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About the Personal World Map

At this moment, in which information flows through our planet in intervals of time that human beings are not even able to imagine, time seems to be playing a more important role than distance. The supremacy of time over distance is not only real for the flow of information but also for our movements across the earth. Places which are more accessible seem to get “closer” to each other while less accessible places become isolated. This fact clearly affects our perception of the earth.

World maps define and model the image that we have of the earth. However, as they are a two dimensional representation of the earth, world maps show us some properties of the world with accurate dimensions, while other properties are distorted. These properties can be distances, angles, areas, gross shapes and directions. Which of these properties will be represented with their real shape and which of them will be distorted depends on the projection of the map, (which at the same time depends on the purpose of the map). In this context, the intention of the Personal World Map is to show how a map might look if one would also consider “time” as one of the mentioned properties: how does a map look like if travel time distances are kept real (at a certain scale).

The main purpose of the Personal World Map is to give awareness of the user’s actual position in the world in relation to other places by taking into account the “effort” needed to get to a certain destination. Because the Personal World Map is based on flight data, this effort is defined not only by time (travel time) but also by money (ticket fares). In order to visualize such “effort”, the world map is immersed in travel time space and money space. ‘Travel time distances’ and ‘travel costs distances’ define spaces differently than geographical space. These spaces are constantly changing and constitute geometries that follow different rules than Euclidean geometries.

The “personal” aspect of representing the world in this way is that the user is allowed to choose the center of his/her world, and that the world map will be based on the user’s time and money availability. The world map representation therefore shows the physical world and the actual possibilities for its exploration. Looking at a “Personal World Map” is a way to change our perception of the world.

Apart from this personal aspect, a more exhaustive look into the Personal World Map reveals global issues such as the travel costs closeness of Europe, North America and East Asia, and the isolation of Africa.

Personal World Map is part of a bigger project called Real Time2 Cartography. Real Time2 Cartography or Time Cartography in Real Time is meant to explore how time can give a different shape to the world and this is done by using real time data. Time therefore has two meanings: as a replacement for distances, but also to reflect the use of up to date data that is constantly changing.

Personal World Map has been developed by Roxana Torre and is the final project for the Master of Arts in Media Design at Piet Zwart Institute in Rotterdam.

Special thanks to Matthew Fuller, Michael Murtaugh and Femke Snelting for their advice, support and inspiration during the development of the project and OpenJaw Technologies for providing access to flight data.

For more information send me an e-mail > roxana(at)torre.nl
June 2005.


Personal World Map has been awarded with a Honorary Mention in the category Net Vision at Prix Ars Electronica 2006


  • Disseny Hub Barcelona. Turisme. Espais de ficció (2 December 2008 - 24 May 2009)
  • MAXXI (Museo nazionale delle arti del XXI secolo), Rome. NetSpace: a travel to the art of the NET - Geographies of Spaces (2006)
  • Casa das Campás, Vigo. Linking Frontiers (Artech 2006)
  • 66 East, Amsterdam. Tracing Spaces - Maps, Notations and Explorations (2005)