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Rhumb Lines and Map WarsA Social History of the Mercator Projection$
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Mark Monmonier

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780226534312

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: March 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226534329.001.0001

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Points of View

Points of View

(p.173) 11 Points of View
Rhumb Lines and Map Wars
University of Chicago Press

The Mercator projection's formidable societal momentum demands multiple explanations, which include collective memory, brand-name recognition, and institutional inertia. An abundance of dysfunctional designs in news publications and academic journals suggests that maps as a whole are remarkably robust. Peters's complaint that the Mercator projection favors northern countries at the expense of the Third World finds favor among postcolonial deconstructionists poised to slay dead dragons. In addition to exposing the ideological roles of map projections, the Peters controversy revealed once again the ignorance of map projection, and geometry in general, among the public, the media, and even some academic geographers. With “virtual globes” and inexpensive, highly interactive cartographic multimedia so widely available, mapmakers and teachers have little excuse for inappropriate choices and uninspired pedagogy.

Keywords:   Mercator projection, maps, postcolonial deconstructionists, Peters, virtual globes

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