Air Spaces: Where the Planes Fly

Cartographic Summit 2016The Future of Mapping was the theme of a Cartographic Summit jointly held by the International Cartographic Association (ICA) and Esri at Esri’s headquarters in Redlands (California). The aim of the event was to examine new directions in mapping in a time at which mapping is evolving at a rapid pace, enabling us to communicate in new ways, analyze important issues, and understand our world. Among the keynote speakers was graphics designer Nigel Holmes whom I had a chance to work with several years ago while making some contributions for Lonely Planet’s travel-infographics book How to land a jumbo jet. Meeting him in person at last reminded me to put online the last of the four cartograms that I made for the book.
The following map is a gridded cartogram visualisation of global flight tracks taken from the OpenFlights database. The map distorts the land area by the number of flights that pass a certain space which leads to these ‘ploughing patterns’ over some areas where are airplanes basically just passing by, such as in the western part of Australia where planes simply fly over on their way to the most populated southeast of the country. The colours in the map relate to the Worldmapper colour scheme (explained here).

Gridded Cartogram Map of Global Flight Paths
(click for larger version)

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Mapping the Anthropocene


The effects of humans on the global environment are perceived to be so significant by some scientists that they argue the onset of industrialisation (in the eighteenth century) has been a major driving force in environmental change on a par with the forces of nature. It is this rapid impact that has led some geologists to unofficially name (but not, as yet, officially recognise) this recent period of the earth’s history (from around 1760-onwards) as the Anthropocene (roughly translating as the era – or epoch – shaped considerably through the actions of humanity).

The Human Planet: Gridded Population Cartogram
Gridded population cartogram displaying the topography of the world in relation to the population distribution (click here for larger version)

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Planet Holiday: The World’s Major Tourist Destinations

How to Land a Jumbo JetTourist season is in full swing, especially in the wealthy parts of the Northern Hemisphere. Recent figures released by UNWTO World Tourism Barometer state that “international tourist arrivals reached 1,138 million in 2014, a 4.7% increase over the previous year.”
I mapped the grographical patterns of global tourism for the book ‘How to Land a Jumbo Jet‘ published by Lonely Planet. The following cartogram shows the countries of the world resized according to international tourist arrivals with the top 10 destinations also labelled (and listed on the bottom right corner), coloured in Worldmapper-style colours:

Planet Holiday: International Tourist Arrivals
(click for larger version)

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The Cartography of Riots

The riots of August 2011 took the nation by surprise. Consternation followed as events appeared to spiral out of control, then condemnation. Later reflection, and the compilation of hundreds of statistics on the rioters who were convicted. Much was also written about those who were not caught but were interviewed, as well as on the severity of the sentences handed down to the minority of rioters who were caught, or identified and convicted. Prison sentences totalling more than 1,800 years were handed down with an average custodial sentence of nearly 17 months (more than four times the average term handed down by magistrates courts for similar offences).
Court cases related to the August 2011 riots in England Continue reading

Into the big wide open: Think (twice) before you map!

A little bit from my archives which I never got around putting online before…here it comes: Last September I was invited to do a keynote at FOSS4G, OSGeo’s Global Conference for Open Source Geospatial Software. The event is the annual gathering of Open Source Geospatial Developers, Users and Leaders and was held at Nottingham’s new East Midlands Conference Centre, 17th to 21st September. The conference motto was ‘Geo for all’ because, as the organisers explain, “many people who work with geo software and maps find themselves becoming passionate advocates for the power of geography to make a difference: in government, business, travel, environment, crime reduction, social justice and communications to name just a few domains. Open Source Geo software makes this possible.
So how does a geographer, working with geospatial software but being less so a developer, address a huge crowd of people who are little reluctant to see themselves as geeks and nerds? Instead of pretending to be as clever as most of the audience I took a slightly different stance, trying to bridge the gap between those on the programming side and those on the applied side – two groups which sadly rarely speak to each other. Traditional cartographers often see their field of work undermined (and threatened) by computerised methods to generate mapping products, while coders very often find the obsession with minute detail and ‘artisan’ cartography annoying. If the two worlds would come a bit closer together, and both sides speak a bit more with each other, the world of cartography and geospatial visualisations could benefit so much more. Addressing a more technical audience, I concluded that we should all think a little bit more before we start mapping, and that we should give a good mapping project a little bit more time than we often do these days – but more importantly of course: We should never stop mapping. These are the slides of my talk, of course including many maps:

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On the grid: Worldmapper and beyond

My research on gridded cartograms has its roots in the works of the Worldmapper project, which was originally released in 2006/07 and extended in the following years. While the first phase of the Worldmapper project has visually describes the world, mapping the national contours of hundreds of variables, it did so only in one way and a way easily open to criticism despite its novelty and wide scope. To tackle this, I conducted further research to help address these potential criticisms, to work on moving the resource beyond its simple descriptive form. This included a look at more theoretical issues of how world resources, flows and shares are understood, particularly visually understood – and how this can be improved.
The gridded cartograms are one of the key results of this second phase of the Worldmapper project to advance and improve the capabilities of the Worldmapper maps. So far we integrated gridded cartograms on the Worldmapper website only in form of the World Population Atlas that shows an extensive collection of gridded country cartograms. These are the first ever made compilation of maps showing population distributions in cartogram form at that level of detail for every country of the world, but there is more to the underlying technique than this.
Following the release of these first maps using a gridded cartogram approach, I have made progress not only in enhancing the accuracy and quality of these country-level maps, but also in advancing the technique to a stage where gridded cartograms can be utilised as an alternative map projection (explained and discussed in full detail in my PhD thesis). Some examples are shown on this website: One example for the new capabilities at country level is the map of population changes in Germany. At global level the example of agricultural spaces presented at last year’s Annual Meeting of the Society of Cartographers demonstrates their applicability not only for population-related issues, but beyond that for other quantitative dimensions with a new level of detail, but also new capabilities of showing additional layers of information that the original Worldmapper approach was not capable of achieving.
There sometimes is a certain confusion about the differences between the maps drawn in the first stage of the Worldmapper project (and that we carry on producing as well), and the new gridded cartograms. The following map series shows the differences by using the Worldmapper colour scheme applied to the different map types (for full clarity, the map series starts off with a conventional map projection):

Map comparison series: Conventional map vs cartogram vs gridded cartogram
(click for larger version)

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