Geography 970

March 26, 2010

SxSW Check ins

Filed under: Uncategorized — mattmoehr @ 9:20 am

This is a nice visualization of Austin during the sxsw interactive conference.  My first impression was “Wow, neat”, but that quickly subsided to “hmm?”.  I think this is a great example of a visualization that could have been improved with a half hour of work from a real cartographer.

It has some really nice background music, though.  Where are we going to get our background music?


March 23, 2010

The view from Redlands

Filed under: Uncategorized — mattmoehr @ 9:46 am

Continuing on the discussion about ESRI and the role of the software behemoth in the rapidly changing geo-web, this was an article about VGI from their newsletter:

It doesn’t really say much, but I think it’s telling that the article is squeezed into a tiny headline on page 4.  I.e. “We’ll acknowledge there’s this VGI stuff going on but we’re not promoting it”.

Also, this quote makes it sound like Jack wants us to take a bullet for him:

“Our military has a slogan: Every soldier is a sensor,” said ESRI president Jack Dangermond. With VGI, “every citizen is a sensor. This is another chapter in democracy, opening up and letting citizens participate in the development of geographic databases.”

March 22, 2010

Maps as portal for data, Go Figure

Filed under: Uncategorized — kjmcgrath @ 2:19 pm

Here is a short TED talk on the results of Tim Berners-Lee’s call for data that is open to the public. This original call for open and raw data fits into Mr. Merners-Lee view (and many others in fact!) that ease of use and open data leads to discovery. In his report about the results shows some of the clever, notable, and thought-provoking uses of data. The mode of compilation that I noticed most was the map. Geographers might automatically view the map as the prime method for culling and searching through data with a spatial component. Yet in the last few years viral graphics are often maps, and use of the maps as a tool to understand the world seems to be finally becoming a mainstream idea. With this movement towards the mainstream the data presented along with the presentation method are becoming more sophisticated as users become more literate. This movement towards graphics as explanatory and exploratory tools for data (while common for scientific-visualization, statisticians, cartographers, and others in related fields) seems to be the direction that designers and those that consume information are moving towards.

These issues of free and open data connect to a host of other issues including copyright, intellectual property, etc.  My feeling (one Mr. Merners-Lee seems espouse at TED) is that innovation in the culture and advancement due to new creation grows with openness and accessibility to data and more broadly ideas. Bringing more people into the fold and giving them raw data to use has many advantages and disadvantages. Primarily it opens up information about cultural, physical, and other environments facilitating comparison and correlation. However there are challenges for bad choices in representation or faulty use of data or decisions that fly in the faces of conventions set out by research in fields of cartography, semiotics, psychology, graphic design and others. While mistakes will inevitably made the possibilities for innovation and new and interesting stories coming forward makes this call for data timely and an important for the future.

Another related idea for meditation might be how can those who have been trained in graphic conventions and “best” practices inform new developments in this area. Also when we creating tools for visualizations how can we encourage amateur and untrained users towards conventions while not unnecessarily restricting them from innovation?

24 hours in 24 seconds

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jeremy White @ 1:51 pm

Combining the user.location data with the reply-to data (for a full 24 hours) yielded some interesting results.  Twitter activity in the US and Europe is relatively high, but I don’t think that’s surprising to anyone.  However, the amount of activity in Indonesia and Venezuela is interesting.

I started concentrating on the aesthetics more by adjusting the fading circles and gradient lines on the map.  I added an animated time slider on the bottom of the map as a reference, which should help the viewer determine the approximate time of any location.  I also coded the MapNodes script to add the total number of tweets per frame.  Each frame represents two minutes of Twitter activity.

You can see the animation here, but it’s rather large at 18MB.

The Augusta National Logo: Abstracting the Abstract

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tim Wallace @ 1:00 pm

So, if anyone has been watching basketball the last couple of days (and I’m guessing some millions of folks have), they’ve most likely been subjected to the barrage of light beer, fast food, fast beer and light food commercials.  One of the commercials in the regular rotation was for the up and coming Masters golf tournament at Augusta National.  A tradition unlike any other . . . etc. etc. Ugh.  I’m not much of a golf spectator, but I did enjoy one aspect of these commercials – the Augusta National Logo.

Augusta National Logo on a Flag and a Teddy Bear

Okay, okay.  I know that there isn’t much special about this logo.  We see logos with maps incorporated in them all of the time.  One of my all time favorites of this is the Massachusetts Lottery hyper-elongated logo.


But then I saw the Augusta National flower bed.

