Reflections on national geopolitics : How national geopolitics are mirrored in web map services

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Title: Reflections on national geopolitics : How national geopolitics are mirrored in web map services
Author: Andersson, Elina
Other contributor: Helsingin yliopisto, Matemaattis-luonnontieteellinen tiedekunta, Geotieteiden ja maantieteen laitos
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Science, Department of Geosciences and Geography
Helsingfors universitet, Matematisk-naturvetenskapliga fakulteten, Institutionen för geovetenskaper och geografi
Publisher: Helsingfors universitet
Date: 2013
Language: eng
Thesis level: master's thesis
Discipline: Regional Studies
Abstract: Critical cartographic research has proved that maps are connected to national geopolitics and that they reflect local, national interests and agendas. The map designer and his background can affect the contents and design of a map to a great extent. Research in critical cartography has so far mostly concentrated on traditional paper maps, but nowadays maps are to a growing extent read on the Web as the World Wide Web has gained success. Because of the extending power that web maps have, it is of great importance to investigate if and how web maps are connected to geopolitical agendas and interests, and how they picture the world. This research investigates three web map services that are free-of-charge and theoretically open for anyone at any time. The map services originate in different parts of the world: ABmaps is Israeli, Google Maps is American and Yandex Maps is Russian. The services are investigated with the help of two structured content analyses, one that focuses especially on the maps' design and tools, and another that concentrates on the study area termed 'the Heart of the Middle East'. The maps are approached with the help of semiotic, hermeneutic and deconstructive theories. The results shows that along with traditional paper maps, also web map services are connected to geopolitical agendas. The national interests are clear in that the own home country is portrayed in favorable ways, thus as colorful and in large size. In Google Maps the whole world is pictured fairly consistently, while ABmaps and Yandex Maps picture areas that are out of interest in poor detail and color. It is evident that it is easy to distort a dynamic web map and make statements on political disputes. Since web map services have a great and growing number of users, it is crucial that map users are aware of distortions that the maps possibly contain, and hereby, how the picture of the world is distorted.

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