This is a data visualisation artwork created by Dr Cheshire (@spatialanalysis) and myself. We were invited to submit an entry to 10X10 Drawing the City London, run by the building design charity Article 25. The submissions, including various from “real” artists and architects, will then be auctioned in November to raise funds for the charity’s projects.
Our technological, cartographical and geographical skills are almost certainly better than our artistic ability, so we decided to let technology create our artwork. We took the 2011 census data for the target area (Shoreditch) and combined it with building data from Ordnance Survey Vector Map District, creating a 3×3 panel. Colorbrewer colour ramps, supplied in QGIS 2.0, were used, to colour each panel differently.
The resulting artwork is completely based on open data, licensed under the Open Government Licence.
A single physical copy was printed directly onto white canvas, using specialised equipment operated by Miles Irving at the Drawing Office in UCL Geography. He mounted it onto a wooden frame. The resulting artwork can be seen above and has now been passed to Article 25 for their exhibition and auction next month.
CASA colleague Steven James Gray used the API from CityDashboard, which I created early last year by aggregating various free London-centric data feeds into a single webpage, to power the data for a 4×3 array of iPads, mounted in a wooden panel, itself iPad-esque in shape. The “iPad wall” was mounted in the Mayor of London’s private office high up in City Hall, so that the mayor, Boris Johnson, can look over the capital digitally as well as physically. The idea of having the digital view directly adjacent to the physical view was also captured in the fleeting but beautiful Prism exhibition by Keiichi Matsuda at the V&A, another use of the CityDashboard API.
Today the BBC has picked up on the iPad wall and featured it as London’s example of emerging smart city technology. Scrolling down the article reveals it in all its glory. It’s somewhat flattering for the iPad wall and CityDashboard to be included this way, seeing as it’s just a number of HTML scrapes regularly running from various webpages, bundled together with pretty colours. The concept only works because of the many London-centric organisations that make their data available for reuse like this, not least Transport for London. It’s not going to change the way London operates like grander Smart City ideas might, but crucially it’s already out there. The BBC emphasises that it’s cheaper than Rio’s (well, yes, because the physical bit was built in CASA on a cost-of-materials basis, as part of a UCL Enterprise grant) and that it’s available to all, not just the Mayor. Almost true – CityDashboard doesn’t quite look like the physical iPad wall, but I’m minded to tweak the design and produce a version that does.
Anyway nice to know, via the BBC, that the wall is running and the data is ticking. The Mayor of London’s team can change the content on a number of the panels to show their own custom statistics. I was pleased to see, looking carefully at the photo in the article, that my Bike Sharing Map also makes an appearance.
I was at the Grant Museum of Zoology, one of UCL’s public museums in Bloomsbury, last week, helping install a new set of iPads for some interactive exhibits in there. The museum a small but fascinating space, it has been around since the 1820s but recently moved into a, larger space, although it still has a lovely old-fashioned feel to it, with display cabinets and drawers full of unusual stuffed or pickled animals, such as the Jar of Moles.
Anyway, I was delighted to finally visit the Micrarium, a new exhibit dedicated to the very small, it consists of three walls crammed full of slides of tiny things, displayed around a booth that you can walk into, with a mirror on the ceiling to complete the effect. While looking at the tiny specimens is an interesting exercise in itself, I was particularly taken with the design. Unlike the rest of the museum, which is mainly made of varnished wood cases and dimly lit for preservation reasons, the Micrarium is strikingly lit and immediately invites closer investigation – you have to get up close and personal with these tiny specimens in order to simply see what they are.
The idea of having a “all around you” booth in a museum reminds me of the “interactive Booth map” at the Museum of London, which I visited shortly after it opened a couple of years back.
The museum and Micrarium are free to visit and are open on weekdays from 1-5pm, located at the junction of Gower Street and University Street (I do love that there is a street with that name in London). If you do manage to visit, take a moment to answer one of the philosophical questions on the iPads, or tweet #GrantQR.
So Google has released an invitation-based beta of their new Google Maps version for 2013, at their developer conference (I/O) last week. I’ve been trying it out over the last few days. Compare the new version above, with the old version at the bottom of this post.
The new fonts used look great.
Covering the whole page with the map is great.
The cartography has improved a lot. I particularly like the slighty text buffering, and the subtle shading effects at the edge of areas of water. The world looks a lot more beautiful.
Fewer red pins – now, selected features show up in a bold, dark red font.
The old green and orange road major road colours have just been replaced with yellow and light orange. Much more soothing to the eye.
All vector based, so generally is more responsive (snappier) to use. Zooming in and out is very smooth.
Public transport display is much improved, both with timetables and route option itineraries, and the display of metro/rail networks and “sign” labels along the routes you take for journeys.
Selecting bicycle mode is much more obvious.
I cannot specify a specific point on the map any more for a pin – it tends to jump to.
I cannot switch off display of my “home” and “work” points on the map.
I cannot view the (large) map and Street View at the same time, or navigate around the map and have Street View move at the same time.
No Pegman any more! I cannot see what streets are on Street View, except by navigating around Street View itself.
The image carousel at the bottom seems unnecessary and a waste of bandwidth – although it’s easy enough to switch off.
When selecting a POI quite near where I live, Google automatically draws a recommended road route from my home to it, and there seems to be no way to switch this off.
“My Maps” seems to have disappeared.
Terrain view seems to have gone.
Little explanation of symbology or colour meanings – I think this is deliberate, to reduce clutter, but it can be annoying. However key colours do have keys that pop up when needed, e.g. cycle route type, congestion scale.
The internal maps for major buildings (stations, shopping centres) seem to have gone.
You cannot zoom into the aerial imagery as far as before.
There are two few area/district names appearing at many zoom levels, e.g. in central London.
Overall feeling is that Google has stripped away too many features, and made doing anything more than a basic look at the map (or finding directions) a bit harder, requiring long mouse clicks or options that are hidden away.
So it looks prettier, and it’s easier to use. But some key features for me (such as the split screen between map and Street View) have disappeared – hopefully only temporarily – so for day-to-day use I find my self using the old map.
Here is an animation I created a couple of years ago, one of a number I created for the “Sense and the City” exhibition at the London Transport Museum, which ran from Summer 2011 to Spring 2012. A version of this animation was branded appropriately for the exhibition and shown upstairs in the interactive section. I also created a similar animation of the Barclays Cycle Hire, and colleagues created other map-based visualisations of the moving city.
The animated map shows the touch-ins (going into the network) and touch-outs (leaving the network) of Oyster cards at London’s tube and train stations, including a few beyond the Greater London boundary which still accept Oyster cards. Oyster cards are London’s travel smartcards. As the animation moves forwards in 10-minute intervals during the typical weekday, the balance between touch-ins and touch-outs is shown by a colour scale. Red indicates the great majority of taps are touch-ins, and green indicates mainly touch-outs. White is the “neutral” colour, indicating that roughly as many people are entering the network as leaving it, at that period in time.