Archive for the ‘03 Mappable Data’ Category


Map of New York City, Showing the Distribution of the Principal Nationalities by Sanitary Districts published in Harper’s Weekly (June 1, 1894) using 1890 U.S. Census data.

This map looks great, revealing a substantial amount of information with its intense, juxtaposed patterns.

The textures on the map show the relative amounts of different nationalities (qualitative data) in each of the areas (sanitary districts) on the map:


The map shows if a district has more or less diversity (more or fewer lines of different textures), the relative proportions of different nationalities, the nationalities themselves, and, at a broader scale, the districts that are similar or differ in their nationality constitution. Because of the careful rotation of the lines of textures, the different sanitary districts can also be distinguished from each other.


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Deane Powell | Life | December 1, 1910

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Denis Wood, co-author of Making Maps, has been working on an atlas of the Boylan Heights neighborhood in Raleigh, North Carolina since the mid 1970s. The atlas, which has never been published in its entirety, is called Dancing and Singing: A Narrative Atlas of Boylan Heights.

Inspired by Bill Bunge’s radical cartography in the 1960s and 1970s, the atlas contains diverse examples of creative, place-inspired maps, including maps of night, crime, fences, graffiti, textures, autumn leaves, routes, the underground, lines overhead, stars, and jack-o-lanterns. The atlas is of particular interest to those engaged in planning, urban history, urban geography, landscape architecture, participatory mapping and GIS, subversive cartography, counter-mapping, and psychogeography. Or anyone who enjoys creative mapping.


Sign Map (736kb PDF here)

The Atlas has been featured on NPR’s This American Life and in Katharine Harmon’s book You Are Here. All or or parts of the atlas have been shown at The Brattleboro Museum and Art Center, Brattleboro, Vermont (1989), the Tang Teaching Museum at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York (2001), at SCI-Arc in Los Angeles (2002), at Colby-Sawyer College in New London, New Hampshire (2002), at designbox in Raleigh, North Carolina (2004), and Publico Galleries in Cincinnatti, Ohio (2007). The image which opens this entry was taken at the Publico Gallery.

A description of the atlas by Denis and more of it’s maps follow.


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Google’s My Maps allows the easy creation of pseudo map mash-ups, where you can map your own data as points, lines, and area symbols with Google Maps as the background.

I wrote about My Maps – basic how-to and some of its limits – in another blog post, Allelopathic Maps & Google’s “My Maps.” One of the My Maps limits, the inadequate and corny set of available map symbols, has been removed: you can now create and use your own map symbols in My Maps.

To work with My Maps you need a Google account, and to use custom symbols (icons, as Google calls them) you need some server space to upload your symbols: you must provide a URL to the symbols. You should be able to find a free web hosting service that allows hot-linking (the placement of an image hosted on the free site in a My Maps map in this case). You can also embed images in the pop-up balloon associated with points, lines, and areas on My Maps, and you need server space to host those files.

In Custom Icons for Your Maps, a posting on the official Google Earth/Maps blog, PNG files with transparent backgrounds are recommended, although JPG and GIF should also work. PNGs and GIFs can have transparent backgrounds, essential if you don’t want a white box surrounding your symbol. As Google says PNG, lets PNG.


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Google Earth can display geographic data with a time component, and thus show animated maps. Animated mapping has garnered much attention among cartographers in the last decade.

I created a few Google Earth animated choropleth (literally, area-filling) maps of population change in Ohio. One map shows total population by county from 1900 to 2006. The other shows percent population change from decade to decade. Details on how I created these animated maps along with links to the downloadable KMZ files are below.


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The proliferation of mapping sites on the web provides ample fodder for critique by the map police (cartographic insiders). I usually feel a bit bad whining about the cartographic limitations of such sites. Cartographers have a history of obsessing with rules and such obsession has, arguably, limited creativity and undermined innovations. Bad cop. However, not following the rules does not necessarily produce creative and innovative mapping. I, for one, don’t entirely enjoy being the map police, but will try to at least be a good cop.

Lets look at a site that has been around awhile: The Modern Language Association’s Language Map. The site allows you map language data collected in the 2000 U.S. Census. A nice focused site with interesting data (I use it in my classes and the students enjoy pondering the patterns): here is the default map of the total number of language speakers in each county:


The basic language map allows you to view 33 different languages, mapped by county in the U.S. The total number of people who speak a particular language (above) can be mapped, but mapping totals can be deceptive, as the sizes of the counties vary. Thus a county may have more speakers of a particular language just because it covers more area than a smaller county. To account for these variations in county size, map the data as a percentage (the percent of people in a county that speak a particular language, see below). But you can map totals and there are sometimes good reasons to do so. Just realize the potential limitations of what you are seeing.


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