South-up mental maps

As we all know the conventional world geographical map we use in our lives is based exactly on a ‘convention’: an historical convention with the ‘North’ at the top and the ‘South’ at the bottom, born with the astronomer Ptolemy two thousand years ago. In the space there is no such thing as north and south (even if the Earth’s rotation happen around its own axis) and another convention, the separation of the map in the Pacific Ocean, born with the growth of the North Atlantic power since some centuries ago. But not only the geographical maps are influenced by the angle we see them; also the mental maps. And the two things often are related.

So what if we try to challenge our ‘mental maps’ given the fact that also geography may be different from what we think? This is the goal of the blog, to understand that reality is relative to positions and perspectives…and so politics, in every of its aspects, including democracy, the highest level of social contract that humankind is supposed to aim. All is debatable and adjustable, if we look from different angles. Only the centrality of human beings is not debatable, as human beings have the same dignity, every where, every time and in any personal identity.

Here some examples of different maps that can teach us to rethink the world as we know it:

The McArthur universal corrective maps: Indonesia and Australia now are at the center of the map…quite a different perspective 🙂

mcarthur universal corrective maps

The Hobodyer projection map: not only different perspective but also different sizes for the ‘lands’ 🙂

hobodyer projection map

Finally the Blue Marble picture from Apollo 17 in its original orientation 🙂

Blue Marble Apollo in its original orientation

As we can see geography is relative and our mental maps also. So a south-up map orientation can be useful to reduce ethnocentrism, in particular today the so called ‘Western’ or ‘North’ (or it would be better to say ‘Euroatlantic’) one. After 500 years from the Copernicus heliocentric revolution today we need to challenge the north-centrism towards universal-centrism. This will bring a real shift in the paradigm of how we interpret our environment: the planet as something we are living on, the nature as something we are living in and the world as something we are living with. Instead of “we and the environment” are one cosmos, one unity. If we understand that there is no such thing as north and south, we can open to chaos but also to transcendence. First of all transcending conflicts.

For an interesting study on the influence of maps and its consequent mental biases see http://spp.sagepub.com/content/2/5/547

For all sorts of map see http://www.odt.org/

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An unfamiliar political geography of a 'democratic and modern' world from the perspective of a Florentine man living in Virginia

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