maps, population growth, web art project

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Update 2010-10-17: It seems like a lot of people come to this post looking for a blank map of the United States.  I updated the link at the bottom of the page to point to a much better version from Wikimedia Commons.  Download a SVG/PNG blank map of the United States.

This map has been on my mind all week. It’s from a NYTimes article titled Census Reports Arizona County Still Has Biggest Growth (though the article isn’t just about AZ). It’s a map of relative population increases/decreases around the country. Looking at the map, I want to think in terms of cities or communities as winners or losers or to think about how different or disconnected cities across the country are from each other. But what if this initial perception continues to shape my attitudes, or my actions? What happens when this mentality moves from the individual to the cultural or plays out at a policy level? It seems pretty unimaginative or limiting. This made me think, is there a way of looking at the USA, taking into account factors other than population growth, or incomes, or all the usual metrics of cities and communities? Is there a way of thinking that would show New Orleans as a big green dot and Atlanta as a big red dot? Is there a representation of qualities of cities that would make both New Orleans and Atlanta have the same type of dot? Is the red/green dot dichotomy too limiting to begin with? Let’s make our own maps that maybe show the relative nature of the places we live, or know, or read about, or hear about from a different perspective, with different values or metrics, or with more imagination.

Here’s how:

  1. Download a copy of a blank map of the USA from here.
  2. Draw on the map with a program like photoshop or print it out and draw on it by hand.
  3. Your new map should be a representation of the relative nature of different places in the US using circles of different sizes and colors, but you can use additional graphics/symbols too.
  4. Email your map to (or email that address to make arrangements to send it via postal mail).
  5. I’ll post the maps to this site, we can talk about them, and maybe figure out something cool to do with all of them.