The Earth is a sphere, and humans wondered for centuries how to portray it loyally on a flap map. The Ancient Greeks had already understood that this cannot be done without distorting two factors, at least: area and shape. A projection is indeed defined as “a technique for transforming the three-dimensional sphere of the earth into the two dimensions of a map”. Various map projections fulfill various purposes: for example, the Mercator projection, that will be analyzed later in the investigation, was extremely useful for sailors, as distance and directions reflect reality.
My interest for map projection was sparked during one of the first TOK classes, where I learnt that the one map I saw my whole life, Eurocentric and usually Mercator type, was just one of many other possibilities. The outcome in my mind has been straight away ‘Europe has been put in the centre, but it’s just a social construction’: imagine seeing your country at the centre of a map, imagine seeing your country at the bottom left corner. Clearly, it will give you very different feelings. Moreover, I there learnt that map projections also shape the area of countries. Look at the images above: the Mercator projection, on the right, and the Gall Peters projection, on the left.
Indeed, the North (meant as North America, Greenland, Europe and Russia), is 18.9 million square miles, while the South 38.6 million square miles. The Gall Peters projection thus gets closer to represent the globe loyally, while the Mercator projection makes a Euro- and North-centric representation. This example poorly explained is meant to show the power of map projections on one’s vision of their own country.
My goal was therefore to compare map projections to understand which one portrays most loyally the globe. However, it will not be possible to do so for the whole world, since too many factors should be taken in consideration and no conclusion could be reached. Thus, I chose one country, Italy, to investigate which map projection best portrays it on the map, taking into consideration the factor of shape and area.