The Known World
The Known World
“When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”
There’s a world parallel to our own that exists in all of our heads. It’s the world of our collective consciousness, our shared memory and imagination, where magic and monsters are real, where science and gods contend, where heroes have walked the Earth throughout all eras.
One thing that fascinates me about this world is that it is not infinite—the number of cultural references we all share is actually pretty small. If you want to list all the pirates people have heard of, for example, they’re aren’t really all that many of them.
Now, some people can’t find Canada on a map, so there’s really nothing that “everybody knows.” But there is a category of things that people can safely allude to—if you say a politician has a Robin Hood tax policy, you expect most people will know what you mean. So Robin Hood is firmly part of the Known World. Basically, if you can make reference to someone or something in a joke, and the point of the joke is not how hopelessly obscure your reference is, then that person or thing probably belongs to the Known World.
I’m also trying to include just what people know about characters and other features of the Known World. Most things are fairly sketchy. Often what is known is inaccurate, because people believe a lot of things that are wrong; it’s the inaccurate belief rather than the true fact that is to be represented here.
I’ll be the first to acknowledge that this is a map of cultural space as drawn by a middle-aged, college-educated white male American. I try to put aside these biases, but really I can’t. I would love to hear any suggestions for improving this site, but even more so I would love to see a similar project done by someone very different than me. I think you’d have to combine a large number of individual visions to get a true shape of the Known World.