This is a fantastic comic strip that shows how map projections are perfect representation of planet Earth, but a 2D rendering of a 3D world. A map projection is like a personal perspective or worldview. There is no single perfect map projection (or perspective or worldview), but there are some strengths and limitations to organizing geographic and spatial information in any given system.
NEW UPDATE: Countryle. This is the one that relies most on geographic information since the hints are focus on real data. You guess any country, and the hints will tell you if the actual mystery country has a larger or smaller population, a warmer or colder climate…so that is the guesses aren’t just based on luck or hunches, but some evaluation.
UPDATE ANOTHER GEOGRAPHY GUESSING GAME!! Worldle (not misspelled, although I would forgive your mind for auto-correcting and not noticing that there is not just one L, but two L’s). This one shows an outline of the a given country, and will tell you the distance away from the actual country to help inform further guesses. The better you know the world map, the less “guessing” there is, but still fun. SOURCE: WORLDLE
THE ORIGINAL: I love online geography games (I know, huge surprise). This newest one, The Globle Game, is riffing off Wordle which took the internet and social media by storm recently and I’m hooked.
The game is quite simple but don’t let that fool you into thinking that it will be easy. Like the old game where one player searches for an item in the room, with the other players calling out “hot” or “cold,” until the player finds the object, this website shows a globe, and it will color your choice based on how accurate your guess is with a red color ramp (white=ice cold, deep burgundy=red hot). Each day, they have a new mystery country for you to guess, but the globe that it displays does not show international borders. This fun new guessing game requires a strong mental map as well as getting a little bit of luck…something to get the students’ brains fired at the start of class, especially for the competitive types. For fun, there is as a “Night mode” with a purple color scheme, and a CITY version is forthcoming.
“Perhaps against the wishes of an older West Indian generation, the new republic made a move that leaves an open question about what comes next. Barbados breaking with the Queen shows how younger leaders of color will continue to push their countries out of the shadows of colonial rule.” SOURCE: NBC News
Barbados has been an independent country since 1966, so what does this push against the remaining vestiges of the old British Empire mean? It means that the Queen will no longer be the nominal head of state with a local Prime Minister in Barbados; the new position of President will be fully acknowledged as the head of state without any deference to the Queen of England or the United Kingdom. Barbados is NOT, however, leaving the British Commonwealth, a trade association among former members of the British colonial empire. The great thing about the article linked above is the that while skeptics might say this is window dressing, but this symbolic shift is has some powerful cultural reverberations as a new generation is reconsidering the legacy of slavery and colonialism as they frame their future. Jamaica is another country in the Commonwealth now reconsidering their relationship with the British crown.
I’d like to share three resources I’ve used in FYS 100 class (Cultural Landscapes)
1. This 6-minute video that I’ve share earlier shows how landscapes change over time. In this example, a rural West Virginia county is hit with stark economic and demographic decline after the resource extraction-based economy gave out. The societal factors that created these hills and towns no longer are present and change doesn’t always feel like progress. How do these landscape changes impact a place like McDowell County, WV?
2. There are some truly odd things in the cultural landscape; some on the surface are complete head-scratchers. This article from the Smithsonian Magazine highlights the bizarre history that led to an Alabama monument to the Deep South’s most destructive 20th century pest: the boll weevil. The article is more historical than landscape, but it helps to answer why some unexpected items might be memorialized. What is the strangest thing you’ve seen in the landscape?
3. There are relics of the past that bring up difficult historical conversations with competing perspectives. In this UK article, a classics professor argues for the preservation of monuments with the idea that they were products of their time that are insights into past societies, not just things to be celebrated today. Do you agree with this perspective? Why or why not?
“What does the world look like when you map it using data? Social geographer Danny Dorling invites us to see the world anew, with his captivating and insightful maps that show Earth as it truly is — a connected, ever-changing and fascinating place in which we all belong. You’ll never look at a map the same way again.”
This was a great TED talk that is firmly in my wheelhouse and hits many of the key big ideas that I want my undergraduates to learn (importance of human geography, using statistics to update people’s world views, fun and intelligent cartography…the list goes on). I wish I had seen this a few years ago when I was preparing my TEDx talk in 2019, which was just one of many talks that day about geography education.
I’d like to interject two geographic terms/concepts not mentioned in the video below about New Orleans: site and situation. I would argue that in New Orleans has a horrible site (the features of a given location) but a very attractive situation (the connection and relationship to other places and resources). The first 4.5 minutes of this video nicely highlights the contrast of an incredible situation on a horrible site; this would be a great clip for a general audience (human geography or regional geography). The remaining portion of the video is still good, but more narrowly focused on the increasingly negative environmental context of New Orleans’ urban ecology.
Geographers make a distinction between site and situation as they consider the underlying foundation of a place. Few cities represent such a wide chasm between these two aspects as does New Orleans. The situation, or the answer to why does a place exist, was imperative. The Mississippi River was a major artery for the North American continent. As first the Europeans and then the Americans assumed control of the area, a port was essential at the mouth of this river. But the site, the response to where a city is placed, continues to confound. Few environments were or are more inhospitable to human habitation. Poor soil, disease, floods, and hurricanes are constant threats that have plagued the city for over three centuries. But the why trumped the where and hence the paradox of New Orleans persists.
“In a time of great powers and empires, just one region of the world experienced extraordinary economic growth. How?” SOURCE: Aeon
As a global region, Europe has the great amount of wealth and sustained growth over the last 500 years. Geographically and historically, are there reasons for this or is this just an accident historical geography? This essay by an economics and history professor delves into the political, economic, intellectual, geographic, and technological setting within which European economic ascendance took place. Some key geographic concepts played a huge role in explaining why Europe today was able to grow so drastically during the Great Enrichment (the diffusion of ideas across borders, vibrant competition within intellectual marketplaces, applied technological innovations built upon previous scientific scholarship, etc.)
My family loved watching the full Jim Gaffigan special “The Pale Tourist.” This is an except from that, and while some of it is obvious not correct (often the punchlines), there is a great deal more Canadian geography in this sketch than I ever expected to see in by a bona fide comedian. Like with all things, but especially comedy, know your audience(s) and know that I don’t 100% endorse all statements, but boy, I wish there were more geographically-themed humor.
Value-added agricultural products are all around us, but many students aren’t accustomed to thinking about commodity chains and recognizing the agricultural component of a product if it is not directly consumed. This video about the production of soap in the Palestinian West Bank is an excellent example of an older way of using olive oil and creating what hipsters might refer to as artisanal, craft soap (after watching this one about West Bank soap, you can watch a very similar video about traditional Syrian soap production). I really like this video for a S.P.E.E.D. (Social, Political, Economic, Environmental, Demographic) / E.S.P.N. (Economic, Social, Political, eNvironmental) type of an activity were you provide/show the resource to the students, and have them identify and then discuss the geographic themes from the given resource.
I really went down a Youtube rabbit hole with this one, because once you learn about olive oil soap production, you might need to know more about how olive oil is produced. I’ve really enjoyed TrueFoodTV over the years, and below, I’ve embedded an excellent clip from them that nicely shows the the geographic context of the Mediterranean agricultural region (and if you want some culinary tips on olive oil, I’m officially now out of my depth, but here is a clip from TrueFoodTV).