GeoCurrents Outline Maps and Outline-Map Generator

I have often been frustrated when looking for outline political maps to use in teaching and blogging. It is easy enough to find serviceable outline maps of continents and of conventional world regions (such as the Middle East). It is difficult if not impossible, however, to find them for areas of the world that span continental and world-regional boundaries. As a result, I decided to make my own high-resolution world outline map that can be used to generate outline maps centered on any part of the world. I have spent much of the last month working on this project, and I am now ready to begin sharing the fruits of my labor with the public. This post introduces this project. (Note that the maps of Africa in the previous GeoCurrents posted were all made in this manner.)

The generator map used to make the outline map posted below was done in Keynote, the Apple version of PowerPoint. To make it, I traced out every country, major dependency, and sizable island, generating shapes that can be clicked on and manipulated in different ways. Later this week I will make the Keynote file, as well as a PowerPoint version of it, available for download on this website. Before doing so, however, I want to explain how this map can be used to make outline maps for any part of the world. This post covers the simplest level.

To make the outline map posted above from the underlying generator map, I simply deleted the CIA base map, filled the shapes with color (white), copied the shapes, and then inserted them on a light-blue truncated oval. The map of the islands of Southeast Asia posted below was made simply by taking a screen shot of a segment of the map posted above, enlarging it, and then putting a frame around it. As can be seen, the scale of resolution on the resulting Southeast Asia outline map is serviceable but far from ideal. A much sharper image can be made by using the generator map itself. I have demonstrated the scale of resolution available here with the second map below, showing Indonesia and environs. Making the latter map was a little more complicated, in part because each island and country outlines in the generator map had to be clicked on and selected separately.  All of this will be explained in a later post.

I have also made separate Keynote slides with labels for all countries, larger dependencies, and seas and oceans, all of which are all situated in their proper positions. One can thus simply copy the information from one of these label-slides and then insert it on the unlabeled outline map to make an outline map with labels. Using the label slide in the Keynote and PowerPoint files (to be released later), one can easily change the size, font, color, or position of any of these labels. To make a labeled regional map, one can simply selects the appropriate labels and insert them on a segment of the world outline map. Note that higher-resolution map of insular Southeast Asia with labels for seas with the generator map itself; this will be demonstrated in a later post.

 

 

As the generator map is based on the CIA world political map, it shows the political vision of the U.S. State Department rather than that of the United Nations; Kosovo is thus depicted as a separate country rather than as a region of Serbia, the Golan Heights is depicted as part of Israel rather than of Syria, and Western Sahara is shown as part of Morocco rather than as a political entity in its own right. I have, however, placed dash lines to show the division between Morocco and Western Sahara and to show the areas of Kashmir that are claimed but not controlled by India. All U.S.-recognized sovereign states are shown (I think!) except Monaco and the Vatican City; oceanic countries (such as Tulavu) that are too small to trace out are depicted with small stars. The Palestinian Territories, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, are outlined but labeled in italics (as “PT”) to indicate that they do not constitute a sovereign state according to The U.S. State Department. For the same reason, Taiwan is also labeled in italics.

I continue to find small errors and slightly misplaced boundaries on the original generator map, and as a result I am continually refining it. But I have reached a point where I think that the map is good enough for public release. If anybody finds any errors or infelicities on this map, please let me know!

I will also be constructing new sets of label overlays for the generator map, including ones of dependencies, capital cities, and large cities. These overlays will be released as they are completed. I am also making similar regional generator maps based on physical maps that show terrain. I find making such maps useful for teaching, as I can highlight the boundaries of a given country and then talk about the physical characteristics of it that are apparent in the base map. The first of these physical-regional generator maps should be available for release within a few weeks.

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