About ajantriks

Sumandro is a researcher interested in economies, politics, circuits, cultures and landscapes of data. He blogs and tweets. More at ajantriks.net.

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

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Here is another double issue of Monthly Maps to begin the new year.

The end of the year saw several great “best maps of 2013″ posts. We will go to them soon but first let’s look at the map that got the “worst map of 2013″ award from Kenneth Field, the Cartonerd. In his famous words, it features a “symposium of technicolour psychedelic vomit across the map.”

cartonerd - worst map of 2013

This beautiful three-dimensional globe-based visualisation of surface wind speed (powered by D3) was featured on both Kenneth Field’s “favourite maps from 2013″ and Wired MapLab’s “the most amazing, beautiful and viral maps of the year” posts.

nullschool.net - earth wind map

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Note: Much apologies for skipping the September issue of Monthly Maps. To compensate, here’s a double issue filled with fantastic cartographies.

Guernica Magazine has published an excerpt of an interview with Denis Wood, iconic critical cartographer, from his last book titled “Everything Sings: Maps for a Narrative Atlas“. Let us begin this double issue with Wood’s penetrating analysis of what maps do:

 

Denis Wood: Maps are just nude pictures of reality, so they don’t look like arguments. They look like “Oh my god, that’s the real world.” That’s one of the places where they get their kick-ass authority. Because we’re all raised in this culture of: if you want to know what a word means, go to the dictionary; if you want to know what the longest river in the world is, look it up in an encyclopedia; if you want to know where some place is, go to an atlas. These are all reference works and they speak “the truth.” When you realize in the end that they’re all arguments, you realize this is the way culture gets reproduced. Little kids go to these things and learn these things and take them on, and they take them on as “this is the way the world is.”

The fabulous neogeographers at the Oxford Internet Institute used Alexa data to identify the most visited websites in each country, and mapped it as an old colonial style choropleth map of ‘Internet empires’. Do not miss another map included in the same page, which uses hexagonal cartograms to qualify the most-visited websites in each country by the population of Internet users in the same country.

oxford internet institute - age of internet empires

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As two South Asian countries celebrate their independence days in August, I decided to focus on ‘political maps’ in this *Monthly Maps* post. This means that some of the exciting maps and map news we came across in August, which did not directly speak of politics, will become part of the September post.

We begin with a fascinating map of the Bangladesh-India border along the Indian district of Cooch Behar depicting various ‘enclaves’ (parcel of Bangladeshi territory within Indian territory, and vice versa) along the border lands. This pre-1971 map (hence referring to Bangladesh as East Pakistan) posted by Frank Jacobs on the Strange Maps blog is a great example of the deeply geopolitical nature of the lines and the names that annotate and constitute maps, and also of the territorial mess often created by such politics.

 

bangladesh-india border - cooch behar - enclaves

 

Maps have also played a key political role as a tool for government to uniquely identify and classify not only national borders but also various forms of landed properties and their relationship with the government. This 1855 “vice” map of the Chinatown in San Francisco was created by the municipal government to locate places of gambling, prostitution and opium “resorts”, as part of the anti-Chinese movement and propaganda in California. Interestingly, the map fails to capture the vertical dimension of urban spaces and only identifies the usage pattern of the ground floor spaces.

david rumsey - san francisco - chinatown

Military requirements have been perhaps the most crucial driver for development of modern cartographic techniques and instruments. Jeremy Crampton recently shared a ‘jaw-dropping “OSS Theater Map”‘ produced by the Office of Strategic Affairs (predecessor of Central Intelligence Agency of USA) during the World War II. Crampton explains that the ‘unusual projection’ utilised by this map is targeted at solving a classic cartographic problem of finding a projection to represent earth’s surface as a square grid (just like how modern web-map tiles work) while not distorting the actual spherical shape form of the surface.

geohackers_2013.08_oss

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I planned to highlight ten maps each in month in this *Monthly Maps* series. The month of July, however, saw quite a few fabulous maps, and left me struggling to choose between them. Perhaps I will break the limit of ten maps a bit for this month.

July began with the awesome urban tweet topography maps by data visualisation scientist Nicolas Belmonte. These maps takes all the geo-tagged tweets from five cities — Buenos Aires, Istanbul, Moscow, New York, and San Francisco — and generate a three dimensional topography of these tweets with a higher contour line indicating a greater number of tweets from the place concerned. The image below is for Istanbul. Do visit the maps page to explore other cities and various thematic terrain shading, and the entire code is on GitHub too!

3d twitter topography

And Stamen came out with the *instgram for maps* – map stack. It lets you create a map by combining various basemap layers (including satellite imagery, terrain, road networks etc.), visually crafting the layers using detailed controls (e.g., masks, opacity and brightness), and to convert the final map into an image for sharing.

stamen - map stack

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Note: Welcome to this new content section we are beginning. As the name suggest, the ‘Monthly Maps’ series will do a monthly aggregation of all the maps, map codes, and map news that we loved and flagged during the month concerned (and not necessarily those that were published in the month concerned). Apologies for the late publication of the June 2013 edition. We hope you will enjoy this one and keep following the future editions.

 

The biggest international news this month was the ‘discovery’ of PRISM and associated technological systems being used by the Government of USA for global media surveillance. WikiLeaks and friends created a very informative map of snooping activities by governments across the world.

geohacker_2013.06_spyfiles

And, the OpenStreetMap community went ahead and mapped a secret data center of the National Security Agency of USA being contructed outside Salt Lake City, Utah.

geohacker_2013.06_nsa-data-center

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