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Maporama: A Series Where Demographics and Popular Culture Meet

A Bunch of Random Maps Because Why Not?

With this first installment of the Maporama series I invite you to see the world through a different lens. With weird maps that would get you a “cool story, bro” in conversation, you’ll discover what actually makes them cool -- and what they tell us about the world.

Maps in this series may include anything from baby names to Nickelback, because there’s just about no limit to what you can do with a blank map. They’re also going to have a ‘lil blurb around them, just so that everyone knows what’s going on.

First up on this first installment of Maporama: a map of the most streamed songs on Spotify as of the first week of February, by country. “7 Rings” by Ariana Grande definitely takes the cake here as the most viral this week; just about every country in the world with a large English-speaking population has it on the top spot.

Also interesting to note that “7 Rings” was quite popular in the Balkans and in Southeast Asia, places with far lesser levels of internet users overall. Internet users in these areas would probably enjoy a higher level of income than the local average, which may correlate with a preference for Ariana Grande.

The German-speaking world was quite captivated by the song “Prinzessa” by Capital Bra, whereas three around equally popular latin songs battled it out for the top spot in Latin America and Spain. Other countries without a major linguistic diaspora, like Japan or Turkey, were more likely to enjoy local music - they’re in the “Other/Language-Specific” category on the legend. Quite depressing that we don’t get to find out about the preferences of the rest of the world, where open access to internet is a far more scarce privilege.

Above is a map of the most popular boy names in each Middle Eastern country. “Mohammad” seems to dominate around the Arabian Peninsula, whereas “Ali” is more popular around the Persian Gulf. Whereas “Mohammad” takes the lead with predominantly Sunni Muslim regions, “Ali” seems more popular with Shia-majority regions. Part of Shia Islam is the belief that God picked Ali to succeed him - Mohammad’s son-in-law.

The Middle East seems to have far more consensus around girl names; “Fatima” and “Maryam” are dominant just about everywhere, with few exceptions. Fun fact: “Maryam” is just the Arabic version of “Mary” - both names originate from slightly different spins of the same Biblical/Quranic character.

North America is not as quite consensus-driven when it comes to baby names. Less and less people are basing baby names on religious persons of interest; that means less Marys, and less Josephs. In terms of girl names, “Olivia” seems to be on top throughout Canada and the American Midwest, while “Emma” is spread out across America. The largest and most urban states - California and New York - both like “Sophia.”

For boy names, Canada loves “Liam,” as does the Northern US. The South likes “William,” and the Southwest likes “Noah.” These baby names show us a few things about North America - different regions have different preferences, most notably between majority urban and small-town rural regions. In Canada, Quebec consistently bucks the trend due to linguistic and cultural differences. There are also surprisingly few births in some of the smaller provinces and in the territories - so few that the top names were often three-way ties - reflecting an aging population in areas like Prince Edward Island, where younger people tend to flock to more populated provinces for more opportunities.

Latin America seems to love “Santiago” and “Agustín.” Brazil bucks the trend with “Miguel,” being the only Portuguese-majority country in South America. Mexico is the only country where the most popular girl name is “Ximena” - a Spanish spin on “Simon.” These statistics are also more questionable than for North America; census services are less developed, and are often only taken for major urban centres, resulting in disproportionately underrepresented rural areas. Economic gains in urban areas are often negated by severe levels of poverty in rural Latin America, which are also regions that tend to have a significant share of Indigenous populations and exploitation for natural resources - including Canadian mining operations that often turn into violent confrontations with locals.

Perhaps the best known Santiago in North America would be Chilean actor Santiago Cabrera, who plays Lancelot in the BBC’s Merlin. Now, here’s a map of famous people from each Canadian province.


Yes, Nickelback isn’t a person, but no one knows (or wants to know) the names of the band’s members. Saskatchewan hasn’t exactly produced a well-known Hollywood personality, but they’ve given us a Prime Minister, and possibly the next one: the current Leader of the Opposition is a Saskatchewanite.

Canada isn’t only a hotbed for well-known entertainment figures; it’s also a hotbed for filming locations. Riverdale films in Vancouver, along with the Arrowverse series Game of Thrones, which was partially filmed in Alberta, and Toronto has its share of lesser-known programs. The Prairies and the Maritimes have less filming locations, reflecting the unfortunate reality that access to opportunities within the entertainment industry is extremely location-limited. As a result, independent series and films often taking the top spot in smaller provinces, while also struggling to break the barrier to widespread fame.

To close up Maporama #1 - who knew that Mean Girls was filmed at UofT? You do indeed learn something new every day.

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