Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Top Ten Torque Maps - With No Football

I love CartoDB's Torque library but if I see one more Twitter map of a World Cup game I think I might explode. I think we get it now - people Tweet a lot when someone scores a goal. Torque is a very powerful visualization tool for animating large time-stamped data steps on an interactive map. It really does deserve to be used in better mapped visualizations.

Ramadan: How the World Celebrates might be another Torque / Twitter map but it does add a few new interesting tweaks to the usual Torque powered Twitter visualizations. In 2013 74.2 million Twitter messages were sent around the world mentioning Ramadan. This map animates through the Tweets actually sent during Ramadan itself.

What I like most about Ramadan: How the World Celebrates is that it isn't just a meaningless playback of Twitter activity overlaid on a map. Instead it actually attempts to analyse some of the cultural differences gleaned from the data by looking at the language and words used in different countries and regions.

During the animation the map zooms in on different areas of the world and reveals some interesting contextual information about the sort of messages sent in different areas. For example, in the USA the long summer days mean that a lot of Muslims send messages about how hungry and thirsty they are. In Turkey 'May you be in good health' is a popular message. While in Paris and Saudi Arabia, after the sun sets, many Muslim Twitter users mention the dates that they are eating.

A Plane Spraying a Rice Field in Southern Spain deserves a mention as well, simply because it is a Torque powered visualization that doesn't use Twitter data and doesn't mention football. This Torque powered map (actually it seems to be missing a map) animates the GPS track of a plane taking off from a landing strip, spraying a rice field, landing, refueling, taking off again, spraying again and returning to a landing strip.

I've no idea if this uses a real GPS track or is just a demo map of how crop spraying works but it is a simple and neat demonstration of a crop-spraying flight pattern.

Other non-Football non-Twitter Torque Maps

London's Rail System in 60 seconds - when London's rail and underground stations were opened
Navy of WWI - an animation of Britain's Royal Navy operations in the first World War.
UK Fishing Vessel Movements
Amsterdam: Fire Engine Callouts
Nine Years of US Tornadoes
A Day in the Life of the Long Island Railroad
Philadelphia Homicides 2006-2012
The Animated Geography of TV News

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