I saw a “McArthur’s Universal Corrective Map of World” tonight, and it got me thinking about maps as great examples of the constructedness of our perceptions, and about “upside down” maps as great examples of “reverse rhetoric.”
I just wish McArthur and this mapmaker (at right) would have simply labeled their maps “World Map,” instead of “Universal Corrective” or “Upside down.” Those terms spoil some of the effect, I think. The mapmakers ought to draw no attention to their supposed non-“standard”-ness and simply present themselves with the same confidence and assumption of dominance that “standard” maps use. It seems like that would shake up perceptions better, would make it harder for someone seeing it for the first time to simply slough it off as a curiosity.
Then there are the Peters Projection Accurate Area maps, which show the true (i.e., smaller) size of North America, Greenland, Europe, and Russia, etc — and the true (i.e., larger) size of Africa, South America, and Australia, etc.
How about a South-dominant Peters projection map? We should use those as well as Pacific-centered maps.
Meanwhile, check out this little piece called “Dreaming Upside Down” by Tom Peterson. At first, it struck me as a little extreme, but then I realized it’s probably an accurate, if playful and extreme, description of the panic us northerners would feel if our artificial dominance were actually suddenly lost to the south.
In my dream, a cloud of anxieties closed around me. The United States was now at the bottom. Would we have to stand upside-down, causing the blood to rush to our heads? Would we need suction-cup shoes to stay on the planet, and would autumn leaves fall up? No, I remembered, an apple once bopped Newton on the head – no need to worry about these things.
Other things troubled me more. Now that we’re at the bottom, would our resources and labor be exploited by the new top? Would African, Asian, and Latin American nations structure world trade to their advantage?