While preparing for teaching a course in data tracking I was very happy to discover the excellent Unfolding library for making interactive maps in Processing. Unfolding makes it possible to create just about any kind of tile-based mapping application with a minimum of code, simple map drawing typically coming in <20 lines. It's perfect for visualizing FourSquare, OpenPaths, GeoRSS or any other kind of geo-based data. Now if I could only figure out how to control the timing of the map tweening, right now it feels more like jump cuts than smooth pans.
Here are three examples showing a simple map display and two demos using geo data from OpenPaths in CSV format: 20120127_unfolding_map_examples.zip
Update: The lecture notes about infoviz and self-ethnography are online on Scribd, it’s basically the same lecture as two years ago.
I’m giving a short conceptual workshop at the Oslo School of Architecture today. These are some notes and links for the students.
Physical / virtual space
New social spaces
Computational design for public space
References & blogs:
Stefan Kühn, a cartographer at the University Trier, Germany, has extracted all the geo coordinates embedded in articles on Wikipedia. The WikiProject Geographical coordinates is a Wikipedia project for ensuring standardized geocoding of locations in its articles.
Google Earth fans bent on instant gratification can simply download a KMZ file and start surfing. But more importantly, coders and infoviz geeks can get a comma-separated text file (CSV) with coordinates, titles and Wikipedia categories for all points.
Link: Geocoordinates from Wikipedia for Google Earth
An official Flickr geotagging solution: Flickr Map
A built-in official Flickr solution for geotagging has been rumored for a while now. With the launch of Flickr Map two days ago it’s a reality. Simply navigate over to flickr.com/map and start surfing.
Geotagging is done through the Organizr, which now has a new tab called “Map”. Pre-existing geotagged images aren’t automatically imported, you have to go into Organizr and request that your images be added. One truly great feature is the addition of a “Map” link on the pages for sets that have geotagged images. See a map of my recent New York photos for an example. This is probably the best way of looking at geotagged images right now, for reasons I’ll explain below.
Having a definitive supported solution should provide a big boost for geotagging, as well as make it a whole lot easier for the non-expert part of the community. But the implementation is still a matter of taste. The Flickr geotagger community is currently figuring out what to think:
Read the rest of this entry »
Google Earth: Beirut, Haret Hreik quarter, before / after
Of all possible sources, News.com has posted a short blog entry called "Why isn't Beirut burning in Google Earth?". The answer of course is that Google Earth doesn’t update their image sources all that often. But as many responses have pointed out there are ways around this, using user-added image overlays and extra data from external sources.
Some examples: Ogle Earth offers a KMZ file overlaying an image from Digital Globe showing the Haret Hreik quarter of Beirut after the recent bombardments (link). This area is considered to be a Hezbollah stronghold, and has suffered heavy damage. One Google Earth community post provides a schematic overlay showing bomb targets (link), while another post provides geolocated information about bomb and missile strikes (link).
I’m not posting this to take a political position on the conflict, though I have concerns about humanitarian law and the Israeli use of disproportionate force). But it should remind readers that GIS applications are inherently political. Maps have always been weapons, although the innocuous geotagging of Flickr pictures makes it easy to forget this fact. When Art+Com developed Terravision in the mid-90s (predating Google Earth by 10 years), they were soon approached by the US Military with a view to use it for military applications. Art+Com turned them down.
So while this should serve as a sobering reminder of the traditional uses of geolocation, it simultaneously highlights a new possibility for user-generated geoinformation resources balancing out the mass media. One of the applications proposed by Art+Com in 1995 was the distributed sharing of environmental research data. A utopian view would be that Google Earth, MSN Virtual Earth etc. could make the power of geopolitical applications available to grassroots movements.
Satellite image of Sao Paulo from Google Earth
I recently returned from a week in Sao Paulo for the opening of the excellent Art.ficial Emotion 3.0 exhibition at Itau Cultural. Following my recent Flickr addiction I documented the show in a Flickr set, a lot of which is geotagged. It’s worth noting that Aemkei has released a new version of his excellent Flickr geotagging bookmarklet, which caches the previous location found and automatically adds a “see where this picture was taken” link to the photo description.
Another fun tool I’ve been experimenting with is Roblog’s Flickrfly. It is a script which will allow you to “fly” to the location of a geotagged image in Google Earth. Just add a simple link to your image description and Flickrfly takes care of the KML file, including overlaying a thumbnail of your photo on the Google Earth map. The image above was taken in Google Earth, and if you look at the original size on Flickr you will see 4 small thumbnails indicating different images and their actual location.
Do have a look at what Sao Paulo looks like from space, it’s a bit like watching cancer grow. And I liked it there.
Bonus geo links (see Toxi / TomC)
Last year I picked up a cheap GPS unit just for fun, which I have since used to collect GPS traces that I have yet to use for anything useful. I find the whole idea of geotagging quite fascinating, but have never built any applications using it.
Currently I’m in Vienna as artist-in-residence at the MuseumsQuartier, and so I’ve been taking quite a few pictures and putting them on Flickr as documentation. By accident I have met the street artist Space Invader, who is currently here “invading” Vienna. He puts up space invader mosaics in public places, and then documents them in the form of a map. This activity mixes a lot of interesting topics: Urban space, street art, locative media, psychogeography etc. So of course I thought this was a perfect chance to put geotagging to the test.
So far my activities have been those of an end-user rather than a developer. I put pictures on Flickr and geotag them with this excellent bookmarklet. Almost all my Vienna pictures are geotagged, for examples see Invader #1 and Invader #2.
Once tagged, it would be useful to be able to browse these images in a geographical intergace. Yuan.cc is a home-brewed site that allows you to sign in to your Flickr account and see your geotagged pictures on Google Maps. If you “sync” your pictures they get added to the Yuan.cc database, in which case you can browse them with Google Earth. You will also be able to see all other pictures in the database at a given location, with thumbnails and links back to Flickr.
During my residency I hope to be able to document all the Invaders that get put up in Vienna, complete with geotags.