Category Archives: data & visualization

mesmerizing wind map of the lower 48 states

I’d like to make this my screen saver.

h/t to many on Twitter, including @ajturner and @mrgeog.

observing and representing migratory patterns

I came across two sites this week that used maps in well-designed ways to visualize migratory patterns.  I have an ongoing interest in finding clever and innovative ways to represent flow and movement.

The first was Geo-Mexico, and I first saw their simple-but-elegantly-effective Flash-based maps to link individual Mexican states to the areas in the US, based on registering with consulates.  Then I remembered helping my colleague Steve to map remittances so I smiled when I saw this nice overview and a lesson to boot! I’ll definitely follow this site more. Hat tip to Seth Dixon’s Geography Education for the find.

Much more mesmerizing are these animated maps of annual bird movements, from my local-but-still-unknown Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society.  I’m not a birder myself and have great respect for those who can differentiate more than from amongst crows and starlings (i.e., my skill level). I checked out the patterns of birds whose names suggested they know their home, like the Kentucky Warbler and the Louisiana Waterthrush (what’s up with that little patch in southwestern South Dakota in April/May?  a particularly active citizen-science group or an interesting modeled anomaly?).  I love how the Indigo Bunting aligns with the Mississippi in July and August.  These maps represent the results of models: they don’t reflect actual observations at all of those locations. But they do show the power of visualization when ground truthed, primary data are combined with our large collections of other geospatial information.

geographic data represented unconventionally

Matthew Ericson, the deputy graphics director at the NY Times, posted recently about making wise mapping choices.  His explanations draw nicely from data visualization guidelines, and I remember showing those New Orleans maps to my students.  “When the interesting patterns aren’t geographic patterns” is what I’ve referred to in the past as “graphs and charts that display geographic data with alternative representations of space.”  I talked about this category earlier this month at Georgetown’s Center for New Designs in Learning & Scholarship.  GapminderWorld’s chart is a classic example.  Their “map” tab is a bit of a bore…

I’m not sure whether she’s still at this job, but I liked this 2007 interview that mapmaker Erin Aigner gave about her work at the NY Times.

another reason to pay attention in your statistics classes

Media Oversimplifies New Study Linking Alcohol and Breast Cancer.  Cabernet may be the smoking gun, but it may not. Is there anything the media doesn’t over-simplify?  Isn’t that what we pay them to do?

Can the human body’s reactions to what it ingests and what it’s exposed to over its lifetime be linked to its responses with any certainty?  You could spend a bunch of time looking up diseases that you or your neighbor might possibly one day contract, or you could rely on statistics to tell you what’s more likely.  Know what I love about this graphic from the National Safety Council?  That “Total, Any Cause” is still 1 in 1.  Hah, I knew it!  Pass the cabernet.

Like my friend Phil always quotes, “If the brain were so simple that we could understand it, we would be so simple we couldn’t. ”  Emerson Pugh.

Mining (and then Mapping) Wikileaks

My colleagues from the University of Virginia have posted another step-by-step on their Spatial Humanities site, this one from Devin Becker, a digital initiatives librarian at the University of Idaho.   You too can follow Devin’s (tried and true) instructions and dive into Wikileaks yourself, with his 2-part example of the Afghan War Diary data.

One particularly great thing about this guide?   A simple entry to  Google Fusion tables, for those of us who haven’t had the time to play at all yet.  Thanks, Devin.

I tried to find a link to a website for Devin at the University of Idaho, and failed. But in the process I did uncover his cool design for Visualizing Metadata.  My library friends at Redlands will like this…

Mapping Road Rage

From Audi, a website that lets you monitor a Road Frustration Index.  I’m not sure how you’d keep track of this driving info as a driver yourself, unless you had your navigator checking for you.   And their beta version doesn’t seem to draw  any live data.  I’ve read the same “my butt is falling asleep” tweet from Los Angeles each time I’ve checked.  But I always like the idea of using maps as one element of information graphics and visualization.

watching the VA earthquake spread

One of the most interesting things to me about the Virginia earthquake is how wide-spread its waves were.   Though I didn’t feel it here in Ithaca (NY), others in town did, and we’re hundreds of miles away from the epicenter.  In contrast, during the four years we lived in Southern California, there were events relatively close that I never felt.  Thinking about how the bedrock and faults affect wave diffusion was a new idea to me.

I like this visualization of the spread of the waves.

via Neatorama.

GIS / info vis job for Congress

The Congressional Research Service is hiring one (1) Geographical/Geospatial Information Systems Analyst.  This person will design and generate maps that will be used by them, and presumably members of Congress and their staff, to “anticipate and illustrate complex public policy issues.”  No small task there!

In another parallel lifetime, I would love to have this job. It could be wonderful, deeply rewarding, and hugely challenging. I wonder if it’s part of a team of other GIS Analysts?  Surely the range of tasks that Congress takes on would warrant more than 1 Analyst?

Good luck to the eventual job holder!  Be brilliant and help us out!


Mapping and Classifying Your Every Move: Quotidian Habits

The location-enabled form of navel-gazing.  Wear a GPS  for 200 days and then categorize all of your activities.  Someone has a lot of time on their hands…  But from an anthropological perspective, I appreciate the curiosity of it –

Cultivating Graphicacy While Teaching GIS?

There’s a side to working with maps and data that’s easy to overlook when we design our courses, and it falls under the heading of graphicacy.  My own quick definition of graphicacy is making, interpreting and critiquing of information in non-text form, including graphs, tables, figures, charts, AND MAPS.   I can’t remember first learning the word, but this Aldrich and Shepphard article (pdf) was one of the first that explained the concept.

I’ve come to strongly believe that graphicacy is a necessary and essential component of education.  One of the obvious reasons is how much we’re confronted with information in graphical form, such as this world population map from The Economist or the New York Times recent map of tornadoes and other natural disasters.  A good sense of graphicacy means that you are critical and creative with data, know when to question a representation, can envision alternative representations, can interpret the information and articulate its message.

The use of GIS presents numerous opportunities to develop strong graphicacy skills, but it’s definitely not an automatic outcome.  It includes the classification of data, and the cartographic design of layouts, but it goes well beyond that. It’s fundamental to how we expect to communicate with the rest of the world about what a GIS analyses means.  It’s not something that’s a separate topic to be added to a GIS course. It’s an understanding that needs to be cultivated throughout, in every lab and exercise that a student completes, and in every mapped representation that they create and encounter.  It’s the understanding of how maps complement and support learning on many levels.