So the *Monthly Maps* series is almost on the verge of becoming a *Bi-Monthly Maps* series! Hopefully this will be the only double month issue of the year 2014.

Let us begin with a map that is not really a map, but an efficient two-dimensional machine-readable representation of three-dimensional satellite imagery, which has a strange haunting appearance of a map of a disaster zone. Clement Valla, creator of this stunning work, explains that though “[t]hey may look like glitched maps, disaster scenes, cubist collages… these images are produced for other computers to use—to apply color and texture to 3d forms. These images are efficient vectors of information. But unlike a long list of 1s and 0s, or some other cold alien encoding, they still look like the objects they represent. They are uncannily close to photographs or human made collages.”

clement valla - 3d maps minus 3d

Development Seed has launched the Afghanistan Open Data Project in anticipation of the upcoming national election in the country. It is described as a “community efforts to release into the public domain a combination of political, social, and economic datasets of significance to elections in Afghanistan.” The map below displays the percentage of polling centers in each province that did not report poll results in the 2009 election.

development seed - afghanistan open data project

Oliver O’Brien has created another complex transport data mash-up map for London. The map visualises absolute volume of usage of London Tube across various stations, as well as provides inter-year comparison of relative change in Tube usage at the station-level. The map also displays passenger journeys dataset, that is typical movement of passengers through the Tube network given a selected station of entry.

oliver o'brien - london tube stats

TeleGeography has published the 2014 edition of their highly detailed map of the undersea fibre optics network that forms the fundamental global communication infrastructure. The map includes various infographics giving additional information on the components of the submarine cable system, cable faults and time taken in repairing them, topographic profiles of seabeds, etc.

telegeography - submarine cable map

ShotSpotter is a network of audio sensors deployed across the district of Washington, USA, which detects noise signature of gunfires. Data gathered by this system of approximately 39,000 unique cases of shooting has been mapped by Washington Post to identify the gunfire hot spots in the city. Read the story for details about typical sound signature of gunfire, limitations of the sensor network, etc.

washington post - shotspotter

Robin Edwards has created a beautiful minimalist global elevation map using General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans (GEBCO) datasets sourced from the British Oceanic Data Centre. In making this map, Robin has taken several interesting design decisions, such as dividing the elevation data into 256 quintiles corresponding to the range of a single colour in hexadecimal notation, which he discusses in his blog post.

robin edwards - global elevation map

Moving from minimalist static maps to minimalist dynamic maps, GitHub now supports not only storage of spatial data across different versions but also simple visualisation of each committed change of the data on a map. This is perhaps the most exciting map news to start the year!

github - diff map

MapBox.js v.1.6.1 got released in late January! It comes with a newly designed website, revised documentation, and a superb set of plugins, especially one for making simple heatmaps.

mapbbox - mapbox.js

We also came across a number of literary and fictitious maps. First among these is this map that imaginatively assembles various literary references and places into a map that somewhat resembles the city of London.

dorothy - book map - 01

dorothy - book map - 02

The Middle-Earth Digital Elevation Model (ME-DEM) Project is producing planetary scale renderings of J.R.R. Tolkien’s fascinating geographic imagination. The demo package can be downloaded from the ME-DEM website.

outerra - middle-earth digital elevation model


Exploring the works of fantasy cartography icon Pauline Baynes, we found this intriguing discussion of whether she introduced the location of Dorwinion (a region famous for its fabulous wines) into the map of Middle-Earth, or was it J.R.R. Tolkien who told her about where this land is situated. Now who said that authenticity is not a concern for fictitious maps?

pauline baynes - map of the middle-earth

Wired’s MapLab blog interviewed Leo Dillon, head of the Geographical Information Unit of the Government of USA, and unearthed insightful stories of how political (fictitious?) cartographies are produced and the challenges thereof. Leo talks about how political acceptance of new nations by the Government of USA creates demands for reconfiguring earlier maps and for incorporating new informations, which demands are often met through pragmatic negotiations and by avoiding the local realities:

“For instance, when we recognized Kosovo there were many sets of boundaries. The peacekeeping forces there were using boundaries that weren’t really the legal boundaries at all. Their job was to keep peace in a buffer zone, so they’d set up working boundaries in a way that made it easier for them to keep people with guns apart. We were going with the largest scale available map, in this case a series of Yugoslavian-made maps in the Library of Congress. But it took a while to explain to people why we had the boundary the way we had it and what we were basing it on.
The names were an issue too. Before, Serbian names were all we used, but now the State Department said we can’t do that, we have to use both Serbian and Albanian names for each and every town and feature. We had to go chase down an authoritative source of Albanian place names, which had never really existed. The Kosovars did a reasonably good job of tracking them down. But then we had to make a basic reference map, and I couldn’t include as many towns as I wanted to because I couldn’t fit all the labels.”

The National Geographic Maps division is about to publish the tenth edition of their Atlas of the World, which will also celebrate the 50 year anniversary of its first edition. It has posted fascinating comparisons between the first edition and the ninth edition of the Atlas. The comparisons show especially stark changes in parts of the world that has undergone large-scale political re-mappings. In the map below, the left side is from the first edition and the right side is from the ninth edition of the Atlas.

national geographic - comparison of Atlas of the World

@Maptivists recently shared a a hilarious Google MapMaker crowdsourcing #fail map.

maptivists - google mapmaker fail map

And we conclude this double issue with the golden words of Brian Timoney:

If you’re a geospatial professional it’s likely you misapprehend the task in 3 crucial ways:
> You will underestimate the time it will take to create an interactive map using one of the usual Javascript mapping APIs.
> You will overestimate the amount of time your audience will spend using your map.
> You will overestimate you audience’s enthusiasm for “interacting” with your map.
If time is money, then my money-making advice to you is… embrace the Static Map.

[And if you still want your map to move, remember that] hating animated GIFs is hating life itself.


Acknowledgements: Thanks to Emily Badger, Luke Lewis, and Peter Rubin for the links to 3D Maps Minus 3D, Book Map, and ME-DEM Project renderings, respectively.

2 thoughts on “Monthly Maps: January & February 2014

  1. Pingback: Creating worlds | Guild Of Dreams

  2. Can you provide me with a 3D map for Kolkata with the different degrees of Inundation due to sea level rise and flooding. It will be strictly used for educational purpose.


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