Twitter 911


In June of 2011, I spoke at the inaugural UCLA TEDx, hastily putting together a talk (“Can Twitter Save Lives?“) that demonstrated my despair over the Japan Disasters, and my encouragement for us to seriously consider twitter as a conduit for emergency response. Now, exactly two years after the disasters, Japan has finally acknowledged social media as an official medium for 911 calls (it is 119 in Japan). Today, the Fire and Disaster Management Agency (総務省消防庁) announced their plans to roll this service out experimentally, starting this summer. While it is primarily aimed at those with people with disabilities, I can’t hep but think that this is a step in the right direction, and that many of us would find twittering 911 more intuitive than dialing 911. I would encourage all of us to geo-enable our tweets in times of crisis.

Posted in GIS

An ode to the non-spatial spatial

In this day and age of GPS enabled everything, where satellite imagery from the Googles respond to every cartographic works’ inaccuracies, it has become second nature to demand locational accuracies at all levels, hence the debacle that was Apple Maps. But does spatial accuracy always prevail? Do “maps” need to cater to our locational imaginary? Is our natural body GPS awareness always demanding of literal directional and distance dimensions? Or could it be that our definition of space is at times more cultural, more historical, more imaginative than our GPS dictates?

Here is an ode to the non-spatial spatial, via the famous London Subway Maps from the 1930’s, courtesy of LA Times Henry Chu:

Posted in GIS

Seeing the 2012 Presidential Election Results in 3D

The 2012 Presidential Elections have come and gone, and many of us were transfixed by the myriad of visualizations, many in the form of maps, that were fed to us through the general media.  While many of these maps were of the 2D variety, it is well known that due to the high density urban areas in the country, juxtaposed against the low population density in the suburban areas, that the maps just don’t tell the entire story.  If you were to take the following 2D map, you would be hard pressed to make a case that Obama (blue) actually won the election:

Check out this tutorial on how to create this map

Another way to visualize the results of the election is by creating a 3D view of this map.  By “extruding” (the act of applying a “height” parameter) each county polygon based on the margin of victory, this visualization tells a different story than does the 2D map.  Take a look for yourself!

Here is the Google Earth (KMZ) file for this visualization

Posted in GIS