Thursday, March 7, 2013

Will Miss #14 - (literal) global perspective shift (reflection)

I read recently on a content aggregation site that the globe icon graphics on Facebook are different if you live in another part of the world. That is, the globe is turned around such that the map does not show the Americas, but focuses on Asia. Frankly, I think this is something that should be done even in the West. Rather than constantly show us the earth with America centered on the map, it would do us good to see other countries in the center. In a subtle way, this might help people remember that the rest of the world is equally important, and, in a more overt way, it might help them learn more geography (or at least encourage them to learn more).

I notice how things are America-centric while i'm in America, just as they were Japan-centric when I was in Japan. I wonder when I'll stop noticing and it'll all blend into the blur of subtle education about the U.S. being the center of the world and I definitely will miss the little mental adjustment that seeing a different perspective gave me when I lived in Japan. 


  1. honestly, as a designer, i half assumed part of it was for 'brand recognition', but half because the americas are a nice shape to divide a circle, especially in 1 or two colors. i guess the second half could possibly attributed to naiveté or unintentionally limiting my natural world-view, despite my lifelong avid interest in other cultures and geography.

    but your point is well taken, and i totally agree. though my facebook still shows the americas, even though i live in hokkaido. even using fb in japanese doesn't change it.

    btw, been following the blog for ages; probably my first comment. thank you for all you've done here.. it was invaluable in preparing for life here, especially with respect to setting and managing expectations!

    1. Thanks for your comment and for reading, Cort. I do believe you have a point about both "brand recognition" and about the Americas being a nice shape. I did sometimes feel that the look of the globe with Japan being a relatively tiny landmass among a lot of water seemed imbalanced, but then I figured part of that was how I was unaccustomed to seeing that perspective.

      I'm glad that things are going well for you in Japan. Setting and managing expectations in life, no matter where you are, is a big part of the battle! (And I'm battling them here in America now!)

  2. Sorry to nitpick but this is the case in other countries in the west. I'm from the UK and I can tell you that the maps there have Europe in the centre.

    1. I think that may have something to do with how small the UK is (see Cort's comment). However, your point is taken! ;-)

      Thanks for your comment!

    2. So in American maps you split the map through the middle of Asia? Not sure that's all that aesthetically pleasing. At least European and Asian maps split in the middle of an ocean ;)

      My background's in geography, so I'll happily bang on about this for hours (sorry). It does always surprise me slightly when people think that maps are neutral depictions of fact and have no political or cultural biases. They're literally depictions of how we see the world (as you say), so of course they're not neutral.

      FWIW, the Prime Meridian passes through London. Make of that what you will.

    3. It usually centers on the U.S. and shows South America and Alaska touches the edge. This is a pretty typical map:

  3. I totally relate to this post! Before coming to Japan I was blissfully ignorant of this American subtle education that reinforces that we're the center of the world and had never seen a map with another country in the center.

    We poke fun at our Aussie friends here and ask if their map is upside down. lol! They're good-natured about it and ask if we even know where Australia is.

    Great post as it's a great point!


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