Data skills in geography: Gridded cartograms

Geographical Cartograms
Data Skills in Geography is a two year programme at the Royal Geographical Society, supported by funding from the Nuffield Foundation. Continue reading

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
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“Calling Abidjan” – estimating population distribution through analysis of mobile phone call data records

Big data, big challenge? Together with Harald Sterly of the University of Cologne I presented a little piece of research in the Extended Spatial Analytics session of the German Geography Congress (Deutscher Kongress für Geographie) in Berlin. The project “Calling Abidjan” that we worked on with Kouassi Dongo of Université de Cocody-Abidjan was started after we successfully applied for participation of the D4D Challenge. According to the initiator Orange telecommunications ‘Data for Development’ is “an innovation challenge open on ICT Big Data for the purposes of societal development”. The project allowed us to work with anonymised mobile phone data from individual call records by Orange in the country of Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast).
We were interested in investigating, what non-computer scientists with a social science and urban planning background can do with such data in a more contextual rather that technically driven way and therefore explored how mobile phone call records can be used to better estimate population distribution.
For our analysis we used anonymised call data records consisting of information about the base station, timestamp, and caller ID produced by the approximately 500.000 Orange Télecom users in the country. There were 1079 base stations at the time the data was generated and we were able to work with data covering 183 days. The dataset consisted of 13GB of raw data which some would perhaps call ‘Big Data’ (though I personally do not like this term for many reasons).
The following two (draft) maps give an insight into the results. The purple circles show the distribution and density of population estimates that we derived using only mobile phone call records dataset. To better see the correlation with what other population data tells us about where people live, we did not only produce a normal land area map (on the left, also displaying some basic idea of the topography in the country) but also showed the data on a gridded population cartogram which we generated from the LandScan population grid, the perhaps most detailed population dataset currently available on a globally consistent high-resolution basis:

Population maps of Ivory Coast / Côte d'Ivoire created using Mobile Phone Call Records
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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
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Visualising your UK constituency

The UK general election is fast approaching. Following the first almost-debate of the would-like-to-be Prime Ministers the battle for the ‘correct’ interpretation of the state of the nation has come into its final stage. Statistics are easy to twist, and there is never an absolute truth in them. In a collaboration with the Office for National Statistics I was involved in the creation of a little interactive visualisation feature that sheds light on some key statistics that show life in the constituencies around the country. Using a conventional map and a hexagon cartogram of the United Kingdom we looked at house prices, income, public sector employment, education, age, migration, and health which can be interactively explored and compared in both map views. The following map is one example from that feature, showing the share of people not born in the United Kingdom:

Cartogram and map showing the share of the population born abroad in the United Kingdom
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Geographic visualization in social sciences: Draw more maps!


Wordle Data Visualisation
Geographic visualization in social sciences – or draw more maps! Continue reading