How well do you know the world? Your years of experience are building into insight. You devoted hours beyond count to studying it in school: you can recite highlights of its history, outline its geography from polar ice to tropical forest, appreciate its cultures. You can explain how it depends on photosynthesis. You know about climate change.  Maybe you can quote reliable stats on the world’s refugees.

But – surprise! -- there are ways to see the world you’ve never dreamt of.  In this blog we offer a selection that you may find amazing or exciting or useful – maybe all of these. If you like what you see – as we hope – just add your comment at the end and we’ll promise you other eye-popping, jaw-dropping images in a future blog.

Let’s start with Parag Khanna, whose thinking always stimulates. While we have referenced his work in earlier blogs, just click on this map image to be ushered anew into the Wow! of his work.

Smart Cities and a Borderless World: What If Maps Revealed Infrastructure, Not Borders?

Smart Cities and a Borderless World: What If Maps Revealed Infrastructure, Not Borders?

Let the next image serve as a prime example of Khanna’s thesis: borders fade in today’s web-woven world. Based on a recent blog in the How Maps Change Things series, it shows location by country of “hits” – actually, the first 1,400 readers of that blog. If you’re like me, you’ll find the result remarkable: that a humble blog can, without fanfare or high-powered promotion, reach so wide-ranging an audience.

Readers of An Uncommon Blog - How Maps Change Things; Where Do They Come From?

The size of each dot is proportional to the number of hits, thus Mexico scores higher than Bermuda. How many of the countries can you identify? The United States and Canada take gold and silver in this Olympics; other samplings have also shown Thailand, Namibia and Kenya. Canadian readers are concentrated in Ontario, the Maritimes and British Columbia; the top five American states are California, Florida, Minnesota, New York and New Jersey. Though a few autocratic countries restrict Internet usage, most of the world’s people now see the world as an open oyster before them.

Would you believe that in 1969 – not that long ago as history goes – the world’s internet communication looked like this:


By 2013, just 44 years later, internet usage had grown exponentially, if not uniformly over the world. A striking map created by John Matherly documents internet devices worldwide. Blue represents fewer devices, red, more devices in any given area. (Apologies for his use of a misleading projection.)

Shodan/John Matherly

Still ready to claim you know the world? Here’s another question on today’s quiz: How many countries did Great Britain invade over the years? The following map won’t give away the answer but it may be all the clue you need to calculate. Without grasping the slice of history set out here, your understanding of the world today is incomplete at best. Like trying to piece together a murder mystery before you know whether the weapon was poisoned food or a pistol, so without a map like this you have neither historical perspective on national boundaries nor an in-depth grasp of the many conflicts that still affect millions and make news headlines day after day.

It’s a fact: Countries shown in white – 22 in all – have never been invaded by Great Britain. Only 22!

Immigration – a hot topic these days in the U.S. Congress and integral to the controlling mindset of many in countries across the world – is our final issue-focus today. How would you explain the imbalance between known facts and popular feelings? (Fake news? Deep-seated fear of competition for jobs and privilege? Where does the idea that newcomers harbor terrorists, rapists and drug dealers originate? How realistic is it? In what sense are we all immigrants, and how might that self-understanding affect our view of the current world crisis?)

Click on the map for a full-screen, interactive World Migration Map; try zooming in to your home country.

Click on the map for a full-screen, interactive World Migration Map; try zooming in to your home country.

Click on the map to watch 200 years of U.S. immigration history in one animated map

Click on the map to watch 200 years of U.S. immigration history in one animated map

Yours—for a more informed view of the world.



Sincere thanks to

James Taylor, for alerting me to the item about mapping a world without borders. Jim, who lives in British Columbia, provided the very helpful Study Guide to How Maps Change Things. (The guide is part of the print version, not available in digital format.) He formerly served as editor of the United Church Observer, the oldest continuously published magazine in North America,

Gary Kaiser, for preparing the informative map showing where followers of this blog live. He serves as manager of this website, which means that whenever you respond – as many of you do, thank you – your comment goes through his office in San Francisco.

Eva Schwartzentruber, for relaying to me a collection of fascinating maps including the Internet in 1969 and how much of the world has been invaded by Geat Britain. Eva lives in Beamsville, Ontario.

John Matherly for the map of how the internet covers the earth (well, most of it). Shodan is the search engine he used. His map would add another layer of meaning if it were equal-area, but thank you anyway, John.

Metrocosm for the animated maps of world migration and US immigration patterns. While good within their stated purpose, do note what the U.S. presentation does not cover: slavery-related immigration, and the Chinese Exclusion Act, which skewed immigration patterns from 1882 to 1943. Or the number of undocumented newcomers vs. those who followed formal channels. On the slave trade, historian Lerone Bennett has documented that African slaves - immigrants, right? - began arriving in 1619, a year before the Mayflower. An estimated 6 to 7 million more were forced to migrate before slavery ended in 1865.

Ronnie Goodin, for also supporting using the last map sequence in this series. Ronnie is part of Greater Good, based in Orlando, whose members devote time and energy to serve other