Mapping a more virtual world
Martin Vargic’s maps of the world look like they belong on parchment, hung on walls of estates that no one can really afford. Sure, they don’t have those weird, spiny sea monsters or ships at full sail. And, at first glance, Vargic’s land masses are completely distorted. Look closer though and you’ll realize that they’re actually not maps of the physical world at all.
But there’s more to the world than piles of dirt and great swathes of sea water. Vargic charts still aim big. His “Map of the Internet” went viral in early 2014, as did his map of world stereotypes (in which New Zealand is labeled “Middle Earth”). His cartography creates an indirect commentary on how cultural proximities are every bit as relevant in the digital age as geographical ones.
There is no country of Google that can be found on a Google map. But the very large — and real — presence of Google online is accorded appropriate mass in a Vargic map.
Peruse this map from “Vargic’s Miscellany of Curious Maps,” exploring the world of gaming. Look for nostalgic favorites (awww, “Half Life”) as well as new Indie titles (try “Goat Simulator,” seriously). Imagine that this digital world is as new as the physical felt to those who first inked parchment.
Vargic is 17 years old, by the way, and lives in Slovakia. So Ideas interviewed him by e-mail. Below is an edited excerpt.
IDEAS: Google Maps has turned what was for centuries a two-dimensional discipline into a 3D one. Does 3D improve or cheapen the map experience?
VARGIC: The creation of Google Earth was one of the most profound moments in the history of mapmaking and cartography, showing the world from an entirely different and more complex perspective than any maps before. I don’t think Google Earth and standard two-dimensional maps can be compared outright, as they represent two entirely different philosophies. The main aim of Google Earth is to represent the entire world as realistically as possible, even including elements such as 3D buildings, it could be considered to be a “model” of the earth.
Traditional maps do not usually aim to display a photorealistic model of the world, but instead showcase only some of the most important information, such as the borders of countries, locations of cities, mountains, etc., and usually allow vastly different aesthetic interpretations of the same subject.
IDEAS: The map was always a tool to help locate oneself in the world, yet your maps sometimes try to capture moments in time rather than geography. How are those two different?
VARGIC: I don’t think my maps try to capture a particular moment in time, but instead aim to create conceptual worlds from various aspects of human culture instead of geography. They show the relations between various genres of art and people who represent them. My goal is to make them both educational and also just entertaining to look at.
IDEAS: A map is only as good as the data set that you use to create it. What would be your dream sets of data (now or historically) that you’d like to use to make a map?
VARGIC: There are incredible amounts of information sets, that, if compiled and unearthed, could be visualized in the form of a very interesting map. I think it definitely would be interesting to create historical maps based on various statistics regarding various population demographics, economy, health care, or religiosity in the ancient Medieval era.
IDEAS: We seem to be in the midst of a golden age of maps, infographics, and other visual methods of information-sharing. Why has this medium resonated so much?
VARGIC: Information can be comprehended and understood more profoundly when it is put and showcased in a visual form, it also enables it to be combined with vibrant aesthetic and artistic elements. Digital art has enabled practically anyone to draw and create professional-looking infographics and visualizations, and share them with the rest of the world in minutes.
Heather Hopp-Bruce is the Boston Globe Ideas/Op-ed art director.