Following up on last month's map of the world's friendships on Facebook, we've released another visualization of relationships across social networks today. Called "Photo-sharing Explosions," these visualizations look at the different ways that photos shared on George Takei's Facebook page go viral once he's posted them.
Each visualization is made up of a series of branches, starting from George. As each branch grows, re-shares split off onto their own arcs. Sometimes, these re-shares spawn a new generation of re-shares, and sometimes they explode in short-lived bursts of activity. The two different colors show gender, and each successive generation becomes lighter as time goes by. And the curves are just for snazz.
The visualizations are live at facebookstories.com.
A lot of what we do at Stamen is inventing things that haven't been done before; pushing the technical envelope on something like scary cartography, or inventing new techniques to animate the effects of climate change due to global warming. It's fun, and it's definitely a big part of what keeps my creative juices flowing: Hey, look at that shiny new thing! Are they really paying us to do this? Awesome! But it can also be stressful, particularly when you're planning your time and running the day-to-day operations of a studio, because fundamentally: if it's new, it's hard to figure out how long it's going to take. We have various mechanisms for accounting for this (including taking a loss on a project because we just can't help ourselves), but every once in a good while while we get lucky enough to take a second pass at something that smart people have laid a foundation for. This kind of work comes with its own satisfactions: polishing something to a high sheen, making it great instead of just good, really taking the time to pay attention to every detail and make sure that it comes out just right.
We're proud to announce today, along with our friends at Yandex, a redesign of the online maps for Russia's most popular search engine.
We have done the important stage of the project. We talked to designers, engineers and other smart guys during all time of the project. We achieved a lot of experience of mapping design.
For example, at the the begining of the project we collaborated with Stamen. These cool guys helped us pick main issue definitions, refine ideas, get important recommendations what to improve. We implemented it into final design.
What follows are some before and after comparisons of the various design changes we recommended to Yandex.
Many maps account for many different kinds of roads: freeways, business routes, on ramps, off ramps, service roads, residential streets - and show those roads as different kinds of strips on the map. We reduced the number of roads to three, greatly simplifying the display:
District names are always tricky to label; you've got to decide how take into account things like major railway stations, and how they'e going to interact with one another. These choices have been improved:
Zooming in a bit, we brought down the emphasis on the subway labels themselves, and made sure to label them for easy legibility:
Zooming in further, we paid attention to the routes that the subway lines take under Moscow. Not having been there before, we needed to rely on our friends at Yandex for confirmation as to whether this looked right given insider knowledge of Moscow, but it turned out nicely:
One more zoom level in and there's enough detail for the subway icons to be colored according to which line they're on:
We did recommend a few new features, in this case one-way arrows indicating the directions that cars are allowed to travel in on different streets:
And finally we improved the rendering of freeway interchanges, which if you've ever tried it yourself, is no joke:
You can see the results for yourself at http://maps.yandex.ru/. And it's generally a good sign when your client, in town from Russia, comes to visit. Thanks Andrey, Alexander, Julia and team Yandex!
The Map to Image bit of maps.stamen.com has seen steady use since we launched it in September: close to six thousand images made, about half of those watercolor, a third toner, about one every ten minutes. We've made some adjustments and improvements to it that should make it even easier to use, and easier to see what other people have made.
For starters, the results page has been reworked so it's a bit more navigable: where there used to be one long infinitely scrolling page with all the maps on it, each day now gets it's own page that fills up over a 24 hour period, so if you made an image on September 18, you're covered. There's also a graph at the top so you can see usage over time.
Each generated image also gets its own page now, and we've included Pinterest buttons so the images are easier to share.
We've launched a new project for PMC, a consulting firm that advises municipalities on things like transit policy and energy use. Energy Efficiency in San Gabriel Valley looks at a variety of cities in southern California and reports how much electricity and natural gas people used, how far they drove, how much waste they generated, and other metrics. We compare each city to the others in the Valley, to LA and SoCal as a whole when we can, and plot these metrics on an interactive map and series of charts below. It works best in Google Chrome, as PMC's initial use for the project is a conference on energy efficiency and climate change, held last week in Monrovia.
We're using terrain background tiles, with terrain-lines overlaid), for the base maps. The outlines are loosely based on the municipality boundaries, and fill up and empty out based on whatever metric's being compared. La Cañada, Flintridge and Irwindale have the highest Vehicle Miles Traveled counts, and we think this is because they're furthest away from the center of the Valley:
Measuring like this shows outliers pretty clearly. "Rock quarries dominate the small community of Irwindale, but the city is planning to attract more diverse land uses as some of the mines begin to close," and you can see this reflected in the Waste per Job statistics for that city. It also has many more jobs than it does residents, by about 13 to 1.
Further down on the page, the whole site is clickable, sortable, and otherwise interactive. Selecting a stat down below pivots all the rest of the data, so every location becomes a potential jumping off point for more comparisons.
Compare the more industrial cities to largely residential ones, and the wealthier cities start to emerge, like Bradbury. With the smallest population, but highest residential electricity use, larger homes are implied.
