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Rethinking the Lower 48

Too often traditional state borders dictate and shape the decisions and concerns of the American way of life. The nine different configurations of the lower 48 states in this 2010 project aim to break down old boundaries and look at more interesting ways we can identify with the nearly three million square miles of American land. These maps were created as part of my graduate thesis project exploring the leveraging power of data visualizations, specifically maps.

United States of Belts

The regions know as the bible belt and rust belt may be common knowledge, but what about lesser know ‘belts’? Collected here on this map are a variety of dissections covering the lower 48 in an unusual way.

Wine / Unchurch / Jell-O / Rocky / Mexamerica / Plains / Corn / Lakes / Bible / Everglades / Rust / Megalopolis / Nor’Easter

United States from a South Up Perspective

The Egyptian astronomer Ptolemy (90-168 AD) is credited with establishing the mapping convention of that north is up and east at the right. Other than a convenient standard for mapmakers to adhere to, there is no reason a map couldn’t have a different orientation. In fact, in the Middle Ages east was typically on top. This map’s orientation of south at the top gives an interesting view of the lower 48. The already dominantly large Texas is accentuated further in a ‘king of the hill’ manner that would seem to suit the Lone Star State. The New England states, on the other hand, seem a bit shoved in the corner. In fact, the whole east coast appears to be deemphasized in the south-up perspective. How does your state look from this point of view?

States Renamed for Countries with Similar GDPs

By using figures from the U.S. Department of Commerce and the International Monetary Fund, this map links each state to a country with a comparable Gross Domestic Product. The map highlights the size, market, and wealth of the U.S. relative to other countries. The United States has the highest GDP in the world – and by far. US GDP, projected to be $13 trillion, is as much as the economies of the next four countries combined (Japan, Germany, China, UK).

Neil Freeman’s Electoral College Reform Map, 2010

This Electoral Reform Map, originally created in 2009 by artist and urban planner Neil Freeman, redivides the territory of the United States into 50 bodies of roughly equal population (between 5.4 and 5.6 million people per state). The effort here, though flawed in some ways, attempts to find a solution to our American voting system that has on three occasions has been in conflict with the popular vote.

C. Etzel Pearcy’s 38 State Union

This map was originally proposed by retired professor of geography, C. Etzel Pearcy in the 1970s. Percy contended that this realignment was more ‘organic’ and more logical. It gave priority to population concentrations, transportation routes, and location of cities. The proposal was balked at by politicians in Washington DC despite arguments that the reshaping would save the government a sizeable sum of money as well as improve transportation systems.

Major League Baseball’s Span of Fanbases

The intense love for a sports team can bring a community together, define a region, and form an identity of what it means to be American. Of course not every state in the union has a professional team – and some states boast multiple squads (five California baseball teams: Giants, Athletics, Dodgers, Angels, Padres). Thus new borders can found that give fresh meaning to supporting your favorite team.

National Football League’s Span of Fanbases

States in Order by Geographic Size

Statehood can often be defined by surrounding geography and bordering states. This ‘map’ disassembles the contiguous United States to offer up relationships between states of similar size. Conventional understanding would say that Washington and Georgia do not have much in common, but when displayed together here a dialog can begin about similarities including that they are roughly about the same size.

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