The August logo on a flag or a teddy bear looks like a map of the US, right?  But this flower bed looks more like the original logo and less like a map of the US.  If someone painted the flower bed, it’s fair to guess that it would look even less like a map of the US.  So, who cares?  Hopefully not cartographers.  I know I don’t care.  The point of the logo is to be logo-like – to be memorable.  The fact that it uses an outline of the US is only one component of this.  The outline of the US is a reference to the reach of the organization for which the logo was designed.  The precision of the bounds doesn’t matter, does it?  Here are some other nice ones:

WikiProject Maps

Filed under: Uncategorized — Daniel Huffman @ 12:34 pm

When I was first learning about cartography, I started making some terrible maps for Wikipedia (such as this one). I was interested in mapmaking, but had no idea how to go about it. Wikipedia, however, had a helpful group of pages to assist contributors in putting together cartographic content. I thought it would be fun to return there, years later, to see what they’re saying. This is a glimpse into the world of how cartographic amateurs think about maps — most of these people have no training, though they’re strongly motivated to learn.

The main page of WikiProject Map is here:

It’s rather impressive, actually — they’re running a pretty well-organized do-it-yourself custom cartography shop there. There’s an area to make requests, they’ve got spec sheets, and tutorials for Inkscape/GRASS/Gimp (unsurprisingly, ArcGIS and Adobe products are not the preferred software packages).

There are also appeals to Tufte (several maps are advertised as “chartjunk-free”).

I didn’t see any references to ColorBrewer, though some years ago it was on their page as an example of how to choose color schemes. But that was also before they started putting together spec sheets, so maybe people don’t have to think about that as much.

The map project page seems less overwhelming, to be sure, now that I have a better sense of what I’m doing. It actually seems very limited. There’s some attempts at cartographic education, but it’s more about how to do X in Inkscape, rather than why you should do X. This seems like a good community, for those of you interested, to get involved in. It’s full of people interested in maps, willing to learn, and whose work is going to be seen by thousands and possibly millions of eyeballs.

March 15, 2010

“You must not . . . ” whah!?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tim Wallace @ 2:56 pm

In the frantic, fast-paced swirling world of free mapping utilities online, who stops to read the fine print?   I’m guessing there is a larger percentage of Facebook users who read the fine print before signing away their lives than Google Maps API users who check out this page.

Google’s “free” mapping tools are always changing.  Last week, it seems they dropped the need for an API key to run geocoding processes.  At the same time, they reduced their number of output formats (removing CSV, which is likely is one of the more popular output types).  These changes in the API prompted me to check out the fine print.

And so after spending a number of weeks trying to implement Google’s geocoder for a non-Google-based map . . . I find out this.

10.  License Restrictions: You must not (nor may you permit anyone else to):

10.12 use or display the Content without a corresponding Google map, unless you are explicitly permitted to do so in the Maps APIs Documentation, the Street View API Documentation, or through written permission from Google (for example, you must not use geocodes obtained through the Service except in conjunction with a Google map, but the Street View API Documentation explicitly permits you to display Street View imagery without a corresponding Google map).

Figures, right?  If you are going to geocode using their API, it may as well be for use on their maps.  This section of the fine print sort of makes me wonder though . . . why do they open up their geocoder API as they have then?  If anyone can access the geocoder via a simple URL string (and not necessarily through some highly complicated code), do they really expect people to lay off using the geocoder except for immediate (Google) mapping applications?  That seems unlikely to me.  Perhaps a better question would be – from what does this stipulation really protect them?  Geography students . . . or, some entity trying to make money with their data on the sly?

Lines vs. Curves

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jeremy White @ 2:13 pm

Building off of the gradient line segment post from last week, I took the straight line segments and placed them over an unprojected base map.  The resulting flipbook of images was  then mapped onto a polygonal sphere which curved the lines according to their direction and length.

It’s unclear to me whether or not the lines are actually great circles.  The original path for the lines were not based on a spherical calculation, but the resulting paths would indicate otherwise.

You can view the animation by clicking the image or by following this link.

Twitter + Yahoo + Pizza + Beer

Filed under: Uncategorized — mattmoehr @ 10:42 am

I’ve been following some of the behind-the-scenes developers at Twitter and Yahoo since the beginning of our class, and I got the first useful bit of gossip:

That’s right, they’re basically trying to geolocate tweets by parsing the free text in the messages.  Sound familiar?  I think the only advantage that they have over our group is that they’re holding conferences over beer and pizza while we’re ingesting the toxic dust in Science Hall.

I also have a more in-depth point to make on the use of GeoPlanet versus GeoNames, but that will have to wait until this afternoon….

A recommended read

Filed under: Uncategorized — markharrower @ 10:34 am

I was going to highlight some individual articles in Muki Haklay’s blog, but it’s all so great I’ll just say go have a look at the entire thing. I often find myself nodding my head in silent agreement as I read his blog (e.g., posts like this).

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