Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘maps’

20 APRIL, 2010

Follow The Money: Visualizing the Structure of Large-Scale Communities

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Visual economics, or what virtual currencies have to do with real neighbors.

Money makes the world go ’round. Or so the saying goes. Whether or not that’s true, money does go around the world, wrapping it in an invisible web of socioeconomic and geopolitical patterns.

Northwestern University grad students Daniel Grady and Christian Thiemann are on a mission to visualize these patterns. Their project Follow the Money investigates the structure of large-scale communities in the US through the prism of how money travels. Using data from the popular bill-tracking website Where’s George?, the team identified geographically compact communities based on how much currency is changing hands within them as opposed to between them.

This may sound like dry statistical uninterestingness, but the video visualization of the results is rather eye-opening, revealing how money — not state borders, not political maps, not ethnic clusters — is the real cartographer drawing our cultural geography.

When we made the video, we wanted to produce something that anybody could watch and understand what was happening, but at the same time we didn’t want to have to dumb down any of the ideas.” ~ Daniel Grady

The project was a winner at the 2009 Visualization Challenge sponsored by the National Science Foundation and AAAS and.

But as cash nears extinction in the age of plastic and electronic transations, we’d be curious to see a visualization of payment networks in all the forms and formats today’s money lives in — physical, electronic, and even virtual currencies like Facebook’s AceBucks, World of Warcraft’s gold, or Second Life’s Linden dollars.

via Visual Complexity

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15 APRIL, 2010

Cartograms: Making a Point with Distorted Maps

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Why space is relative and how popular media are making entire continents disappear.

We love maps. And we love data visualization. Naturally, we love cartograms — maps of countries and areas distorted to reflect non-geographic information about them. These representations provide a succinct and visually digestible way to comprehend complex data about the world’s hisotrical, social, political, economic and health reality, among other issues of interest. Today, we look at three particularly eye-opening cartograms that put today’s geopolitical and socioeconomic reality in perspective.

EXTERNAL DEBT

As the world continues to try to make sense of the full context and implications of the financial crisis, University of Sheffield postgrad Ben Henning took a look at the real dimension of the world’s external debt. The map reflects the ratio of debt to GDP, based on 2010 estimates by the World Bank and CIA.

In case you were wondering — or looking for an economically stable place to move to — that green patch amidst the European redness is Luxembourg, doing even better than the stereotypical financial forerunner in yellow right below, Switzerland.

NEWS

There’s no question that news media shape our perception of the world. But, in just four minutes, head of Public Radio International Alisa Miller shows just how distorted the news’ portrayal of the world can be.

Miller’s eye-opening talk embodies the core of why we believe citizen journalism will be a potent game-changer in news, the real “fair and balanced” way to do things.

POPULATION

Today’s moderately educated adult has no qualms about the world’s overpopulation problem. But this issue is as much one of scale as it is of distribution. Earth’s bloated population, combined with its uneven and disproportionate distribution, makes for a number of social, economic and environmental hazards. This cartogram presents a map of the world, with land areas weighted for population size, making all these disbalances unmissably prominent.

Seeing overcrowded India and China explode while Russia and Canada, with their vast, barren and unpopulated Arctic landscapes, shrink does bring the notion of “public space” to life by visualizing, effectively and powerfully, the relationship between “space” and “the public.”

BONUS

The Daily Mail, a source of otherwise questionable reliability and taste level, has a surprisingly excellent series of cartograms that paint an issue-weighted portrait of the world.

Though three years old, the maps are incredibly eye-opening, reflecting everyting from alcohol consumption to HIV prevalence to toy exports.

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22 FEBRUARY, 2010

Blog-Turned-Book Success Stories: Part One

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Maps of Utopia, posh Brooklynites, and what Whole Foods has to do with high school mixtapes.

The web may have its share of questionable content and lowest-common-denominator taste, but it has also democratized the content industry in a powerful way — with its low barrier of entry, anyone with a smart idea and excellent content can draw an audience and become the go-to authority in a niche or a publishing superstar of eclectic interestingness. And just like every waitress in LA dreams of being discovered by Hollywood, most superstar bloggers dream of getting the coveted and tangible acclaim that is a book deal.

We love nothing more than to see well-written, meticulously curated and brilliantly conceived content get the credit it deserves. And we’ve gathered proof that it is indeed possible. Here are five of our ten favorite blogs-turned-books.

BOX BOTTLE BAG

It’s no secret we’re big package design geeks — because, let’s face it, framing is everything; ideas are only as powerful as their presentation, and what are packages but presentation vehicles for the products that come in them?

For years, The Dieline has been our favorite go-to for packaging goodness. This month, they’re finally releasing the much-anticipated anthology of said goodness — Box Bottle Bag: The World’s Best Package Designs from TheDieline.com.

The book features 224 pages of richly visual, meticulously curated package design gems, including the site’s biggest hits as well as a handful of never-before-seen projects from legendary designers.

CASSETTE FROM MY EX

We’ve featured Cassette From My Ex: Stories and Soundtracks of Lost Loves before, and we even included it in our curated gift guide for books, so we won’t overelaborate.

Suffice it to say this lovely mixtape revivalist project takes the cheesiest parts of nostalgia and turns them into a wonderful celebration of youthful creative romanticism.

STUFF WHITE PEOPLE LIKE

It’s been nearly two years since Christian Lander’s brilliant, relentlessly funny-cause-it’s-true Stuff White People Like first drew critical acclaim from hipster pundits alike. The blog was so brilliant, in fact, that it got a book deal a mere three months after its launch, a pace of success that’s practically unheard of.

Wittily written and often surprisingly insightful beneath its surface humor, Stuff White People Like: A Definitive Guide to the Unique Taste of Millions is as much a cultural portrait of a certain Obama-loving, New-Yorker-reading, Whole-Foods-shopping, Scandinavian-furniture-admiring socioeconomic subset as it is a diagnostic tool for your own chronic white-clicheness.

STRANGE MAPS

We love the geeky art-science world of cartography. So when our favorite maps blog,
Strange Maps, got a book deal, we covered it promptly.

Strange Maps: An Atlas of Cartographic Curiosities features 138 of the most fascinating, absorbing and remarkable maps from the blog’s 3-year history of culling the world’s forgotten, little-known and niche cartographic treasures. And it too made our book guide last year.

From the world as depicted in Orwell’s 1984, to a color map of Thomas More’s Utopia, to the 16th-century portrayal of California as an island where people live like the Amazons, the book is brim-full of priceless anecdotes from our collective conception of the world over the centuries.

THE SARTORIALIST

In 2005, Scott Schuman set out to photograph stylish people on the street, then began uploading these photos to a no-frills blog.

Little did Schuman, a.k.a. The Sartorialist, know that over the next few years, his blog would gain such enormous cultural traction that it would elevate him to the most influential observer of street style. TIME Magazine even named him one of the Top 100 Design Influencers.

Last year, the blog put its money where its mouth is, releasing the sleek, stylish and all-around gorgeous The Sartorialist: (Bespoke Edition). (Sure, you could settle for the paperback, but that would be like watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade on TV — you still get it, but half its glamor and beauty are lost.)

From Milan to Miami, Beijing to Brooklyn, the book is a global portrait of exquisite taste, an addictive and indulgent intersection of voyeurism and aesthetic appreciation.

UPDATE: Here’s Part 2, with 5 more

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