Maps, yum.

Cartography has always been an area that has interested me.  How do we express our relationship to teh landscape in depictions that are supposedly ‘accurate’?  what features of landscape or human relationship do we emphasize?  What details reveal how much (or little) we know about a particular area?  What markers and symbols to we place on the edges of maps, at the edge of the known world?  How do we orient ourselves?

But recognizing those prejudices also allows the way for something else.  Recognizing the flaws inherent in representation, we can begin to tell other stories with these same shapes – the outline of borders, the sizing of regions.  And technology is beginning to help us in this flow of information manipulation, in this case, new software that creates equal area cartograms.  Using the software and compiled data, a book has been written and a website launched, displaying visually some of the more interesting and startling comparisons between nations in the world.  In particular, I thought the span of the Shinto religion was very interesting and spread over a strange area.  I guess it’s the Pacific Islands that make it that shape, but still, whoa.

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One of those really cool things I wish they did everywhere.

So I was browsing the online energy/environment resources at the MIT, and I discovered this.  Not only do I not know how it works (probably some math thing manipulates the raw data), but there are disclaimers right at the top telling you the data may not be completely accurate.  But still, that’s pretty cool (oooh, pretty colors!  And I can choose my spectrum!  Yay!).  Just like iFIND and Wiki City Rome are cool.  Of course, in a world with Smarter Agent and GPS car navigation systems soon to include local gas, store, and housing information, I have high hopes that this kind of expenditure information will soon be available as I pass by.

Just think about it: consumers could actually have the ability to screen and choose the stores and companies they frequent based on energy expenditures, or other typically unobservable product costs.  Information on pollution and recycling and waste managment could become public domain and readily accessible in map form.  How awesome would that be?

We do public information releases like that now for where sex offenders live and work.  Why not make the ‘bad guys’ of the corporate world take some accountability too?