Cartographic study of musical incest

A friend of mine discovered the Seattle Band Map (a.k.a. Cartographic Study of Musical Incest), a project by radio host Rachel Ratner, designer Keith Whiteman and computer scientist Golf Sinteppadon.

As Rachel Rutner describes in the project’s first blog post, she started the map as a nerdy personal project. The goal was to map out the bands she and her friends played in and which were interconnected by shared band members.
In the first draft (on paper) there were about 20 bands of the Seattle region:

After some crowdsourcing in Rutner’s circles of friends and colleagues and some more weeks of work, the band map featured almost 300 bands:

In May 2010 the paper map was redrawn by Keith Whiteman on a 8ft/2.5m by 12ft/3.5m sheet:

The current map is on a tour through exhibitions, where visitors can add new bands to the network:

Then, in February 2011 the band map moved to a new website: There you can have a look at the digital version of the map, browse the incredibly dense network of bands and submit new entries and connections or revisions. The digital version of the band map features additional info which is displayed in a pop-up window upon clicking a band. I couldn’t find a legend/colour key, so I don’t know what the different colours mean. The size of the individual nodes seems to correspond to the connectedness (or degree of incest ;) of a band with other bands.

I like both the simple aesthetics of the band map (especially the paper version) as well as the idea of documenting the personal networks of musicians through a crowdsourcing approach very much. It would be interesting to learn a bit more on the design principle behind the digital version of the Seattle Band Map. Being allowed to download the dataset and playing with it in a network graphing software would be cool as well.

Some more information on the project and the people behind it can be found here. Scans of the paper versions of the Seattle Band Map can be downloaded as PDF here: version 1, version 2. The digital version is accessible on


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