Wednesday, December 15, 2010

FACEBOOK, and other maps

AOG, Madrid

This is the new map of the world as influcenced by facebook. As you may gather from it, a lot of places have been left out. Here's a hi.res link to the facebook map.

Here's a link to they way facebook mapped the planet according to people's friends. 

So, what defines modernity? In facebook's case, about 500 million people and their pairs of friends.

The definition's landscape cannot escape the question, who is modern? 

But more importantly, who is not?

China isn't. Most of Africa is out. As is most of Brazil and the Islamic world.

And who is "modern"? 

No surprises there. The West. Europe, the US. Parts of Australasia. A thin line of Canada. Some Russian cities.

And the non-West? Japan, large bits of India.

Of course, if you think about it, the parts included are also the parts which hold most of our money, even though most of them don't get much air time on TV. 

At least not in the English-speaking world (so self-referencing!).

Is this map signifying something? 

In the XIX century, the British liked to redraw the political world and used to draw the British Isles rather engorged.

They were the dominant world power then.

I remember that in High School, maps always showed the US in the middle. Pride of place. 

It does not matter that it cuts Asia in half.

China does much the same.

Those of us who are not Chinese may find this interpretation of the planet as strange.

But it probably is just a question of adaptation. Why should they not be in the middle? They are the Middle Kingdom after all. 

I remember reading that the Emperor of China was upset when a Western General showed him a map of the planet. 

China -the Middle Kingdom because it was halfway between the heavens and the Earth- was not so big, when compared to others. 

But his main worry was that it was not in the middle. At the center. 

Rather, it was at the periphery of it all. 

How unlike today!

And Australia likes to show the world upside down (in a universe with no North or South).

Countries like to see themselves first. 

So narcissistic.

And at the top. 

North good. South, bad.

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