The north-upness of maps is a curiosity that geographers and cartographers have perpetuated for many years, and pondered as well. It’s interesting to think about this from the historical perspectives (like when the East prevailed) as well as the psychological outcomes of this tendency.
In my Foundations of Spatial Literacy course, we’re talking about egocentric and allocentric perspectives this week. If you’re an iPhone user, don’t forget that you have the capability to modify your mapping perspective! North need not always be up! Though I do love it when I hand my phone to my kids in the car for navigating our directions and I hear their brains working to convert the perspective to whether I’m to turn right or left. The little blue blinking dot, àla Marauder’s map, would make my top 10 favorite technological developments of the decade.
Northness is one of Kristi Alvarez’s favorite map and geography tid-bits. More than once she teased me for being north/up-centric. Bless your solid geographical sense, Kristi, and all of the learning that you have inspired in me. I miss you.
- About.com, North at the Top of the Map
- Straight Dope’s answer on maps/north (I appreciate the cleverness with which these folks approach questions)
- the UC Santa Barbar(i)ans geographers always have something to say
- and a recent psychology-summary article about some pervasive impacts of all of this north-uppitiness (thanks, @barbareeduke!).