Tag Archives: Maps

The NATO Summit Twitter Fight

The 2014 NATO Summit presents an opportunity for world leaders to sit around and solve bicker about security issues ranging ‘from fragile states to piracy, from terrorism to cyber attacks‘.

This year you don’t have to be any where near Newport to enjoy the friendly ‘banter’ and juvenile japes of the NATO summit, as many participants have taken to social media in order to communicate to audiences diss each other publicly.

One case in point being this tweet from Canada’s delegation…

In response Russia tweeted back…

If you forget about the 2600 deaths and 6000 serious injuries in the ongoing Ukrainian conflict it’s almost quite funny. #AnnexationLOLS.

To be fair, it’s kind of refreshing to see some state social media usage that isn’t dull, predictable and boring. But let’s just hope that all the delegations to the NATO summit are putting in as much thought and effort in to actually dealing with the serious issues at hand, as they are to bickering on social media.

Advertisements

Friday reading

Security/politics:

  • Hot off the press: Critical Security Methods, by Claudia Aradau, Jef Huysmans, Andrew Neal and Nadine Voelkner. I’ve just ordered my own copy, and can’t wait to read it – it’s always nice to see research methods taken seriously.
  • In the aftermath of the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, here is an interesting article on how it would have been covered had it occurred in a country other than the US. Includes: ‘Chinese and Russian officials are warning of a potential humanitarian crisis in the restive American province of Missouri, where ancient communal tensions have boiled over into full-blown violence. “We must use all means at our disposal to end the violence and restore calm to the region,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in comments to an emergency United Nations Security Council session on the America crisis’.
  • The ethics of killer robots. Yes, you read that correctly.
  • Fascinating piece on translation and the relationship between the North Korean dialect and Soviet Russian. Apparently North Korean has a lot of borrowed phrases from Soviet Russian which are difficult to translate into English, but make sense when translated into Russian.

On academia/teaching:

  • Professors’ pet peeves. Includes beauties like: don’t be too cool for school, don’t fudge your formatting to make your essay look longer (I’m not an idiot), and don’t ask the professor if you missed anything important during your absence (‘Of course you missed something important!  We’re college professors!  Thinking everything we do is important is an occupational hazard.  Here’s an alternative way to phrase it:  “I’m so sorry I missed class. I’m sure it was awesome.”‘). Seriously considering printing this list out as a handout for start of term.
  • Confuse students to help them learn?
  • Great piece on Dawn of the Planet of the Apes as the ultimate IR blockbuster, and some interesting ideas for using it in teaching.

apes

PhD advice:

 

….and lastly, why academics really use twitter, from the always brilliant @phdcomics:

 

 

iSecuritization? China says the iPhone is a threat to national security

In what I am shamelessly calling iSecuritization, Chinese Central Televison (CCTV) have said that the iPhone is a threat to national security. This is due to the ‘frequent locations’ feature, which Apple states is used in order to ‘to learn places that are significant to you’.

If you’ve got an iPhone it’s worth checking out. Frequent locations is turned on by default and it’s currently tracking your movements. Have a look at your frequent locations and realise how creepy your iPhone is by following these instructions.

CCTV state that frequent locations amounts to a threat to national security as, according to one researcher quoted in the Independent, ‘if this information was accessed on a large scale it could reveal a country’s economic situation and “even state secrets”.’

Unfortunately my frequent locations don’t reveal anything half as interesting.

photo (1)

But regardless of how uninteresting my activities may be, frequent locations and the fact it’s turned on by default does draw out some interesting issues in regards to surveillance and security (which Zygmut Bauman and David Lyon cover in detail).

Apple say that they have ‘never worked with any government agency from any country to create a backdoor in any of our products or services. We have also never allowed access to our servers, and we never will’. And I guess that’s good news. Apple is tracking your every move by default and might not be sharing it with governments, but what can they do with it themselves? Frequent locations may not be a threat to national security, but is it a threat to yours?

The geography of secrecy: visualising the footprint of the US military

I’ve just come across a really interesting project by Josh Begley which maps US military installations, and it is well worth a look. The project uses mapping data from Google Earth and Bing to visualise the footprint of the US military with both a map of the world with pinpointed sites and a gallery displaying satellite imagery of the different military installations. Viewing the bases in this way really portrays the breadth of the American military enterprise in a way that numbers on a page cannot convey.

Because of differences in time-lag, some sites show slightly different views with bases changing over time, with other base locations simply replaced by a plain grey colour and a Google message saying: ‘Sorry, we have no imagery here’. Volkel Air Base in the Netherlands (which is used by the US Air Force and which also contains 22 American tactical nuclear bombs) is even ‘artistically’ erased from view in both Google and Bing searches:

Volkel Air Base (Google)Volkel Air Base (Bing)

(Both images from http://empire.is/)

The impact the project has on the viewer is interesting – the simplicity of the visual display with a seemingly endless list of square tiles showing military bases below a map showing the full geographical extent of their locations is very effective. In a sense, it becomes more than a list of satellite images, more than a map. In the words of Josh Begley, creator of this fascinating project:

‘Taken as a whole, I’d like to think this collection can begin to approximate the archipelago of militarized space often understood as empire. But I’m hesitant to say that. It seems to me that empire involves more than pushpins on a map. It is made up of human activity — a network of situated practices that preclude constellational thinking and sculpt geographies in their own image.

I’m not sure aerial photography can get at that complexity. But perhaps an outline of this footprint– of runways and bases and banal-looking buildings — might begin to chip away at the bumper-sticker simplicity much political discourse about the military-industrial complex gets reduced to’.

—–

Perhaps academics should start to think about using their data a bit more creatively too, following the example set by the Rendition Project – alongside the traditional outlets it seems like an effective way to both convey research and make people both notice and actually think more in-depth about the subject itself.

Ps. As someone who seems to know a growing number of people working on drones, I’d also highly recommend having a look at Josh’s Dronestream project!

Update on the politics of maps and constructing the world: from Hugo Ahlenius

We had an informative comment on the previous post which is worth re-posting as a follow-up on the map discussion.

Hugo Ahlenius, who is a cartographer, notes some problems with the Africa map and with the Peters projection:

Regarding that Africa map – Kenneth Field has done a better analysis/map on that case: http://cartonerd.blogspot.se/2011/09/welcome-to-marauding-carto-nerd.html

Many of us cartographers hate the Mercator vs Gall-Peters (the proper name of the projection). The latter is often presented as the ONLY alternative, which is not correct – there are many better alternatives for an equal-area projection. The Winkel-Tripel projection, that National Geographic uses for global thematic maps is a good alternative (near equal-area). Personally, I am big fan of the Wagner VII projection:

//If anyone else has a favourite projection do send them on, and I’ll post them here too!

Jonna

Constructing the world: the Mercator map vs the Peters projection

Here are some useful resources for teaching geopolitics, political geography and constructivism, using the Mercator projection (the standardised map that we’re all pretty used to) and showing how far its representation of the world distorts our understanding of that very same world.

The Economist have produced this fantastic map of Africa, with other states mapped on top, to illustrate just how much bigger it is than we think and are used to.

It uses work done by a ‘computer graphics guru’ Kai Krause in his crusade against ‘immappanacy’ (poor geographical knowledge).. (new favourite word of the month?)

Of course all 2D maps have to be somewhat distorted (as they are representing a 3D globe), but the Mercator projection is one of the worst offenders in terms of distorting the relative size of countries. Another great resource for illustrating this is the classic video clip from the West Wing, where White House press secretary CJ meets with cartographers to discuss changing the maps used in US education: