Who says North is up?
Upside Down maps (also known as South-Up or Reversed maps) offer a completely different perspective of the world we live in.
Technically speaking, even referring to the earth with words like “up” or “down” or comparing places with words “above” or “below” is flawed, considering that the earth is a spherical body (it’s actually slightly “fatter” at the equator) and flying through 3 dimensional space with no reference of up or down. However, the issue of “up” and “down” does become an issue when viewing the surface of the earth projected onto a flat piece of paper (a map). And the effect of the orientation of a map is more significant than you might realize.
As all maps require orientation for reference, the issue of how to layout the map orientation is as old as maps themselves. As map orientation is completely arbitrary, it is not surprising that they differed throughout time periods and regions.
The convention of North-up is usually attributed to the Egyptian astronomer Ptolemy (90-168 AD). Justifications for his north-up approach vary. In the middle ages, East was often placed at top. This is the origin of the term “The Orient” to refer to East Asia. During the age of exploration, European cartographers again followed the north-up convention…perhaps because the North Star was their fixed reference point for navigation, or because they wanted (subconsciously or otherwise) to ensure Europe’s claim at the top of the world.
In modern times, reversed maps are made as a learning device or to illustrate Northern Hemisphere bias. Different from simply turning a north-up map upside down, a reversed map has the text oriented to be read with south up.
The famous “Blue Marble” photograph of the Earth taken from on board Apollo 17 was originally oriented with the south pole at the top, with the island of Madagascar visible just left of center, and the continent of Africa at its right. However, the image was turned upside-down to fit the traditional view.
While the orientation of a map might seem harmless, it can have a significant effect on one’s perception of the world, and the relative importance of the different place in it.
In speech, we often refer to places being “above” or “below” others. Think of how you would say you’re about to travel to the state or country to your north or south (to go “down” to Kentucky from Indiana, or “up” to Canada from the US). Without even mentioning geography, ask any grade school student whether Mexico is “above” or “below” the United States. We’re all familiar with the “land down under”. As we often correlate importance to relative height (think how a citizens of a country will fly their flag higher than all other flags), the north-up convention reinforces the idea that northern bodies are more important than their southern neighbors. Suddenly, traveling “down” to the South might have an inference much deeper than geographic location.
After looking at the map more closely, you may realize that the South-Up orientation may change your perception of the relative status of different places. For example, South America suddenly looks to have more prominence, and Africa and the Middle East completely dwarf Europe. Likewise, tucking Northern Europe, Canada, and Russia away at the bottom of the map, subconsciously takes away their status.
Because this always bears reblogging. Illustrates how cartography—specifically the ways in which cartographers shrink and expand land masses in order to depict a “flat” earth— distorts our perception of the world.
i need people to know that the fact that Africa is often portrayed so extremely out of scale is not just because the map is a flat version of the round earth
Again. Call the majority population of POC minorities and pretend Africa is a small, static country. -_- The amount of diversity on that continent is staggering. Oh and all the countries north of the Sahara are also African nations.
Black Studies majors errwhere
petition to rename the usa ‘south canada’
what about alaska
are we then normal canada
canada a bit to the left
What about South America? Is that just America? Or South South Canada?
i cried my ass of laughing
this post is out of control
I am dying at the solar system (plus pluto)
Might be useful for teachers with limited field trip budgets ;o)
OH MY GOSH THEY ARE FUCKING INCREDIBLE.
Area accurate Peters Projection Map overlaid with common Mercator Projection Map [1609x1024]
Look at this cool as fuck shit. Just awesome.
Complement with maps as power and propaganda, 100 diagrams that changed the world, and some intentionally distorted maps that make political points.
It’s pretty amazing to find out that the way you’ve been viewing the world your whole life is not at all how that world actually looks. Must-watch.
Thank you, Dr. Phlox. There is no right-side up on a map because there are no directions in space. The map is orientated the way it is because we want it that way.
Mapping the earth is a classic problem. For thousands of years cartographers, mathematicians, and inventors have come up with methods to map the curved surface of the earth to a flat plane. The main problem is that you cannot do this perfectly, such that both the shape and size of the surface are depicted properly everywhere. This has intrigued me for a long time. Why not just take a map of a small part of the earth, which is almost perfect, glue neighboring maps to it, and repeat this until the whole earth is shown? Of course you get interrupts, but does this matter? What does such a map look like? To check this out, we developed myriahedral projections.
Something of an aside on maps:
The Mercator projection created in 1569 (which is probably the ‘standard’ map projection most people are familiar with seeing) can be understood to skew towards Western culture. When it was first created, the landmass distortions favored Western countries, making Greenland bigger than Africa, the state of Alaska bigger than Brazil, and western Europe bigger as a whole than it actually is.
Part of it has to do the way the Mercator map functions (attempting to stretch a sphere over a grid); distortions will arise. But it would be silly not to assume that Mercator, a Flemish cartographer, wouldn’t purposely or accidentally give more weight to the cultures he was most familiar with.
Also another interesting thing is that the Mercator projection (which makes Antarctica look huge) often cuts off Antarctica which gives people a skewed perception of the world also. Most people make the assumption that because the Equator divides the world in half, it must travel through Central America, dividing the world into North/South. But in actuality, the Equator is positioned further south, in Ecuador. The line most people assume is the Equator is the Tropic of Cancer, a latitudinal line which delineates the northern border of the tropical regions of Earth.