Tag Archives: geo

Hailpixel’s colour tool

Picking up where I have left, I have a nice addition to my collection of colour tools for visualisation expertshttp://color.hailpixel.com

What you see below is the whole interface, when you open the website by Devin Hunt.


Choosing colours is easy as pie: Move your mouse pointer around and the area changes its colour. Once you like what you see, click, and the colour will be saved to a part in the browser window, together with its hex code. In the remaining area you can continue to create new colours until you’re satisfied with your palette. Colours can also be selectively deleted again and the URL of the page keeps track of your palette and allows for easy sharing (and, if you will, “export” of the colour values).

These are too many words, best enjoy the simplicity of http://color.hailpixel.com yourself! (Also, visit that frontpage and pull on the thread!)

Colour me well-informed

When designing a map or a visualisation, sooner or later there is the point where you have to choose a range of colours (except in very specific circumstances which may require you to produce a black-and-white or greyscale visualisation). What is there to consider in such a situation?


Appropriate use of colours

According to Bertin‘s (1918–2010) seminal work, Semiologie Graphique, colour (defined as hue with constant value) as a visual variable is both selective and associative. These mean, respectively, that an object with slightly differing hue can be selected with ease out of a group of objects and that objects with identical colour but differing values for other visual variables (e.g., in the case of shape as the other variable: a red circle, a red square and a red triangle) can easily be grouped mentally. Continue reading

Mont St. Michel

Kite aerial photography gallery

Digital Photography School has a nice gallery of kite aerial photography (or KAP, as it’s called amongst insiders):

Le Mont Saint Michel (Manche-FR)

Le Mont Saint Michel, France (© François Levalet, http://www.francoislevalet.fr)

I have to date built various kites myself and actually also one of the KAP rigs shown in the gallery and have done some KAP experiments myself. KAP is lightweight, can produce affordable aerial photography and is thus an interesting acquisition method for spatial data. For these reasons it is sometimes used for archaeologic studies and exploration, see for example here or here.

Despite ever more popular quadro- and other copters and their advantages (for example, no need for wind), I think KAP may keep a niche, for example in applications where noise may be an issue or where an especially heavy payload needs to be lifted.

Flickr as a vehicle of narrative: photos contextualised in space and time

After my project proposal had been accepted, I have attended a workshop at ETH Zurich, titled “Cartography & Narratives” organised by Barbara Piatte, Sébastien Caquard and Anne-Kathrin Reuschel in last summer. The goal of the workshop was to explore “mapping as a conceptual framework to improve our understating of narratives”. Narratives are

“an expression in discourse of a distinct mode of experiencing and thinking about the world, its structures, and its processes“ (White 2010)


any cultural artefact that ‘tells a story’ (Bal 2009)

I decided to investigate the photo-sharing platform Flickr as vehicle of narratives (think: the slide show of pictures from a trip, be it directly on the camera’s screen or as an image projected onto your living room wall, as one of arguably the most ubiquitous types of every day narrative).

I have uploaded a preliminary result of my workshop paper on Vimeo (view it large, for good quality):

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/56999213 w=600]


The movie shows the temporal and spatial patterns that emerge, when we conflate 80’000+ images taken by 4’000 photographers over the course of several years in the city of Zurich, Switzerland (I only looked at georeferenced photographs). See the description of the video on Vimeo for full information.

I will post more about the workshop results and further work, shortly.

Etymologic cartography

I propose Etymologic cartography as a field of study: Somebody had the simple but appealing idea to simply translate the toponyms on a map to English. In this case the subject in question is the USA:

Map of the USA with state names in English

Some of the names are rather interesting (and were unknown to me), e.g. Asleep for Iowa, Flattened Water for Nebraska, Great Hills for Massachusetts, Lord of War for Delaware, Dugout Canoe for Missouri (see here for an ordinary USA map for comparison). Note also, that both peripheral Alaska and peripheral Maine consider(ed) themselves the Mainland and that Idaho was apparently named such as a practical joke (really!? – possibly!)!

Also, the map nicely answers a question a friend of mine recently wondered about (and which I couldn’t answer): Kansas apparently means Wind, while Arkansas means People of the Wind!

The principle of etymologic cartography is of course easily transferred to other geographic areas. Though, coming to think of it, given its history the USA has probably a substantial (more than average?) density of toponyms that don’t stem from the local language but rather from Spanish or Aboriginal American languages (think, for example, Utah). I wonder what other countries or regions would especially lend themselves to such an experiment?

(via gisn8)

Review of Swiss GIS Day 2012

As announced a while ago, I went to GIS Day in Zurich, Switzerland.

On my employer’s blog, I have written up a review of the event in German. Head over to find out about interesting Switzerland-based GIS projects (in-browser-translation should be fine to get the gist, I suppose).

Swiss air rescue organisation Rega uses GIS for emergency dispatching

Swiss air rescue organisation Rega uses GIS for emergency dispatching

Sad map: Conflicts of humankind

The Dutch web development Studio TecToys built http://www.conflicthistory.com, a map and timeline of all important human conflicts. The base data for the visualization comes from Freebase and is enriched with Wikipedia content. The timeline lets you slice the data at adjustable interval widths. I’m not sure, just how exhaustive and geographically un-biased the coverage of the data is, it certainly looks impressive on the map. Naturally, the geographic scope of the conflicts on the map varies also with the world regions known to humankind at a given time.

From geographic and conflict research literature I know that people try to link violent conflicts to the presence of certain social and environmental factors, the latter being much more easily measured, usually. I faintly remember reading an article that linked the likelihood of guerilla activity to the topography of a region. Maybe some of these models are a bit too simplistic at times, but nevertheless I’d be interested to explore the data of such a study in a form similar to Conflict History.

(via information aesthetics)