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Blog // Thoughts
August 31, 2006

Mapping Globalisation Or Mapping Ideology?

I’ve been thinking a lot about maps lately, having just finished Edward Tufte’s Beautiful Evidence and recently started Willie Maarten’s Mapping Reality. So it was with great interest that I saw the map above on the somewhat excellent WorldChanging blog. The images over at the mapping globalisation wiki were excellent, but the most eye-catching we […]

I’ve been thinking a lot about maps lately, having just finished Edward Tufte’s Beautiful Evidence and recently started Willie Maarten’s Mapping Reality.

So it was with great interest that I saw the map above on the somewhat excellent WorldChanging blog. The images over at the mapping globalisation wiki were excellent, but the most eye-catching we at the International Networks Archive.

But take a close look here at the Starbucks map and here at another map of the global film industry.

“A Single cup of starbucks coffee can depend on as many as 19 different countries…”

The Starbucks and McDonalds map looks impressive, but what (if anything) is the point of the map? Moreover, why place two quite different business models side by side on the same page? It seems to be saying globalisation is bad, but does the evidence it presents make that case, or is that just an ideological assumption imposed on the data? I think what we have here is a implied inference based on a false comparision.

The second map is even more troubling, in part because it is more obviously false. When you first look at the map the plain gap is India, both as an importer and exporter of films. We get a sidebar on India that says, amongst other things,

“…the rise of Bollywood has taken the country [India] by storm.”

When I was a child it was a well known fact that India cranked out more movies than Hollywood and had more cinemas than the US. Bollywood is not a new phenomenon and neither is the export of its films. If you want to make an interesting point about globalisation and film, why not talk about the way immigrant communities create new markets for foreign language films and revitalise local film industries?

“…mass exportation to other countries seems unlikely until the industry matures into something more akin to Hollywood.”

But wasn’t 2001 (the focus of the map) the year everyone went ga-ga over Laagan? Wasn’t it the year when Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham messed with everyone’s film accounting by sneaking into the top ten in both the US and the UK? Take a look at the box-office top ten in the UK most weeks now, and you will see at least one Bollywood film in there.

This map clearly wants to make a (negative) point about the US film industry and it isn’t about to let the facts get in the way.

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