Cartographic projections have their own inherent strength and weaknesses, for it is not easy to transfer a spherical geographical globe, with uneven topography, into two dimensional piece of paper for charting or viewing. Mapping is thus not perfect, as projection will cause distortion in size of land mass, shape, location and distances. The data on the globe had to be transferred into developable geometric forms (cylindrical, conical and planar) for mapping. Projection is, therefore, highly subjective, referential and compromising, and depends on individual perceptive choices and motivations.
The Mercator was the first cylindrical, conformal map, and to preserve shape, scales had to vary when they intersected at meridians and parallel across the map. It thus gave the impression that the Polar Regions, American and Europe were much larger in relative comparisons to countries near the equator. The Mercator was useful as aeronautical and nautical charts, using the straight Rhumb line or Loxodromic for navigating. Being cylindrical and showed more of the globe than conical, the Mercator served as good world map, for school students on lessons on continents, oceans and nations. For digital and street mapping, Google used Mercator. The disadvantage was the limitation in viewing the entire globe, and the distortion could be visually misperceived as racist or political hegemony, or white centric, as it made the powerful “northern” nations larger than real, compared with the southern nations. From the sixteen century, western colonialists sailed and conquered the Far East using the straights lines (drawn from Mercator) with a constant compass bearing. However, that reason alone would be simplistic.
As a comparison, the Hobo-Dyer map projection is also cylindrical, but with equal area presentation. In contrast to Mercator, it showed the world’s land masses in actual comparison, and, in its double print, turned it upside down to challenge the habitual north upwards and south downwards perception to give a different perspective and reverse any misleading representation. For instance, it might show the south at the top, and the Pacific Ocean at its center and the Atlantic at the margins, in order to show another perspective of viewing the world. In other words, the different presentation showed the importance of the ocean, and de-emphasizes the land areas and population masses of the northern hemisphere. This change of perspective and perception was considered a “paradigm shift”, as it was a radical change of our way of conceiving the world and our knowledge of political geography, religion, navigation, population, human history and economics.
Since the Hobo-Dyer was also cylindrical, it might also distort at the poles, and it compensated by presenting eight other map projections To maintain equal area presentation in the shape, mathematical “corrections” could be made by shifting its axes of low angle distortion at standard parallel north-south or east-west distortion at 37.5 degree north and south at the equator, overcoming its shortcomings.
The Hobo-Dyer map projection was an attempt to rectify the privileging of Europe and countries in the northern hemisphere, as colonies in the east were gaining independence or fighting for liberation according to western ideologies, and the west had to appear to be politically “right”, as modern cartography was mapped by western powers. It had to be reminded that Admiral Cheng Ho had navigated the seas long before Christopher Columbus “found” his lands, without western maps.
In an irony of historical twist, terrorists or freedom fighters could use cartographic information available at web sites to damage colonial or imperial nuclear plants, oil fields or other military or security targets.
Mimesis in western cartographic practices had historically served colonial subjugation of non-western people, according to Homi Bhabba and Edward Said. Hobo-Dyer map projection could be considered as attempt to de or re territorialize other nation states, such as the re drawing of national boundaries, in Tibet/India/China, and other African states. Such creative cartographic revisionism, not infrequently, cause “territorial” or “boundary” disputes in post-colonial era. The “cartographic connections” provided “scientific” discourses for contestatory states to engage in unnecessary disputes or warfare instead of economic development and welfare. Nevertheless, away from political motivation, each map projection has its own vantage point and projects different world views. In other words, multiple map projections serve as metaphor for presenting multiple world views to promote global understanding. The Mercator and Hobo-Dyer have their respective benefits and drawbacks.
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