Wednesday, January 19, 2022

An Atlas of Time

Nations and country borders are just as much historical entities as they are geographical. They exist in both time and space and can therefore be defined by both by their geography and by their chronology. In a couple of recent posts1 on Maps Mania I've reviewed a number of interactive maps which show how geography changes through history by plotting historical borders and movements by date. These interactive historical maps visualize how countries and borders change over time.

Open History Map is another example of an impressive interactive mapping platform which visualizes global spatial historical (and archaeological) data. The goal of Open History Map is to create an open interactive map of the past. One of the main differences between Open History Map and some of the other historical mapping platforms I've reviewed recently is that Open History Map isn't built so much on crowdsourced data, as on academic data and information.

The screenshot at the top of this post shows the Open History Map map view of Europe in the year 1001 CE. This map view includes an interactive timeline control which allows you to view the map for other dates in world history. The small black dots on the map represent historical place-names, which appear as you zoom in on the map. 

Because Open History Map relies on academic data it relies on lots of different historical datasets. You can view and access all these datasets on the Open History Map Data Index. This allows you to view an index of the datasets used in Open History Map, a list of the sources for these datasets and the individual datasets (with links to the original sources).

If you like the Open History Map then you might also enjoy:

1 A Map of the World Through Time and Mapping History

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

A 3D Tour of Clarion Alley

The Clarion Alley Mural Project is an artists' collective which was created to transform Clarion Alley in the Mission District into a graffiti and mural canvas. You can observe the success of the project on the Clarion Alley 3D Tour.

The Clarion Alley Tour is an experimental 3D tour of the street murals in Clarion Alley in San Francisco made by Kieran Farr of the 3DStreet team.As you scroll through the Clarion Alley Tour you are taken on an impressive 3D journey along Clarion Alley. While you progress through the tour you can view the actual street murals in context, almost as if you were in the Alley yourself. 

I've been writing a lot recently about the growing trend of interactive 3D models in data journalism. These 3D immersive tours usually require a small team of programmers and a lot of work hours. The 3DStreet team's Clarion Alley Tour is a demo tour which shows how an immersive tour can be created using a number of existing JavaScript libraries. The tour was created using the Polycam LiDAR 3D scanner (for capturing the imagery), A-frame, the New York Times R&D's 3D tiles component, and the Cesium mapping platform. 

At the moment the Clarion Alley Tour is desktop only and won't work on mobile devices. You can clone the project and take a closer look at the code behind the Clarion Alley Tour on its Glitch site. 

Here are links to some other great examples of immersive 3D tours:

Monday, January 17, 2022

500 Years in Rio

The city of Rio de Janeriro is fast approaching 500 years of history. The city itself wasn't founded until 1565 but the site of the city was first reached by Portuguese explorers in January 1502 (hence the name Rio de Janeiro - 'January River'). 

You can explore the evolution of Rio over the last half a millennium on the new digital atlas imagineRio. At the heart of this new digital atlas, developed at Rice University, is an interactive map which visualizes the changes in Rio's landscape and topography over time. Using the map's timeline control you can view a map of the city during any point in the last five centuries. As you move the timeline the interactive map automatically updates to display a map of the city as it looked at that point in its history.

imagineRio also allows you to search and view thousands of historical photos, architectural plans, vintage maps, and drawings & paintings of the city. These vintage maps, photos and paintings of Rio de Janerio are displayed in the map sidebar and can be filtered using the map's timeline control. You can also filter the images by location by clicking on the 'search as map moves' option. 

imagineRio is just one of the recipients of a Getty Foundation's Digital Art History grant. Other digital mapping projects which have received grants and which are currently in development include a GIS web application exploring the archaeological excavations at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Çatalhöyük in Turkey, a 3D map of Florence through time, and the Pompeii Artistic Landscape Project.

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Taking a Sunday Street View Drive

This morning I have been taking a virtual stroll along New Orlean's famous Bourbon Street. In fact using Map Channels' Street View Driver application I've been taking a virtual drive around a number of different global cities.

I first wrote about Street View Driver back in 2012. I'm pleased to say that nine years later the application is still going strong. To take your own animated Street View drive just select a city from the application's drop-down menu. You can then drag and drop the yellow Pegman figure on the Google Map to select the starting point of your virtual drive.

Street View Driver includes four controls. Press the 'Accel' button and your drive will begin. Pegman will start walking down the street in the direction that he is looking and the Street View window will start animating through the Google Maps Street View imagery of your virtual drive. Press the 'left' and 'right' buttons and you can look around during your virtual drive. You can also use the 'left' and 'right' buttons to change direction. For example, if you look 90 degrees to the right not only will you see the view to your right you will also turn right at the next street intersection. 

