Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Joy Plots in 3D

Two weeks ago Mapbox introduced 3D terrain into their popular JavaScript mapping library. Since then a lot of cartographers have been having fun experimenting with 3D visualizations of map data. One such experiment is this interactive map of Joy Plots in 3D.

Joy-plots (or ridgeline plots) are inspired by the famous album cover of Joy Division's Unknown Pleasures record. Over the last 40 years Peter Saville's design for the record cover for Unknown Pleasures has become an iconic image. The original cover was inspired by a visualization of the radio waves emitted by a pulsar, which was published in the Cambridge Encyclopaedia of Astronomy. In data science a visualization which is inspired by this radio waves graph is often called a 'joy-plot' in acknowledgement of Joy Division's iconic album cover. 

Joy Plots in 3D is not entirely successful. By their very nature ridgeline plot maps already provide a kind of faux three dimensional view of the terrain of a landscape. Using Mapbox's 3D terrain data doesn't really add much to this kind of Joy Plot visualization. If you want to create your own ridgeline plots then you can also use Peak Map. Peak Map is an interactive tool which can create a joy-plot map for any location on Earth. 

Other fun experiments using Mapbox's new 3D terrain data include this 3D Map of the Golden Gate Bridge, this 3D Stereoscopic Anaglyph and Crossview Map (a map for 3D glasses) and my own Vintage Mapper (an 1833 map of Vesuvius shown in 3D). If you want to experiment with 3D terrain data yourself then might want to take a look at these demo maps in the examples section of the Mapbox GL JS documentation: 

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