seem racially integrated at wider zoom levels may obscure racial segregation at the city or neighborhood level.

Take the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area as an example:

While Minneapolis and St. Paul may appear purple and racially integrated when zoomed out at the state level, a closer look reveals a greater degree of segregation between different neighborhoods in both cities. While some areas remain relatively integrated, there are clear delineations between Asian, black, and white neighborhoods.

Lightly Populated Areas

Toggling between color-coded and non-color-coded map views in lightly populated areas provides more contrast to see differences in population density. Take North and South Dakota as illustrative examples:

In the black and white version, it is easier to see the smaller towns and low-density areas than in the color-coded version. Different monitor settings and configurations may make it harder or easier to see color variations in lightly populated areas, but the non-color-coded map should always show differences in population density fairly well.

Dots Located in Parks, Cemeteries, and Lakes

The locations of the dots do not represent actual addresses. The most detailed geographic identifier in Census Bureau data is the census block. Individual dots are randomly located within a particular census block to match aggregate population totals for that block. As a result, dots in some census blocks may be located in the middle of parks, cemeteries, lakes, or other clearly non-residential areas within that census block. No greater geographic resolution for the 2010 Census data is publicly available (and for good reason).

A more accurate portrayal of the geographic distribution of residents is possible if data is available on the location of parks, buildings, and/or physical addresses. Individual dots could therefore be conditionally placed based on this data.

The following is an example of using additional data to improve the dot density map for the City of Charlottesville, Virginia:

No Extra Data

Using Additional Address and Park Data

By conditioning the location of dots based on physical address and excluding locations with parks or commercial property, the dot map for Charlottesville becomes a more accurate portrayal of the population distribution of the city. However, the City of Charlottesville is unusual in that this data is made publicly available. There are no nationwide datasets for all parks or physical addresses. As a result, the national-level Racial Dot Map does not make these adjustments.

The Data

All of the data displayed on the map are from the 2010 Summary File 1 (SF1) tables from the U.S. Census Bureau. Table P5, “Hispanic or Latino Origin by Race,” was merged with block-level state shapefiles from the National Historical Geographic Information System. Five racial categories were created based on the data in table P5: non-Hispanic White, non-Hispanic Black, non-Hispanic Asian, Hispanic or Latino, and a category for all other racial categories including the multiracial identifications. The sum of all five categories equals the total population.

Methodology

Python was used to read the 50 state and District of Columbia shapefiles (with the merged SF1 data). The GDAL and Shapely libraries were used to read the data and create the point objects. The code retrieves the population data for each census block, creates the appropriate number of geographic points randomly distributed within each census block, and outputs the point information to a database file. The resulting file has x-y coordinates for each point, a quadkey reference to the Google Maps tile system, and a categorical variable for race. The final database file has 308,745,538 observations and is about 21 GB in size. The processing time was about five hours for the entire nation.

The database file was then sorted by quadkey and converted to a .csv format. SAS was able to do this within an hour without crashing.

Processing 2.0.1 for 64-bit Windows was used to create the map tiles. The Java code reads each point from the .csv file and plots a dot on a 512×512 .png map tile using the quadkey reference and x-y coordinates. The racial categorical variable is used to color-code each plotted dot. This process used the default JAVA2D renderer, but other platforms may work better using P2D. Map tiles were created for Google Maps’ zoom levels 4 through 13 to make the final map. A non-color-coded map was also produced to help add more contrast for lightly populated areas. In total, the color-coded and non-color-coded maps contain 1.2 million .png files totaling about 7 GB. Producing all of the map tiles in Processing took about 16 hours for the two maps.

The Google Maps API is used to display the map tiles. Map tiles with zero population are never created using the above method. Therefore, an index was used to tell the map application whether a tile exists in order to prevent 404 errors.

The entire code is up on GitHub and was adapted from code developed by Brandon Martin-Anderson and Peter Richardson in order to account for the racial coding and errors in reading the shapefiles.

via CNN: 7 Things you Probably Didn’t know about Maps

7 things you probably didn’t know about maps

By Frances Cha, CNN
February 3, 2014 — Updated 1011 GMT (1811 HKT)
London-based map dealer Daniel Crouch shares a few unusual or rare maps from a recent exhibition in Hong Kong. According to Crouch, maps of BRIC nations (Brazil, Russia, India and China) are rising in popularity among map collectors. This 17th-century map of China is a double-page hand-colored engraved map published in 1665 by John Speed.
London-based map dealer Daniel Crouch shares a few unusual or rare maps from a recent exhibition in Hong Kong. According to Crouch, maps of BRIC nations (Brazil, Russia, India and China) are rising in popularity among map collectors. This 17th-century map of China is a double-page hand-colored engraved map published in 1665 by John Speed.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • “Paper towns” were fake places added to maps by mapmakers in order to dupe forgers into copying them
  • The world’s best map collection is in Paris, says map dealer Daniel Crouch
  • Maps of BRIC nations are popular in the collecting world right now

(CNN) — Maps can be beautiful and good ones can be great investments.