The Street Drive drop-down menu only includes American cities, however you can use the application anywhere in the word that has Street View imagery on Google Maps. To move to another country just zoom-out on the map and drag and drop the yellow Pegman icon to the location which you wish to explore.

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Looking for Life on Europa

In 2024 NASA plans to launch the Europa Clipper mission in order to help determine if Europa harbors conditions which are suitable for life. Jupiter's moon Europa has a water-ice crust and the chemistry and energy which are essential for life to exist. The Europa Clipper, while orbiting around Jupiter, will investigate Europa, searching for habitability and also looking for possible landing sites for a future Europa Lander mission.

You can explore Europa for yourself on NASA's Europa in Depth website. Here you will find a 3D map of the moon. This interactive map features a number of place-name labels which you can select to learn more about a number of locations on this fascinating ocean world.

If you click on the 'Interior' button on the map you can view a segmented view of Europa. This segmented view shows the moon's icy crust, the water ocean which lies beneath, and the moon's iron metallic core. You can even select any of the moon's segmented layers to learn more about their geology. For example, if you click on the ocean layer you can discover that scientists believe that Europa's ocean is up to 100 miles deep. 

Friday, January 14, 2022

Wordle - Placenames Edition

Worle is a very difficult Wordle clone, in which you have to guess the name of a UK town in 6 goes or less.

Wordle (for those of you living under a rock) is a viral word game. Your goal is to guess the hidden word in six attempts. When you enter a five letter word any letters in the correct space are shown in green. Letters that are in the word but in the wrong spot are shown in yellow. Letters shown in grey aren't anywhere in the answer.

My Worle version of the game uses UK town names instead of words from the dictionary. This makes the game very difficult to play - because there are lots of weird UK place-names that you have probably never heard of. 

When testing the game I found it very useful to refer to the list of five letter UK place-names that the game uses. You might think this is cheating and want to play the game without referring to the list, however I have found the game almost impossible to play myself without using the list at least once in each game.

My version of Wordle is a clone of Worble, made by Potch, which s/he made with Glitch.If you want to adapt Worle you can clone the game on Glitch. To adapt the game you only really need to change the list of words in the dictionary.txt file. For example you could change the list of place-names to U.S. town names instead of UK towns.

The Witcher Interactive Maps

If you have been watching series 2 of the Witcher on Netflix then you might be interested in browsing these Witcher interactive maps. The Witcher novels and television series take place on the fictional land of Continent, mostly in the Northern Kingdoms region. 

Netflix's The Witcher: Welcome to the Continent is probably the most atmospheric interactive map that I have seen of the Continent. It is covered in an animated fog and other special effects. The map also includes a timeline which means that this map allows you to explore the Witcher world both by location and by chronology. 

Using the interactive map you can select individual locations in the Continent to learn more about the role that they play in the Witcher story. The timeline at the bottom of the map can be used to learn more about important events in the unfolding story of the Continent, beginning with the Conjunction of the Spheres, the mysterious event that led to the arrival of humans and monsters on the Continent.


The Witcher website also features a lovingly crafted interactive map of the medieval fantasy world created by the Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski. 

Zoom-in on Novigrad on this map and you can actually watch the smoke rising from rooftop chimneys. Zoom-in on Kaer Morhen and you can see the waves rippling on the lake. Elsewhere on the map you can find birds flapping their wings, moving windmills and even animated sea monsters.

Thursday, January 13, 2022

The Great Enclosure

Great Zimbabwe was a medieval city located in the south-eastern hills of Zimbabwe. Construction of the city is believed to have begun in the 9th century. The stone remains of the city, also known as the Great Enclosure, still stand and are recognized as a World Heritage Site. 

You can now pay a virtual visit to the Great Enclosure thanks to an amazing photogrammetry 3D model of the city created by The Economist. In Unearthing the Truth The Economist takes you on a guided tour of this amazing 250 meter long stone enclosure. This tour takes a detailed look at the decorated outer wall, the city's drainage system and the city's 5.5 meter tall conical tower. 

The Economist's amazing 3D tour of the Great Enclosure was made possible thanks to a 3D model of the city created by the University of Cape Town. The Economist was able to use Three.js and some clever compression tricks to turn this model into an amazing scrollytelling 3D tour that works seamlessly even in the browser of a mobile phone. You can learn more about how Unearthing the Truth was created in the Economist Data Team's blog post, How we created a 3D graphic of Great Zimbabwe.

