I once saw a book for kids at a science museum gift shop that used interesting visuals to put certain things in perspective. Unfortunately I don’t remember the name of the book because it was so long ago, but I’m pretty sure it was published by Klutz.
One example from the book included a spinner that displayed your statistical chance of being born into the richest 10% of the world’s population. Much of the “western” and “developed” countries were included in this 10%. I created a quick little graph to illustrate this example below. I’m not sure if “10%” is the number they used in the book, but you get the idea.
9 spins out of 10, the pointer would land on the red portion. And in all of our cases, this spinner was “spun” before we were even born. We can do the best we can with what we’re born into, but it is not always easy. I know that I’m lucky to have so much going for me (a great family, great friends, a relatively safe town, a good education), and I’m working on not being so materialistic and to focus on cutting back whenever possible. Also, I understand that being born into a “rich” nation does not necessarily mean you are rich in general. The United States has an especially large disparity between the rich and poor, something I feel we should all be working harder to close, somehow.
Another interesting example in the book that really stood out to me was an illustration of a world map. The map looked like any normal map, except for one thing — look at the images below and you’ll see what I mean (these particular maps come from the Nations Online Project).
On first glance, I was compelled to say that this maps is “wrong”, that it is “upside down” and “flipped.” But then I realized that no, it is wrong from what perspective? We’re accustomed to seeing maps oriented in a certain accepted way, but that doesn’t mean that that “accepted way” is the “correct” way. In the universe, there is no direction. There is no North or South, no East and West. There is no top and there is no bottom. We use directions because they make it easier for us to pinpoint locations, but it is still a human construct. If an alien species were to happen upon our planet and marvel at the beauty of its landmasses and water from space — so much that they wanted to draw them, do you think they would know to orient the continents from the ONE perspective that we accept as correct? Here’s another example:
The book suggested that the way we orient our world map may reflect notions of superiority, with the implication that some locations are on “top” of others, and that some locations come first. Whether or not you agree, it does challenge you to think of the world in a different light — and raises some interesting questions. How different do you think the world would be if we adopted another standard for the “correct” display of maps? How much of an effect, if any, does map orientation have on the perception of a country and its place in the world?