Geography 970

February 25, 2010

Sorry Mark, this is a mindless repost

Filed under: Uncategorized — mattmoehr @ 8:05 pm

A lot of the people I’ve begun following on twitter are, well, atwitter about some sort of conference: mashupevent.

This is a wonderful interactive map of tweets tagged #mashupevent.  Really nice.  I also vaguely remember seeing the uMapper stuff back in 575 when I was looking for free AS3 scripts.  My only issue – the faces are creepy.


Twitters GeoAPI – Big changes ahead

Filed under: Uncategorized — markharrower @ 4:59 pm

Lots of Twitter + Geo in the news this week:



February 24, 2010

from wonky to elegant (or both): another flickr set

Filed under: Uncategorized — markharrower @ 7:48 pm

I often like to look outside of cartography / GIS for ideas about how to represent data, ideas, dimensions, etc. I think we often get stuck in our own professional ruts and I like to ask “I wonder how a hollywood effects person or a cellular biologists might think about this this spatial problem?”

simple, powerful design

Filed under: Uncategorized — markharrower @ 7:40 pm

Interactive, animated, high tech maps might be sexy, but nothing in my opinion beats simple elegant static graphics (gasp! I know). Spend 10 seconds to examine each of the following and appreciate how thematically perfect they are; from fonts, to colors, to where they land on the serious-to-playful spectrum.

Anyone who says graphic design is easy has no idea.

February 22, 2010


Filed under: Uncategorized — Jing Gao @ 11:36 pm

Metropolis is very much self explanatory – an animation made out of printed static maps, a narrative history of the city of Charlotte, North Carolina. “Starting around 1755 on a Native American trading path, the viewer is presented with the building of the first house in Charlotte. From there we see the town develop through the historic dismissal of the English, to the prosperity made by the discovery of gold and the subsequent roots of the building of the multitude of churches that the city is famous for. Now the landscape turns white with cotton, and the modern city is ‘born’, with a more detailed re-creation of the economic boom and surprising architectural transformation that has occurred in the past 20 years.  …  Ultimately the video continues the city development into an imagined hubristic future, of more and more skyscrapers and sports arenas and into a bleak environmental future. It is an extreme representation of the already serious water shortages that face many expanding American cities today; but this is less a warning, as much as a statement of our paper thin significance no matter how many monuments of steel, glass and concrete we build.”

This also made me think about the usage/purpose of maps: the desire to navigate physically or mentally led to the birth of reference maps; to show a phenomena, to make a point, we designed thematic maps;  to tell a story that has a time line, we discovered animated maps; to provide an experience, to let the user explore on their own initiatives, we developed interactive maps.  What’s the next?

visualizing twitter

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jing Gao @ 11:08 pm

As I look around for Twitter visualizations, the following two caught my eyes.

Dreaming wall is a project ran in a historical square in Milan.  It displays sms messages sent by standing in the square or via the Internet – similar in many ways to Twitter.  Although more like action art, the movie clip looked nice, yet it still left me wonder where is the story of the crowdsoucing data. raises the privacy issues associated with geo-twits.  It uses terms such as ‘left home’ and the user’s profile to work out if a house goes empty (assuming everybody lives on their own).  Some citation said it then links to a map showing where the now empty homes are, but I didn’t find the port to the map (maybe it’s turned off now?).  Spatial information is incredibly informative and powerful, but how can we make sure it is not misused / abused?  While I want all the data to be geo-referenced when working on a visualization project, I found myself giving the opposite answer to the question whether to publish my location when I’m just a consumer.

NAVTEQ’s 3D Street Mapping

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jing Gao @ 8:54 pm

The LIDAR point cloud image of radiohead reminded me of a talk that I went to last semester, given by NAVTEQ engineers.  NAVTEQ has been collecting and processing huge amount of LIDAR data from mobile devices carried by auto vehicles.  The immediate result of this is a huge coverage of 3D street map, which has partnered with Bing Maps.  Moreover, NAVTEQ has developed a system to automatically extract and recognize road features, such as traffic signs and lane markers, which is used for the navigation system to provide more detailed driving instructions and warnings.  So, maybe soon enough the car will start complaining about speeding.