The use of interactive 3D models is a growing trend in data journalism. Here are links to some other great examples of news organizations using 3D models to illustrate and explain major news events:

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

The Direct Train Map

Direct Train Connections is a very useful map which can show you all the locations you can reach by direct train from any station in Europe. Select a train station on this interactive map and you can view all the other stations in Europe which you can reach from there without having to change trains.

This weekend I fancy getting out of London for a nice day out. By selecting Stratford Station on Direct Train Connections I can see all the stations that I can reach by direct train from East London. These include a number of possible seaside destinations on the Kent and Essex coast. There is also a direct train to the Norfolk city of Norwich, which appears to be the longest journey I can take from Stratford without having to change trains. 

If you hover over any of the listed stations on the map a small pop-up will display the journey time from your home station to the selected destination. If you want you can also click through to actually buy a ticket for the selected journey via VB Fernverkehr (although this site doesn't work for UK train tickets).

A number of interactive maps now allow you to watch the train networks of entire countries in real-time. These incredible maps show the actual locations of trains on a country's rail network as they travel from station to station. I've listed a number of these live train tracking maps on The World's Trains in Real-Time

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

The Gerrymander Open

The Washington Post has devised an informative and fun way to teach its readers about gerrymandering. Across the United States politicians are currently attempting to redraw congressional district boundaries in order to give their parties an advantage in this year's elections for the House of Representatives. This redrawing of districts often involves clear attempts to make districts easier to win for one party or another.

In the Post's Gerrymandering Mini Golf game you get to play one hole of golf on each of nine different congressional district boundaries.Irregular shaped borders are one of the key indicators of a gerrymandered electoral district. It also makes an electoral district hard to play in a round of Gerrymandering Mini Golf.

Take Ohio's 1st Congressional District. This electoral district has been so gerrymandered by the Republican Party that its boundary has been contorted into an extremely irregular shape. This means that it is a very difficult hole to play in the Post's Gerrymandering Mini Golf. The Post has given this hole a par 5, which is a strong indication of how gerrymandered the district now is.

As well as giving each congressional district a par score the Post has given each district a compactness score. As you progress through your round of Gerrymandering Mini Golf the Post's notes on each district do a good job of explaining the pros and cons of using compactness as a guide for determining how gerrymandered an electoral district has been.



You can explore how the compactness of a district's boundary can be a strong indicator of gerrymandering on Antimander. Antimander is an open-source interactive application which is designed to detect gerrymandering within congressional districts. Using Antimander you can explore thousands of alternative congressional district maps to view how different electoral districts can radically alter the electoral results in different states.

Using the Antimander interactive map tool you can explore how Wisconsin's eight different districts can be redrawn to provide different electoral outcomes. In the last U.S. election the votes were fairly evenly split between the Republicans and Democrats (Trump narrowly won the popular vote) however the Republicans won 5 out of the 8 electoral districts. In other words the current electoral map in Wisconsin gives the Republican party an unfair advantage.

Antimander allows you to adjust three different metrics and immediately see how these would effect the electoral outcomes in Wisconsin. The metrics you can adjust are compactness (more complex district boundaries are a good indicator of gerrymandering), competitive elections (close races in each district) and fairness (the number of elected representatives corresponding as closely as possible to the percent of voters for each party).



If you want to know how gerrymandered your state's districts are then you can refer to Planscore. PlanScore has mapped the level of gerrymandering in all 50 states in the USA. PlanScore includes a comprehensive historical dataset of partisan gerrymandering, so you can examine the history of gerrymandering in each state and which political parties the districts have been gerrymandered to support.

The PlanScore choropleth map shows the level of gerrymandering in each state for both the House and State House elections. The darker the red or blue colors on the map then the more skewed the districts are towards the represented political party. If you select a state on the map you can view a more detailed report on the partisan bias in that state and how that compares to the level of gerrymandering in other states.

PlanScore has also developed a scoring service which allows you to test how fair or gerrymandered new district plans are. To use this service you just need to upload a shapefile or GeoJSON file of a district plan. PlanScore will then reveal the levels of the plan’s underlying partisan skew, showing how much the plan has been gerrymandered.

 Also See

What's Your Vote Worth - an interactive story map which explores the history of America's voting system, the right to vote and how voter representation is skewed under the present system and map. The story map includes a choropleth view of how much one vote is worth in each state.

The Gerrymandering Project - FiveThirtyEight has had a go at redrawing America's voting districts for themselves. In the Atlas of Redistricting FiveThirtyEight has created a number of new congressional maps, each designed to show how districts can be redrawn to favor different political parties.

How Gerrymandered is your Congressional District? - this 2014 map from the Washington Post colors each congressional district based on its gerrymandered score (determined by the Post's analysis).