But what collectors often find most entrancing about maps are how they provide portals into history.

The rise and fall of cities, the charting of war and adventure, the promise of riches through trade … history continues to be rewritten according to scholars’ reinterpretations of ancient cartography.

John Selden’s 17th-century map of China made a huge splash recently as the stimulus for two new books analyzing London’s rise as an economic hub (the city’s success is inextricably linked to trade with China, as the Selden map illustrates).

MORE: Scientists “undiscover” South Pacific island

According to some experts, the current unprecedented volume of global travel is also contributing to a burgeoning interest in map collecting.

“I believe that as people travel more, migrate more and speak more languages, and as business becomes more globalized, the appeal of two types of attachment to the idea of ‘place’ increases,” says Daniel Crouch, a London based specialist of antique maps and atlases.

“One, as an identification with, or memory of, a place or homeland left behind, and the other as a statement of a new ‘home’ or adopted country, or fondness for a land visited.”

Crouch reveals some fascinating map facts gathered from a lifetime of collecting and selling antique maps, and shares favorites from his most recent exhibition in Hong Kong featuring maps of China.

7 things to know about maps

1. It’s still possible to have your own world-class map collection

Even the wealthiest collectors of old master or impressionist paintings, Chinese ceramics or modern art can never hope to have collections of a quality to match the likes of the Louvre, the British Museum or the Met.

However, that’s not true of maps.

The savvy collector can still buy maps or atlases as good as, and sometimes better than, those found in the world’s major libraries and museums.

“We have several items in our gallery that are at least as good, if not better, than the equivalent examples in, say, the Bibliotheque Nationale, the British Library or Library of Congress,” says Crouch, whose gallery keeps approximately 250 maps and 50 atlases in stock at any one time.

2. “BRIC” nations are hot right now

Antique maps featuring the world’s biggest developing countries have seen a recent spike in prices.

According to Crouch this heightened interest can be linked to the recently increased inbound and outbound travel from these countries.

“Maps of B.R.I.C. nations (Brazil, Russia, India and China) have seen the fastest growing markets (and prices) in recent years,” says Crouch.

“I have also noticed an increased interest in ‘thematic’ and 19th and even early 20th century mapping,” he says.

MORE: Top cities for international tourists are …

3. The first “modern” map was printed more than 500 years ago

While the earliest maps were rudimentary diagrams drawn in caves in pre-historic times, the first proper manuscript maps appeared in the 12th century.

The map of the Holy Land printed in the “Rudimentum Novitiorum,” an encyclopedia of world history published in 1475, is considered the first modern printed map.

A sample of the Rudimentum Novitiorum was sold for £500,000 ($829,000) in 2013.

4. Mapmakers included fake towns to catch forgers

Ever been to the town of Agloe in New York State? Whitewall in California? Or Relescent in Florida?

While these towns are clearly marked on a number of antique maps of the United States, they don’t actually exist.

“Paper towns” were fake places added to maps by early mapmakers in order to dupe forgers into copying them, thereby exposing themselves to charges of copyright infringement.

5. The world’s best map collection is in Paris

“The best collection in the world, in my opinion, is that of theBibliotheque Nationale de France in Paris, followed by the Library of Congress in the United States and the British Library,” says Crouch.

“Many of what we now regard as the major institutional collections of cartography were actually put together by individuals in the 17th and 18th centuries. In the United Kingdom, the best collection of such material was made by King George III.”

The latter collection is known as the “K.Top,” and can be found in the British Library.

MORE: Insider guide: Best of Paris

6. The most expensive map was the first to name America

The U.S. Library of Congress paid a record $10 million for German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller’s Universalis Cosmographia, a wall map of the world printed in 1507.

It’s the only surviving copy of the map, which was the first to use the name “America.”

In 2007, Crouch brokered the sale of the most expensive atlas ever sold — the 1477 Bologna Ptolemy, the first printed atlas — for £1.9 million ($3.12 million).

7. The best place to shop for maps is in the Netherlands

The annual European Fine Art and Antiques Fair in Masstricht, Netherlands is often considered the world’s best place to shop for antique maps, classic and modern art and jewelry.

More than 70,000 people visited the TEFAF Maastricht in 2013 to browse the 260 booths from 20 countries.

