118 - Online Communities Map (Not For Navigation)
From a young age, Frank was fascinated by maps and atlases, and the stories they contained. Finding his birthplace on the map in the endpapers of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings only increased his interest in the mystery and message of maps.
While pursuing a career in journalism, Frank started a blog called Strange Maps, as a repository for the weird and wonderful cartography he found hidden in books, posing as everyday objects and (of course) floating around the Internet.
"Each map tells a story, but the stories told by your standard atlas for school or reference are limited and literal: they show only the most practical side of the world, its geography and its political divisions. Strange Maps aims to collect and comment on maps that do everything but that - maps that show the world from a different angle".
A remit that wide allows for a steady, varied diet of maps: Frank has been writing about strange maps since 2006, published a book on the subject in 2009 and joined Big Think in 2010. Readers send in new material daily, and he keeps bumping in to cartography that is delightfully obscure, amazingly beautiful, shockingly partisan, and more.
Somewhat in the style of a treasure map, this ‘Map of Online Communities’ shows MySpace, Wikipedia, SecondLife and other user-generated phenomena now populating the internet.
The geography is not as random as one could assume at first glance. Area and position are significant. Thus, each community’s geographic area represents its estimated size, and the ‘compass-shaped island’ gives clues as to what each quarter signifies:\n
- North are more ‘practical’ communities, \n
- South is for the ‘intellectuals’. \n
- West lie the communities with a ‘real life’ connection, \n
- East those with a focus on the web itself. \n
This irresistible map has been floating around the web for a couple of weeks, but I’ve held off posting it until now.\n
I’m a map nerd, dammit, not a computer geek! Of course, I know of MySpace and am not surprised to see it occupy such a large and central part of the map. And sure, Wikipedia is on the intellectual extreme of the North-South axe. I can see why reunion dot com and classmates dot com would be far northwest (being practical for tracking down real life people).\n
But what is SourceForge, and in which way is it ‘intellectual’ and ‘web-solipsistic’ since it is situated on the other, southeastern extreme of the map? Why is there a Bay of Angst right next to Xanga? And what is Xanga? Is Sulawesi a reference to the "IRL" island in the Indonesian archipelago (it has the right shape – sort of), or am I missing some nerdy in-joke here? Why are there anthropomorphic dragons near the Ocean of Subculture?\n
Very frustratingly, almost nothing on this map makes sense to me! Oh, the horror!\n
The original location of this map is at xkcd, a webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language. Overwhelmed (and overjoyed, I suspect) by the success of their map, they’re now selling it as a poster.\n