February 21, 2010

Google Creative Labs’ Aaron Koblin runs through his stunning projects

Filed under: Uncategorized — markharrower @ 10:18 pm

There are so many brilliant ideas here it’s a bit depressing. I imagine even Humboldt would be impressed.

Maps for Play

Filed under: Uncategorized — Daniel Huffman @ 10:14 pm

Fei’s post on Ovi Maps Racing reminded me of my first experiences with GIS and cartography, which involved computer games. I played a lot of games when younger, like SimCity and Civilization, that took place on maps of fictional locations. I first learned how to find and manipulate DEMs in order to load them into certain games, so that I could play on the terrain of my hometown.

I think this is an easily overlooked realm where a lot of people encounter presentations of geospatial information. They see maps in computer games, on board games, in the jackets of fantasy novels. I would be interested to know how many people interact with maps of fictional locations vs interacting with maps of actual locations. I’ve never played World of Warcraft, but I have friends who probably know more about the location of elven towns than they do about towns in their own county.

(Side note: A Google search for “cartographer” turns up, for 3 of the first 4 hits, a WoW-related download to make maps look better, I think).

Maybe I’ve not noticed, but it seems like there’s not much dialogue between cartographers and these sorts of fantasy map people. This seems to me like a missed opportunity. As cartographers, we complain here and there about poor quality maps. If we would like people to demand better maps, we need to fill their lives with examples of them. Games and fantasy seems like a fine place to do that. Especially because it’s filled with people who want to make maps. They want to design maps for their stories, build maps for the games they are designing. People interested in learning. Some of these people are going to get jobs with Google someday, and create the next round of interactive mapping displays.

While exposing people to our ivory tower influence might be nice, I wonder if, in fact, computer game programmers have (or should have) influenced us. They’ve been designing interactive digital basemaps for a long time. In the early 1990s, you could play a computer game with a full color basemap designed to accept a randomly-generated geography and multiple pieces of information on top of it (army icons, city names, etc).

Sid Meier's Civilization

I’m pretty sure this thing sold more copies, in 1991, than any sort of digital map of actual geographic reality. The map above was interactive (you could click on various tiles for information) and animated (watch units move). It changed dynamically to represent game conditions (those little brown roads could be built or removed, for example). In 575, Mark talks about how people have certain expectations on how to interact with a map — what sorts of things they can click on, how they can pan around. Some of mine have probably been influenced by games like this.

Others of you may be able to comment more authoritatively on whether or not the world of academic and professional mapmaking has interacted much with the world of maps for fun, but it seems like there’s some good opportunities there, for us to influence the quality and design of maps being shown to large numbers of people, and to learn about map interface design from people who’ve been making money off of it a lot longer than we have.

Victorian Infographics, or Why Alexander von Humboldt Rocked

Filed under: Uncategorized — markharrower @ 9:59 pm

I’ve wondered if each generation has always felt it was the smartest, most clever, most 3-dimensional group of people who’ve ever lived and that those older generations couldn’t possibly have been as clever or smart or emotionally complex as us. Or perhaps that lack awareness and appreciation for other generations is recent, western affliction? More specifically to Geog 970, it always makes me smile when the cool tech/infovis kids discover some folks were doing very similar stuff like 150 years ago without the benefit of computers 🙂

From the Rumsey Map Collection (via Flickr) — I was thinking of Daniel looking at these!

I’ve often heard folks say Alexander von Humboldt was one of the most important scholars of all-time (and was unusually popular during his lifetime…one of the earlier “celebrity scientists”). These hand-drawn graphics certainly don’t disprove that and they also embody our modern visualization goal of “beautiful thinking made clear”

Older Posts »

Create a free website or blog at