"Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world" Nelson Mandela

Saturday, 15 February 2014



Hello everyone:

This is Ana Sánchez, this week translator. I hope you´re enjoing our blog so far. I´ll try to make clear the concepts we have been working on this week. 

     During these few days we have been doing a treasure hunt and, through our search of answers to the given questions, we have been learning many things about map projections and how the real form of the Earth can be distorted as such a tool is used to represent it... But, you know, we are not Geography students, and even if it has been pretty interesting to learn such concepts, the relation between them and the broader term of media distortions had made us reach the point of our search, and we had to think quite a lot! Well, here you have the concept definitions. I hope these short explanations are useful for you!

Treaure or Scavenger hunt: It is a game that consists of searching for a group of items of a given list, or developing some number of tasks; this can be required to be done individually or by groups. The goal can vary: being the first one completing the task or developing it in the most creative way. This type of games has developed from ancient folk games and it became very popular in relation to party games. Nowadays treasure hunts are being increasingly used for educational purposes, including different methods of search, as the Internet.

Map projection: It is a method through which cartographers transfer details from a sphere (the globe) to a land planisphere (a world map or “mappa mundi”). It means that they “translate” a round, 3-dimensional Earth surface into a plane 2-dimensional image for a better understanding.

Types of projections: There are several criteria for classifying the types of projections; for our purposes we just have observed the basic ones:
* Depending on the main geometrical property they maintain:
- Equidistant: they preserve the distances, as it happens with Mercator.
- Equivalent: they keep the area (size or angles).
- Conformal: they keep the shape (locally). In this group we find Mercator projection.
- Azimuthality: they preserve direction, as it happens with Azimuthal.
- Other types of projections that are not geometrical: "compromise projections", like Robinson projection. They look for a compromise to keep the image of the world as "real" as they can, the aim is to make the map look well.
* Depending on the shape of the surface where the projection is done.
- On a cylinder: cylindrical, like Mercator (Robinson is  consider to be "pseudo-cylindrical").
- On a plane: Azimuthal/Zenithal/Polar.
- On a cone.

Distortion: Think about this... when the sun illuminates your body, the shadow that is projected it is never exactly the same, the projection of your body is deformed or distorted…  In the same way, when using either a cylindrical, a conical, an azimuthal or any other kind of projection the final image will have some kind of misrepresentation. Because of that, depending on the purpose, it will be more correct to use one type of projection or the other. There are four main types of distortions when transferring the sphere to a map: shape, angles (areas or size), distances and directions. It is necessary to be aware of it and be able to explain it to our primary students in a simple way... 

       Distortion ellipses (Tissot´s indicatrix): This is maybe not the most important concept we have discovered, but it was very useful for my understanding. Why? Because it helps us to visualize what type of distortion a map projection has caused, how much distortion occurred, and where it occurred... just by taking the different map projections and placing several ellipses that differ in shape, angle, distance or direction in the map stripes that are being distorted. As a result you have a new map (Robinson, Mercator, Azimuthal or any other one) that represents distortions, which are symbolized by the variation of the ellipses (as you can see in the images of the chart our group has included).

Media distortion: It was the aim of our hunt... But what do we understand by media? Well, media or mass media are the different type of tecnhological tools that are used to make information reach a large audience. When we speak about mass media we are refering mainly to television, radio, newspapers and printed books and, of course, to the Internet. But we can even consider hoarding, mobiles or video games to be in this cathegory too... As these media reach so many people, it is essential to be aware of the quality and truthfullness of the information they offer... As we learnt with map projections, when reality is transferred to be studied, some properties are lost in the way. The same happens when a piece of information is being told by any media, it´s just a representation of the reality, but not the thing itself and, as all the representations, it is less than the real thing... If media are objective and try hard to represent reality in the best way, maybe they do as cartographers when representing the Earth with a globe... (reality is allways more, is allways bigger than the representation of it). But in some circumstances, following a purpuse, sometime an obscure one, mass media distort, deform  the reality. And if we think of educational purposes, we can consider the way in what reality is rewrite in some historical books...Or let´s be more simple: its easy to think of Nazisim and its "educational" and social propaganda. Think of this aswell: the way our curriculum is organized in order to make student´s know about important writers, painters, polititians, etc. that belong to their country or even their region... what is fine, unless they don´t have time to study the most quality ones, even if their are not from their place of birth... What happens for example with Cataluña? What are the books they study, the videos they see and even the language they have to use telling about the history and the importance of Spain? Well,I will let you answer this question to yourself. 

    Finally... thanks for finishing reading my words. I hope they were not too boring! My experience as a translator has been quite hard, because I tried to understand geografical terms in a very short time and I don´t have a strong base for it. My job has helped me to realize how much I don´t know about it. But, in any case and going further, everything has helped me to comprehend the importance of being accurate when communicating, and the need of making students be aware of the distortions or reality deformations that they are surrounded by and even make them be aware of the distortions that us, as teachers, can cause!

Ana Mª Sánchez, T8T Translator. 

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