Monday, January 21, 2008

Maps on the Web

When I'm asked to help people (read: college professors) make maps in classes, increasingly I refer to web mapping sites. I've mentioned some of these before in this blog, and if you want to know of some of the great ones, look on this blog's links under Web Mapping Tools. I was asked again for demo-ing the use of GIS software to show some world demographic data, but I have to say that the best way to show these data, in my mind, is with some of the slick web mapping sites out there.
Remember the days when web maps were very clunky because they drew so slowly? Web maps have alwasy been pretty cool because you could see mapped data and sometimes you could download those data, but the effect was lost with the slowness and unattractive visual display. Maybe it’s the advent of virtual globes or map mash-ups, but I'm finding more and more web mapping sites that are fast, have loads of data to play with interactively and look very pleasing when you are in the map interface. Here are some I like.

GapMinder is a web mapping site that Diana Sinton mentioned months ago, but I keep coming back to it. Easy to use and visually striking, it really makes the world of encouraging academics to use maps in classes a lot easier (than teaching them GIS software or finding the data myself and making the maps for them in class). As shown above, click on the Map tab to look at global maps or use the Chart tab to plot variables. For more ideas, you can view the video below.

Use the Chart feature (circled in red above) and you can do things like this map which shows the life expectancy per percent women in the workforce. Press the Play button and you'll see the how the variable for the countries changes through time; GapMinder makes trails of the country. I've highlighted the U.S., Bangladesh and Nigeria which shows that life expectancy trends upward for all countries, but the biggest gain in life expectancy of these three is Bangladesh.

Again, see the video below of GapMinder in action at a 2006 TED conference.

"Hans Rosling: Debunking third-world myths with the best stats you've ever seen"
posted June 2006 (thanks Beth Feingold for pointing this out to me.)

“You've never seen data presented like this. With the drama and urgency of a sportscaster, Hans Rosling debunks myths about the so-called "developing world" using extraordinary animation software developed by his Gapminder Foundation. The Trendalyzer software (recently acquired by Google) turns complex global trends into lively animations, making decades of data pop. Asian countries, as colorful bubbles, float across the grid -- toward better national health and wealth …"

I couldn't figure out how to embed the video, sorry.

DataPlace has a wealth of US Census data. When you first see the page, it isn't all that attractive. But search on a city and press go and then click on Maps (circled in red above) and you have so much data at your finger tips. Seems you can plot 2000 or 1990 Cenus data for the whole country and for what seems like any variable you might want. The data sources and coarseness (no blockgroup data) are listed.

The World Freedom Atlas "is a geovisualization tool for world statistics. It was designed for social scientists, journalists, NGO/IGO workers and others who wish to have a better understanding of issues of freedom, democracy, human rights and good governance. It covers the years 1990 to 2006." Click on Take me to the maps. On the left side you'll find loads of data and the sources, and an explanation of what the numbers mean. If the data for that variable exist for past years, you can change the map.

No comments: