Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Maps in the News: North Korea and the Ukraine

Maps in the News:  Where Is North Korea Anyway?

North Korea launched a ballistic missile on Sunday, and the nation has been a focus of foreign policy discussions.  The New York Times’ “The Upshot” published an experiment asking American adults to find North Korea on a map of Asia.  Then those same respondents were asked their opinions about military intervention in North Korea.

Of the 1,746 adults polled, only 36% were able to identify North Korea on the map (above, click to enlarge).  Some of the respondents even guessed that North Korea was located on a point in the ocean.  And of the respondents who could correctly identify North Korea, most tended to favor diplomatic or nonmilitary strategies of foreign policy.  Respondents who could not identify the correct location of North Korea favored direct military engagement, including sending ground troops.

A similar study was conducted in 2014 when Russia invaded Crimea in the Ukraine.  Americans were asked to find the Ukraine on a map of the world.  (On the map above, the guesses close to the location of the Ukraine are identified with redder dots).  And the researchers learned that the farther a respondent’s guess was from the Ukraine, the more likely that person would favor military intervention.

National Geographic sponsored a geography survey in 2006.  Nearly 90% of the respondents in that test could not locate Afghanistan on a map, 63% could not find Iraq on a map of the Middle East, and half could not find the state of New York on a map.

Even news media get geography wrong.  CNN used the map above in a story related to elections in the Ukraine.  But the location of the Ukraine is covered by the Ukrainian flag.  The map appears to be pointing to the region of Pakistan or Afghanistan.  For equal time:  Fox News identified the country of Iraq as Egypt, and MSNBC used a graphic of West Virginia for a story about Virginia elections.

The Ball State University Libraries GIS Research and Map Collection (GRMC) promotes geographic literacy and awareness by providing access to the latest cartographic resources for education and learning.  And the GRMC provides the latest maps of countries around the world for use in classroom lessons, exhibits, or other learning projects.  The GRMC even creates original geographic lessons, including one using some of the map “bloopers” shown.  And the GRMC provides custom instructional sessions, community presentations, and cartographic workshops to enhance geography skills.

For more information, please contact the GRMC at 765-285-1097.

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