Or, you can infer that La Puente is fairly "self-reliant", and people tend to stay nearby, since they travel the least:
The editorial is pretty terrific as well: who knew that Baldwin Park is the home of the first Drive-In restaurant in California (In-N-Out), and the best performing city in the Residential Gas category?
Stamen alum Sha Hwang and I shared a stage last night at Arkitektura's Design Assembly in their lovely Soma showroom. Besides the obvious awesomeness of sharing a stage with Sha (whose work at Trulia is up there with the best), it's always fun to talk to an audience of designers; their focus on how things look and the kinds of questions they ask bring a certain kind of energy. I also feel like I can let my hair down a bit (what's left of it), talk about the cultural aspects of what the studio does and explore some new, not-entirely-fleshed out ideas.
One of the ways I've been tricking myself into thinking new thoughts is to look at writings about other forms of expression and substitute the medium that's being discussed—painting, photography, architecture etc.—and replacing that with "data visualization." So if you take a look at what Group f/64 (Ansel Adams' cohort) said about photography:
"The members of Group f/64 believe that photography, as an art form, must develop along lines defined by the actualities and limitations of the photographic medium, and must always remain independent of ideological conventions of art and aesthetics that are reminiscent of a period and culture antedating the growth of the medium itself."
and drop "data visualization" in there:
"The members of Stamen believe that data visualization, as medium, must develop along lines defined by the actualities and limitations of the data visualization medium, and must always remain independent of ideological conventions of art and aesthetics that are reminiscent of a period and culture antedating the growth of the medium itself."
you wind up with some things to consider that we can toss into the mix of data visualization manifestos and what all this work is "for." Who would take seriously a manifesto about what photography if "for" that was this restrictive now? It's a way to jump the conversation into a more interesting place and start to anticipate a world where these kinds of visualizations are as common as photographs are now; maybe more so.
Another fun one is "fashion." I've been talking about with Ben Cerveny and others for a while now about the idea that Stamen's approach to mapping and data visualization is more like that of a fashion house than like a graphic design studio or a web development shop. Fashion, far from being superficial fluff on top of real culture, in this view is is highly technical (the Gaultier show at the de Young convinced me of this), an endeavor where innovation and new material is key, and is deeply embedded in and often leading aspects of culture.
And then Paola Antonelli asked, on Twitter, where a phrase in the talk came from:
@enjalot @stamen: uh? intriguing statement! pls explain?... "Data visualization will be ephemeral, dangerous and unfair"— Paola Antonelli (@curiousoctopus) September 27, 2012
So here are the slides:
Looks like I'm going to need some more rings, and maybe some better shades...but I haven't seen Lagerfeld with a better cummerbund.
A new installment in our continuing study of Bay Area infrastructure is live, at http://stamen.com/zero1. Some early coverage of the project here and here.
We've mapped the Bay Area's crime and taxis before, but in each case a source of data was readily available for the taking. In this case, we decided to try something different: going out into the world and gathering the data ourselves. We hired bicycle messengers and others to follow the various buses that ferry tech workers from their homes in San Francisco to their campuses down in the Valley (an arrangement that inspires mixed feelings among city dwellers) and to count the people getting on and off them. We started with the locations for bus stops available on public sites like Foursquare, and used Field Papers, an open source paper/mapping project developed earlier this year with Caerus Associates, for the physical mapping.
The context of the Biennial, whose theme is "Seeking Silicon Valley," seemed like a good chance to address the question of how the relationship between the Valley and its surroundings is evolving. This latest cycle of tech investment is spread out more broadly than the last one, leading some people to the conclusion that "...the distinction between Silicon Valley and San Francisco has all but disappeared. It is us, and we are it." I think the relationship is more complicated and dynamic than that (and I've been thinking about this for some time now); my hope for this piece is that it serves as an object to think with about the relationship between these quite different kinds of urban spaces and how we want to see that develop.
The exhibition is up until December 8 at the Zero1 Garage in downtown San Jose, and we'll be hosting and participating in some events around it in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!
Fundamental shifts are underway in the relationship between San Francisco and Silicon Valley.
Historically, workers have lived in residential suburbs while commuting to work in the city. For Silicon Valley, however, the situation is reversed: many of the largest technology companies are based in suburbs, but look to recruit younger knowledge workers who are more likely to dwell in the city.
An alternate transportation network of private buses—fully equipped with wifi—thus threads daily through San Francisco, picking up workers at unmarked bus stops (though many coexist in digital space), carrying them southward via the commuter lanes of the 101 and 280 freeways, and eventually delivers them to their campuses.
What does this flow tell us about Silicon Valley, and the City it feeds?
Today we launched "Mapping the World's Friendships," a project visualizing the degree of interconnectedness between Facebook's hundreds of millions of members as part of Facebook's new Stories initiative.
