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January 10, 2014 - 12:41am

University students fail to correctly draw world map


Ziebell digitally combined the drawings to create this representation of the world. (The Atlantic)

University students may need a geography lesson.

During the summer of 2012, Zak Ziebell, a high school student from San Antonio, randomly approached 29 people on the University’s Central Campus, gave them a pen and a sheet of paper, and asked them to draw a map of the world on the spot.

In order to complete a fine arts project that required he reveal something unseen, Ziebell digitally combined the maps into one image. In an interview with The Atlantic, Ziebell described his method of creating the map.

“I then scanned all the maps, put them as layers in a Photoshop document, and made each layer almost completely transparent,” Ziebell said. “I thought it would be cool to see what it would look like with satellite imagery, so I got a picture from NASA and manipulated it with Photoshop to fit the new shapes of the continents.”

The resulting map was less than stellar. Many of the student maps used to compose the final product lacked key places such as Antarctica, the Arctic, New Zealand, the British Isles and large parts of Southeast Asia. In one map, India was attached to South Africa and Saudi Arabia.

Multiple foreign publications commented on the students’ misrepresentation of continents and countries, reinforcing stereotypes of “geographic illiteracy” among Americans.

But maps are subjective in nature, noted Uri Friedman, a writer for The Atlantic.

“No matter how detailed or scientific, they reflect our worldview and the age in which we're living, not to mention the difficulty of projecting a spherical globe onto a plane surface,” he wrote.