Book: Daniel Dorling, Mark Newman and Anna Barford ‘The Atlas of the Real World: Mapping the Way We Live’

December 2008


The Atlas of the Real World



In Atlas of the Real World, global inequities in the third millennium are mad strikingly visible. The book uses a clever mapping formula, massive amounts of data and a whole lot of computer power to produce 366 maps that stretch, twist and shrink the boundaries of nations according to how much they have of whatever is being mapped: money, disease, doctors, televisions, endangered animals …

The atlas (which builds on the free maps available at the website worldmapper.org) uses the simplest means to get across the most profound facts. Each country is brightly colour-coded and the maps are overlaid on a natural-looking ocean bed. The effect is a little like looking into a funfair mirror – you know what you’re seeing, but it takes a moment to work out what’s happened to it …

In the most extreme cases, the map no longer looks like the planet Earth: the map of people killed by volcanoes (302) shows two large round islands – Colombia and North Africa – and a small atoll of shrunken Asian nations …

They’re not really maps in the old-fashioned sense, but visual renderings of complex and sometimes frightening realities, perfectly suited to our supposedly post-literate age … As a wake up call, it’s not quite on the level of the first photograph of the Earth from space – the “blue marble” that inspired a generation of environmentalists. But it’s a reminder that everything we do, from fighting wars (map 318) to selling toys (129, 130), we do on the planet.

In visual form, statistics that seem like abstract numbers are transformed into a reality that can be as ugly as an Africa swollen with HIV cases (269), as hopeful as strong worldwide growth in education (226), or as simple as the fact America, and the rest of the West, could stand to go on a diet.

Jenny Sinclair1

1. Sinclair, Jenny. “Inequality unfolds in warped world,” in A2, The Age newspaper, Melbourne. Saturday November 29th 2008.


Daniel Dorling, Mark Newman and Anna Barford
The Atlas of the Real World: Mapping the Way We Live
416 pages
Thames and Hudson 2008




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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Mask’ 1994

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