Countries are sorted by a combination of how many Facebook friendships there are between countries, and the total number of Facebook friendships there are in that country. Turns out this number can tell you some pretty interesting things about not just where a country is now, but where it's been. The Marshall Islands shows strong results in the immediate geographic area—Guam, the Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji—but the number one result is to the United States, over 4600 miles away, since the islands were occupied by the United States until 1986:
The U.S. occupied the Marshall Islands from 1944 until 1986, and 10 percent of the islands' residents hail from the U.S. The top destination for Marshallese immigrants is the United States, where they mostly reside in Hawaii, Oregon, California and Arkansas.
Coloring the circles by the predominant language spoken there (the example above has them colored by which continent they're on, for clarity) provides another kind of insight. Clicking on Haiti makes it "easy to explore French colonization in this view, since you can see at a glance which countries speak primarily French."
We get a similar kind of grouping between Peru, Argentina and Spain, which of course makes sense because yum, paella:
The relationship between Angola and Portugal, on the other hand, needs a little more digging to make sense:
"With the economic downturn in Europe at the end of the first decade of the 2000s, Angola became Portugal's lead export market. As many Portuguese companies shifted operation centers, Angola saw a wave of of Portuguese immigration with more than 23,000 immigrants in 2009—a substantial change from just 156 Portuguese immigrants in 2006."
And the one that really jumped out at us as being much more about recent geopolitical events than any long-standing cultural or linguistic affinities was the tight link between Sweden and Iraq:
Sweden has taken in more Iraqi refugees than the United States. One town alone, Södertälje, dubbed "Little Baghdad", has accepted 6,000 Iraqis since 2003.
Since launching maps.stamen.com and making the maps available for purchase in select cities on 20x200 we've been lucky enough to receive a steady trickle of interest from people who want to print the maps themselves. For those unlucky enough to have missed the watercolor letterpress map that went out with Jason Kottke's marvelous Quarterly.co subscription service, we're pleased to announce the beta version of M2I, a service that lets you print out larger static versions of the maps on maps.stamen.com. Now you can generate those long images on pinterest, chop chop!
The maximum size you can currently generate is 2000x2000 pixels. This is to keep the servers happy; depending on how they run we'll likely increase these limits in the coming weeks.
Please let us know what you think; we're looking into ways that people can order physical products from the site, because watercolor blankets and toner scarves are where it's at this season (and should be available from Soft Cities this fall).
In 2008 we designed a hurricane tracker for MSNBC, right as Irene was "bearing down on Louisiana like a shotgun full of wind and rain." The project worked fine for several seasons of hurricanes and tropical storms, until Apple killed Flash in 2011 and the world of interactive mapping and data visualization turned its attention to HTML5 and mobile platforms.
Here's what I said about it at the time:
I'm really pleased with how this project's turned out; in particular I've not seen a map like this before that gives a sense of the relative speed that a storm moves at (take a look at how Gustav slows down as it passes over the southwest coast of Haiti). It's not something I've really ever thought about before, but now that I've seen it, I'll be looking for it in every other map like this I see—which is just how I like to change the world. Congratulations to Tom and Geraldine for pulling this one together.
This is the first time that we've released something this concrete. At dinner last night Lane told me that it was the first time he'd seen something that Stamen had done that was going to really matter to him in 72 hours. We've historically shied away from doing work that's overly predictive and analytical, preferring to focus on the lyrical and metaphorical aspects of visualization. This is the first time you can make a decision based on something we've built, and I'm glad we seem to have crossed that barrier without fretting too much about it. Just about every big decision I've ever made that's turned out well has been made in lightness and in haste; no sense stopping now!
Much of this carries through in the new version of the hurricane tracker that we released earlier this week. What I said about making important decisions in lightness and in haste still stands (if anything it's gotten worse), but there are a couple different things about this project worth drawing attention to:
- The client is the Weather Channel (previous work for them here), and we're working directly with meteorologists to ensure that the representations meet their standards.
- It's in HTML5, so you can view it on an iPad. Which is good!
- We've made some improvements to the interaction that I never got to take care of in the previous version. The entire histogram (chart at the top) is an active thing you can roll over, for example; the previous version only popped the rollover when you were over the lines.
- The histogram and the map have a much tighter relationship now. If the whole hurricane path is visible on the map, you'll see the whole thing on the histogram, and visey versey. Conversely, if you change the map so that 1/2 the hurricane is visible, you see 1/2 of it on the histogram. You can see this happening in the images below.
Every year around this time in San Francisco things start to feel a little rushed, and there's anticipation in the air as a whole slice of society hauls itself out to the middle of the Nevada desert for the annual Burning Man festival. I'm not going myself this year, but my good friend Zach Coffin has been working out of an office here at Stamen on his latest song in steel and stone, The Universe Revolves Around YOU and it's been great fun seeing it come together:
Given all the Burning Man energy in town, it's probably no coincidence that our latest exercise in pushing the boundaries of online mapping would tend towards the, well, combustible side of things. We've pulled together the latest in web browser capabilities and layered them on top of toner-lines from Citytracking, and it's called Burningmap.
Here's Black Rock City:
It works in New York as well:
And pretty much anywhere else in the world you'd like to point it. Enjoy!