Going Global, Part 6: The Politics of Maps
BY Mike Hofman
If you turn to page 100 of the April issue or click here, you will find what we consider to be the coup de grace of Inc.'s global issue, which is a map of global business opportunities. The map highlights information ranging from gross domestic product growth for every country in the world, to the best and worst countries in terms of ease of doing business, to specific opportunities in exotic and interesting places.
In preparing the map, we took special pains to consider what it should actually look like. That's because all maps are flawed. It's inherently impossible to create a rectangular map of a round earth without some distortions.
After some debate, we decided to make our map using something called the Hobo-Dyer map projection as our main inspiration. The Hobo-Dyer is itself a modified Gall-Peters map projection. (Hobo-Dyer was modified principally through graphic design, to be slightly more attractive than Gall-Peters, which is considered in the cartography community to be a little over the top and severe.)
The map was designed by Mick Dyer, a British cartographer, and unveiled in 2002. Jimmy Carter chose pointedly to use the Hobo-Dyer in materials he distributed in Oslo and online, as part of his Nobel Prize acceptance speech that year.
The Hobo-Dyer is often designed so that Australia is at the top of the world, although Inc. did not take this dramatic step. Because of this, however, Hobo-Dyer is popular Down Under, and appears on school and pub walls there. You will also find a Hobo-Dyer map proudly displayed on the website and in the dining room of the Tuck Shop, an Australian meat pie pub, on East First Street near First Avenue in Manhattan, for example.
Both Peters and Dyer were designed in response to or as a critique of the dominant Mercator map, with which we are familiar. They argue that Mercator, which was designed by a Flemish cartographer named Geradus Mercator in 1569, magnifies the land mass of Europe because that's where Mercator was from, and because the Europeans of that era were full of themselves. They note that there is no particular reason why Mercator centers the map on Europe, with the Americas to the left and Asia to the right, except that Mercator was catering to the home team.
In terms of fact and geography, the most obvious criticism of the Mercator map is that Greenland and China appear to be almost equal in size, when China is much, much larger in reality. Alaska and Mexico—that's another flashpoint for Mercator haters. (We want to thank Bob Abramms and Howard Bronstein of ODT in Amherst, Massachusetts, for their help.)
From Inc.'s perspective, the reason for studying the Hobo-Dyer was precisely because it was conceived in part to suggest to users that map-making is not purely objective, but in fact influenced by political, economic, and cultural biases. At the heart of virtually every story in this issue is the thesis that preconceived notions must constantly be reconsidered. In today's world, entrepreneurs can find opportunities in places they never expected, and in places that they have perhaps written off because of a prior negative experience. Longitude and lattitude may be immutable, but economic conditions are changing all the time.
What do you think? Did we pick the right map? Have you done business in any of the countries we highlighted on the map? If so, tell us about your experiences there.
Last updated: Apr 5, 2007
MIKE HOFMAN was previously editor of Inc.com and a deputy editor at Inc. magazine, which he joined in 1996. The site was nominated for a National Magazine Award for Digital Media in 2010, and was named the best business website by Folio Magazine. In 2006, Hofman was part of a team of writers nominated for a Webby Award for best business blog. He lives in New York City. @mikehofman