Monday, February 7, 2011

National Geographic and the Soon-to-be South Sudan

Two weeks ago, my nerd project focused on the dramatic change a divided Sudan will have on world maps. Because National Geographic is the be-all and end-all of quality maps (in my world), I used a snapshot from their iPad app and created a modified map from it to impress upon readers the dramatic change that will result.

When I finished my modified map, I contacted National Geographic to see if the Map Policy Committee had taken any action on South Sudan or if there were any updates as to how National Geographic plans to depict South Sudan. Always helpful, Juan Valdes replied. It turns out, a lot of thought has been given to South Sudan.

"In recognition of Southern Sudan's new political standing, the Society's Map Policy Committee examined how this autonomous region should be portrayed on our maps. As Southern Sudan has yet to gain its independence, and following the Society's principles for recognizing semi-autonomous states, it has been decided that the region should be designated on our maps as an "Area of Special Status." Where scale permits, our maps will show Southern Sudan in a gray boundary band or gray fill. Final color designation will be discussed and determined when Southern Sudan nears its independence. Juba, the region's administrative center, will be identified by a special symbol.

Additionally, and where scale permits, the Sudanese region of Abyei will be recognized. Although its borders were left undefined in a 2005 peace deal, in July 2009 the Abyei Tribunal redrew this region's borders. The redrawn borders left most, but not all, of the region's Muslim population residing outside its boundaries, making it more likely that the majority of its population would vote to join the south. This region will, for now, be identified by a simple red boundary treatment and the use of the following note: 2009 Abyei Tribunal Decision Line."

Unforunately, still no Map Policy Committee meeting minutes, although I did send another email to Cindy Beidel about those...I'm not going to get my hopes up. NGS seem relatively tight lipped about things before they are made official, one once they are made official it's re-established that its officiality is based in policy. That sounds circular, I think it's rather clever.

I look forward to an update of the National Geographic World Map. As of today, neither the Executive or Political World or Continent maps have been updated on their iPad application.

It turns out National Geographic has a policy for modified maps, too. Apparently Mr. Valdes has taken a peak or two at my blog and asked that I include the following:

Map modified by Ryan Buck. Boundaries and names shown do not necessarily reflect the map policy of the National Geographic Society.

I, of course, instantly added the disclaimer and think National Geographic has taken a remarkably understanding course of action with my modified map. The fact that there was concern (and I use that term loosely) over confusion the map might cause, probably overstates my photoshop abilities. If nothing else, I got a shout out on Matt Rosenberg's ( twitter account.


  1. What is an internet?

    Good thing this isn't =)

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