This is what we would consider a standard map, right?
Very standard, a picture of the world with Europe in the centre. Have you ever thought though, how many issues and unrest, something like this, a picture that supposedly portrays the world can cause? Well, the answer is a lot.
A map isn’t an exact replication of the world, but simply an interpretation by the map’s creator of what the world is. This of course, over the years has created some problems, especially when people believed that a map wasn’t representing the world in the way they believed it.
In recent years, with the growing reliance and importance of Google Maps, something as simple as an error displayed on one of their maps was enough to start conflict between Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Google Maps wrongly moved the Costa Rica and Nicaragua, giving and extra 3 kilometres of land to Nicaragua (Friedman, 2010). Now 3 kilometres doesn’t seem like it should make much of a difference but as it turns out it did. Once Google Maps published the map, Nicaragua sent in troops and demanded that the land was now theirs, starting conflict between the two countries.
As much as disputing a map you don’t agree with has become an issue, big business and other powerhouses have now been able to censor or simply eliminate the display maps that they simply do not agree with.
A fine example of this can be seen from Facebook, one of the worlds largest social media companies and it’s policy that does not allow it’s users to post any maps that depict Kurdistan. After a worker released a confidential copy of the websites rules and guidelines, it was discovered that Facebook will remove any maps posted onto its site by its users that displays Kurdistan.
Now although Kurdistan isn’t officially a country, but more an area, there are many people who interpret and believe that it should be. For those people, not having the ability to display a map that allows them to show how they interpret the world is very limiting and has caused aggravation within those communities.
These two cases are relatively recent when looking at how long maps have been used by humanity. You can just imagine over the years, just how many times one persons interpretation on of the world they live in shown through a map has clashed with another’s, and resulted in war and conflict.
Friedman, M 2010, ‘21st Century War: Google Maps Error Leads to Nicaraguan Invasion’, Time, 5 November, viewed 25 March 2015, < http://newsfeed.time.com/2010/11/05/21st-century-war-google-maps-error-leads-to-nicaraguan-invasion/>.
Rabar, R 2012, Facebook Bans People From Posting Kurdistan Map and Criticising Ataturk, Alliance for Kurdish Rights, viewed, 25 March 2015, < http://kurdishrights.org/2012/02/23/facebook-bans-people-from-posting-kurdistan-map-and-criticising-ataturk/>.