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UIX Blog: Finding us on the map(s)

Devices on the internet.

We discuss maps and ways to categorize data so much on this blog, it's only reasonable that we ask ourselves where we fit on that map. But even before that question is answered, what map should we use?

We discuss maps and ways to categorize data so much on this blog, it's only reasonable that we ask ourselves where we fit on that map. But even before that question is answered, what map should we use?

Population Density 

Wandering rivers included, the roadways of West Michigan are mapped out quite uniformly. Veloviewer, a service that takes the aggregate direction of a region's streets and shows their average orientation, calculates that the majority of our roads run east/west or north/south. Of course, if we want to learn more, we need to look between these literal lines and thin laterally.
 
Trafficways offers a nice look at density data by showing US Census figures, the most common taxi and flight routes, and where images are being tagged on Flickr in the region. We can see that most of the photos posted to Flickr in Grand Rapids were tagged downtown near Rosa Parks Circle, Monroe Center, and a few bridges, many likely during ArtPrize. The US Census plots most of the city's residents outside this downtown area, so population density in this case little to no immediate effect on the behavior of Flickr photos. Take the residential data and overlay it with the Skobbler GPS routes, and we start to see that the downtown region, where so many Flickr photos are being posted and hardly anyone live, is surrounded by major traffic arteries.

Traffic Density

With no foreknowledge of the region, this set of circumstances, as seen in countless other cities, could be used in an algorithm that tracks the magnitude of social events. Conversely, perhaps someday in the distant future this information could be examined
 
Taking a different look at our global footprint, Texas-based internet cartographer and computer scientist John Matherly created a map by pinging the world's public IP addresses, roughly showing all 460 million devices connected to the internet.
 
Some of us are connected to the internet from multiple devices, with multiple properties and addresses in cyberspace to call our own. The Internet Map has essentially applied cartography to a cloud and shows the reach and imprint of the residents of the world wide web. 

The Internet Map

With the popularity of wearable devices like the Fitbit, WiFi-enabled cameras, and countless mobile apps, people are quantifying their output and measuring more and more of their lives everyday. We hope to do the same on a macro level by studying the relationships between maps overlaid with population and behavioral data. It's ironic that while the actual search for maps has waned over time--the Google search for the term "map" has been steadily decreasing since 2005--we find ourselves relying more and more on them for valuable data, a resource that shows no sign of declining in value.
 
Urban Innovation Exchange highlights the people and projects transforming West Michigan through sustainable efforts. To see more UIX stories, you can check out the entire series here. Have thoughts or ideas about UIX? Contact UIX Grand Rapids Editor Matthew Russell at matthew@uixgrandrapids.com.
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