A New World Order
A 2006 New Yorker article notes that just less than one hundred years from the advent of the McNally road map that followed the expansion of the highway system and facilitated miles of joyriding, most people now use digital mapping, most commonly through Google Maps.16th Century Map of Strait of Gibraltar by Piri Reis, an Ottoman captain, geographer and cartographer. (Source Wikipedia)
Rotatable Maps, available here along with other neat features, allows Google Maps users to shift the North coordinate 90°, 180° and 270°—literally turning the world upside down.
This feature can’t help but remind us of the maps seen in Chinese classrooms, locating China in the middle. The spherical form of the world has inspired cartographers to generate countless ways of projecting the globe and it is clear there are no right answers. Although convenient, the convention of drawing maps with the North on top has undoubtedly impacted how we see the world.Chinese Map of the World, showing Asia centered
For example, the actual distance between the East and the West Coast, between Europe and America, between South and North America, has been shifted. We see the world through proximity, in the same manner that we look at a map when we land in an unknown city. It can be just as interesting to look at your hometown and see a map in a way that is more familiar to you, based on the perspective of say, emerging from the subway, or a recognized geographic feature such as a river or a park.Shifting the Way the World is Seen
Shifting the North for convenience is nothing new. The New York Subway map has shifted its map 15° for decades in order to showcase Manhattan as a perfectly perpendicular strip of land. Many cities have a geographically inaccurate vision of the ‘North.’ In Montréal, for example, the North is actually visualized more than 45° East than it actually exists, in order to reflect the origins of the city grid in Old Montréal.
We certainly hope this feature makes it into the regular Google Maps, and that other iterations (at 45° angles for instance) become available, so that more people start taking control of their world, and the way they view it.
We are not alone…