X.5 Money

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Randall Munroe

Fans of Randall Munroe’s xkcd love the web comic for its combination of dazzling brilliance and laugh-out-loud observations. Underlying the humor, however, is often a message of utmost seriousness. Such is the case with this map, shown here in its entirety in the center and surrounded by zooms of several of the map’s most interesting components. Together, the map shows a meticulously detailed visualization of how economic resources are used and how they get distributed. Drawing information from over 200 separate sources, citations for which are available on the xkcd website, this map uses color-coded boxes to illustrate possession and expenditure, with examples ranging from the the annual cost of fish ownership to the the cost of one B-2 bomber. As is characteristic, the work is laced with humor: for instance, a cluster of blocks denoting the actual cost of one F-22 raptor—a stealth, supersonic fighter aircraft priced at $154 million—is followed by one showing the projected cost of one velociraptor—a stealth, super-deadly dinosaur made popular by Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park, priced at $1.9 million. The map also illustrates the dramatic disparity between the world’s rich and poor. Given the growing concern with economic inequality in recent years, this map has the power to serve as a tool for education and action.


Munroe, Randall. 2014. Money. Courtesy of xkcd.com. In "10th Iteration (2014): The Future of Science Mapping," Places & Spaces: Mapping Science, edited by Katy Börner and Samuel Mills. http://scimaps.org

Acknowledgements: This exhibit is supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. IIS-0238261, CHE-0524661, IIS-0534909 and IIS-0715303, the James S. McDonnell Foundation; Thomson Reuters; the Cyberinfrastructure for Network Science Center, University Information Technology Services, and the School of Library and Information Science, all three at Indiana University. Some of the data used to generate the science maps is from the Web of Science by Thomson Reuters and Scopus by Elsevier. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.