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How Google Maps' Borders Differ From Country To Country

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Most of us likely see maps as something uncontroversial and relatively permanent—a simple tool for getting from point A to point B. But in regions engaged in border disputes, maps can become a lot more contentious. In the past, individual cartographers could avoid controversy by simply drawing maps that reflected their country’s worldview. But what happens in the Internet era, when the whole world is using Google Maps?

As it turns out, Google Maps has a pretty fascinating policy for “solving” border disputes. Popular Science reports that when a border is disputed by two or more territories, Google Maps simply changes its borders in each country to reflect that country’s beliefs. Those in countries not affected by the border dispute see two dotted borders. On the other hand, citizens in the countries in disagreement see a solid line, one that represents their country’s view of the land dispute (see more of Google’s shifting borders here).  

This method of customizing borders based on each individual country’s view of a geopolitical situation was the subject of a recent study, published in the Columbia Journal of Transnational Law. Researchers worry that Google’s seemingly impartial border-drawing policy could inadvertently fuel border disputes.

“While Google’s cartographic platforms, Google Maps and Google Earth, are the most widely used mapping services in the world, their methodology for affixing borders and naming key features is completely unregulated and deviates from traditional mapping doctrine,” researcher Ethan R. Merel explains. “Google customizes its maps to adhere to each individual country’s beliefs and laws, so that its maps do not show a single and objective reality, but rather affirm existing perspectives of the world.”

Merel hopes to find a better way for Google Maps to display borders, and is advocating for increased oversight and regulation with regards to Google’s mapping policies. But for now, though we might all be using the same map app, we’re all seeing slightly different versions of the world. 

[h/t Popular Science]

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This 1940 Film on Road Maps Will Make You Appreciate Map Apps Like Never Before
Douglas Grundy, Three Lions/Getty Images
Douglas Grundy, Three Lions/Getty Images

In the modern era, we take for granted having constantly updated, largely accurate maps of just about every road in the world at our fingertips. If you need to find your way through a city or across a country, Google Maps has your back. You no longer have to go out and buy a paper map.

But to appreciate just what a monstrous task making road maps and keeping them updated was in decades past, take a look at this vintage short film, "Caught Mapping," spotted at the Internet Archive by National Geographic.

The 1940 film, produced by the educational and promotional company Jam Handy Organization (which created films for corporations like Chevrolet), spotlights the difficult task of producing and revising maps to keep up with new road construction and repair.

The film is a major booster of the mapmaking industry, and those involved in it come off as near-miracle workers. The process of updating maps involved sending scouts out into the field to drive along every road and note conditions, compare the roads against topographical maps, and confirm mileage figures. Then, those scouts reported back to the draughtsmen responsible for producing revised maps every two weeks. The draughtsmen updated the data on road closures and other changes.

Once those maps were printed, they were "ready to give folks a good steer," as the film's narrator puts it, quietly determining the success of any road trip in the country.

"Presto! and right at their fingertips, modern motorists can have [information] on any road they wish to take." A modern marvel, really.

[h/t National Geographic]

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Monthly Internet Costs in Every Country

Thanks to the internet, people around the world can conduct global research, trade tips, and find faraway friends without ever leaving their couch. Not everyone pays the same price for these digital privileges, though, according to new data visualizations spotted by Thrillist.

To compare internet user prices in each country, cost information site HowMuch.net created a series of maps. The data comes courtesy of English market research consultancy BDRC and Cable.co.uk, which teamed up to analyze 3351 broadband packages in 196 nations between August 18, 2017 and October 12, 2017.

In the U.S., for example, the average cost for internet service is $66 per month. That’s substantially more than what browsers pay in neighboring Mexico ($27) and Canada ($55). Still, we don’t have it bad compared to either Namibia or Burkina Faso, where users shell out a staggering $464 and $924, respectively, for monthly broadband access. In fact, internet in the U.S. is far cheaper than what residents in 113 countries pay, including those in Saudi Arabia ($84), Indonesia ($72), and Greenland ($84).

On average, internet costs in Asia and Russia tend to be among the lowest, while access is prohibitively expensive in sub-Saharan Africa and in certain parts of Oceania. As for the world’s cheapest internet, you’ll find it in Ukraine and Iran.

Check out the maps below for more broadband insights, or view HowMuch.net’s full findings here.

Map of Internet costs in each country created by information site HowMuch.net.
HowMuch.net

Map of Internet costs in each country created by information site HowMuch.net.
HowMuch.net

Map of Internet costs in each country created by information site HowMuch.net.
HowMuch.net

Map of Internet costs in each country created by information site HowMuch.net.
HowMuch.net

Map of Internet costs in each country created by information site HowMuch.net.
HowMuch.net

[h/t Thrillist]

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