If you only read one thing this week…

World mapper – re-invisioning the world by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
November 1, 2007, 12:38 pm
Filed under: Web sites

World Mapper is a website that produces ‘cartograms’ – maps that distort the shape of territories by some statistic – there’s no easy way to describe it really! The map shown here, for example, is “deaths from easily preventable causes” (infections, maternal conditions, perinatal conditions, nutritional deficiencies). You can see the territories most affected clearly. Check out the site, where they have hundreds of these, by every indicator you could want, here.


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As the Worldmapper group demonstrates, using cartograms to organize several hundred (or thousand) data points can be an effective method to see patterns and relationships: it leverages that large part of our cranial area devoted to visual processing.

These cartograms each plot one variable (over 350 in total). The method can be used to plot two variables, enabling somewhat more powerful analysis with comparable ease of comprehension. For cartograms of the 2004 US presidential election results, see


The first map shows the 48 states by geographic size, colored “red” if majority voted for the Republican candidate and “blue” if the majority voted for the Democratic one.

Compare with the cartogram at the end: this represents data at the county level, with the size of each county proportional to population size (more accurate if number of voters or number of registered voters) and the color depth (on a red-blue scale) proportional to the % Republican – % Democrat – the higher percentage R, the redder; the higher percentage D, the bluer.


1. The contrast between these two maps leads one to much different conclusions about the distribution and segregation of political voting (R v. D).

2. One could apply this method to other kinds of population differences or conflicts: ethnic or religious affiliation, economic status, extent of property destruction or damage in a disaster, etc.

Comment by P Dickinson

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