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    Re: Thoughts on why 'north' is at the top of maps (BBC)
    From: Frank Reed
    Date: 2016 Jun 15, 18:41 -0700

    John Howard, you wrote:
    "More new age PC BS."

    I disagree with your adjectives here. The language in the article is not "new age" and it's certainly not PC or "politically correct". It may well qualify as "BS" and you could perhaps call it "pyscho-babble". Maybe that's what you had in mind? In my opinion, it's "fluff". This issue of whether 'north up' matters on maps raises its northerly head every few years. It's worth discussing for a few minutes, and maybe there's some new spin on it, but in the end it's an insignificant issue. Besides, there's a good reason north is up on global maps. Nobody lives in the southern hemisphere. Well, ok, not nobody. Bill Morris lives down there. And he probably has some friends and relatives. But I think that's about it. What's the actual number... eighty percent of the world's population lives in the northern hemisphere? And eighty percent of arable land? And over ninety percent of GDP?? Of course, even if we accept all the reasons for preferring north up on global maps, this leaves us with a further puzzle: why the same preference for local and regional maps? And does that preference have any impact on our biases?

    You added:
    "Tell people living in New Zeland that south is bad and north, Guadacanal is better place to live." etc.

    But in many ways that is, in fact, the point of the article: the north-bias should not be universal, and it's certainly not valid in any objective sense. Speaking of New Zealand, try this: visit "Google Image Search" and search on 'New Zealand map'. You'll discover that nearly every single case has north up. And considering that the landmass of New Zealand is aligned mostly on a northeast-southwest axis, this usually leads to quite a lot of wasted space "on the page" as printed (equivalently lost detail in a map on a video display). New Zealanders surely have multiple excuses for greater creativity with map orientations, yet there are almost none. Maps with northwest up would make a lot of sense (maps with southeast up would also work, but when oriented that way the country looks an awful lot like a gun, and nobody wants that). Also try searching on 'New Zealand map tattoo'. There's considerable variety and creativity here, as you might expect, and yet, once again, nearly all are drawn with north up. It's like there's a blind spot in the midst of all that artistic vision with respect to compass orientation.

    And you wrote:
    "Think cities - Ask if Harlem is better to live in because it is north NYC or Broadway, or the lower east side (south)."

    Aha! But that's where detailed local knowledge beats the possible pyschological bias of the map preference. If it is actually true that there is an un-conscious bias towards northsides of cities, then I would like to see it confirmed in economics. Can northside properties be rented at higher rates than southside equivalents? If this supposed bias doesn't carry over into this most basic aspect of practical reality, then it's nothing very interesting. On the other hand, if it does, then there's money to be made from it.

    You concluded:
    "I believe people are smarter than that."

    I agree with this very much, but there are limits. We are smart when we exercise logical thinking, but we are also all running chemical computing engines in our skulls that are easily mis-directed. Logical thinking is not the only thinking that we do... We have the ability to think rationally, to contemplate, to cogitate, and this takes discipline and time. But we make most of our initial decisions, form our hunches, our vague preferences founded on a type of thinking that is fast, intuitive, highly biased, and often wrong. 

    Frank Reed
    Clockwork Mapping / ReedNavigation.com
    Conanicut Island USA

       
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