A Mildly Magnificent Modern Map

October 19, 2011

Not shown: Iceland. Chicago. Canada.

Since our humble days as hunter-gatherers, humans have created and shared maps to make sense of the world around us. To serve as models. To simplify. To point to food. And to navigate environments too big to otherwise comprehend.

Like many of us discovered in our youth*,  there’s something inherently fulfilling about maps. A good one will serve as a powerful link between our brains and the real world. By giving us a sense of context and scale while leaving out every detail, a great map will teach us as much as it will tempt us — tapping into our intrinsic nature to explore and chart new paths.

Here’s a nice map of our sprawling digital landscape and the growing influences of the ‘Internet Economy’. Far from the elaborate parchment creations of early cartographers, this map represents an emerging pattern of charting the intangible online spaces we increasingly inhabit. And different from other data-driven visualizations, it injects a subjective element while playing with relationships and space. It’s the little touches that make it work. The quirky plays on words (The Ocean of Spam, Blogger Isles. pfft.). The multiple layers. The ability to scroll side to side endlessly, like spinning a globe.

Kind of makes you want to go sailing, doesn’t it.

*My 4th-grade Orientation unit was glorious… a stretch of structured learning rivaled only by the Star Trek unit the following spring. What a year.

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