“It’s simply the biggest and best fine art fair in the world,” says Crouch.

This year’s fair dates are March 14-23.

TEFAF Maastricht, Maastricht Exhibition & Congress Centre, Forum 100, 6229 GV Maastricht, Netherlands; +31 43 38 38 383; 11 a.m.-7 p.m.

via Metropolis Mag: These Maps Show How Subway Maps Twist Urban Reality

These Maps Show How Subway Maps Twist Urban Reality

Komal Sharma
These Maps Show How Subway Maps Twist Urban RealityA new project by historian Benjamin M. Schmidt reveals how wrong subway maps really are.

Courtesy Benjamin M. Schmidt

It’s not a secret that our subway maps distort the geographies of the metropoles they claim to represent. When we traverse a city everyday with an MTA (Metropolitan Transportation Authority NY) or WMATA map (Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority), our conception of the city—its boundaries, expanses—easily becomes scrambled. For instance, both Washington’s dense inner core and its spread-out outskirts are all shown on the same scale. In a grid city like Manhattan there might be some semblance of similarity, but in most other cities, reality on the ground is completely different.

A new project developed at Northeastern University tackles these problems head on. Benjamin M. Schmidt, a professor of history, has designed interactive digital maps of Boston, New York and Washington that superimpose each city’s respective subway route map onto a geographically accurate map made to scale. One can adjust the opacity or transparency between the geographic maps and the overlaid subway routes, and can zoom in and out as well.

With research that joins the fields of cultural history and digital humanities, Schmidt’s maps feed into the larger project at Northeastern University’s history department, which uses maps to investigate the urban and social changes in the city. The new maps are rectified, annotated, and aligned with historical maps to track the changes over time. Schmidt’s maps were designed to help explain the concept of “geo-rectification” to his students. “I made these because I was interested in the collision of two different views we have of our cities: the Google maps version that we use more and more, and the subway maps, which are just as important in making us think about the layout of our cities but have a totally different perspective,” explains Schmidt.

The London Underground Map, 1908. See how the map more or less accurately plots the subway lines according to their geographical placement.

Courtesy London Transport Museum

This “rectification” comes some eighty years after the first subway maps began trading in geographical accuracy for abstract clarity. In 1931, when Harry Beck, an English draftsman, first came up with the design of the London Underground Tube map, it was rejected because it was thought “too revolutionary.” Beck had removed all semblance of geography from the map and “cleaned it up” into a proportionate, rectilinear diagram with horizontal, vertical, and angular lines for train routes and evenly spaced dots for subway stops. A trial of 500 maps was run and it became hugely popular among commuters. By 1933, Beck’s diagrammatic map was in full print run and has, ever since, been the template of subways, trains and transport maps across the cities of the world.

The London Underground Map by Harry Beck, 1933. Subsequent editions have more or less left Beck’s schematic intact.

Courtesy London Transport Museum

It’s a classic case of choosing coherence over geographic accuracy. Beck, a commuter himself, understood that for the average passenger on the train, the agenda was getting from one station to another with a quick glance over the map. Geographical accuracy didn’t figure into it. By comparison, the maps that existed before have often been referred to “as legible as spaghetti in a bowl.” Beck, who used to work as an engineering draftsman at the London Underground Signals Office, designed his version invariably similar to electric circuit diagrams that he did for his day job. A map for comprehensibility rather than topographic exactitude, Beck was able to solve a universal problem of growing cities with his sound design, which is probably the reason for its longevity.

One of Schmidt’s “geo-rectified” maps that shows how the “real” DC Metro conforms to the city’s geography.

Courtesy Benjamin M. Schmidt

Unlike Beck, Schmidt makes its clear that his maps are not for commuters benefit. “I definitely don’t think think these maps are useful, per se; there’s a place for accurate subway maps, but not these twisted versions. But I thought it would be fun to show how these examples of good design that we all live with become distorted if you try to “fix” them. I definitely wouldn’t want to see them actually changed along these lines,” he says.

While Beck’s classic design persists in its relevance and needs no fixing, the digital medium does offer us a new kind of opportunity. It allows us to see a dimension of reality that we didn’t have access to before. Yet it emerges that the truth is quite twisted, in more ways than one.

Adventures in mapping | TED Playlist

See on Scoop.itAdvanced Human Geography

Maps don’t just tell you which street to turn left on. Maps convey information that shapes our lives, deepen our understanding of problems and our ability to create solutions, and whisk our imaginations to new lands. See what we mean, below.

TheHumanImprint‘s insight:

Contemporary cartography in practice.

See on www.ted.com