Archive for the ‘General’ Category

German dialects and migration: How linguistic variations affect where Germans choose to live (Economist)

Friday, August 13th, 2010

201012eum978[Editor's note: Sprechen Sie Deutsch? I keep returning to this article from the Economist from earlier this year in March. You might also enjoy: What's the point of counties? (UK) and The English apple season starts – though they're hard to find.]

Republished from the Economist.

FEW Germans now say Appel rather thanApfel (apple) or maken instead of machen(to make). The north German dialects that use such variants are mostly dead or dying. But the cultural differences that they reflect still govern behaviour today, says a paper from the Institute for the Study of Labour, in Bonn*.

Acting on imperial orders in the 1880s, a linguist called Georg Wenker asked pupils from 45,000 schools across the new Reich to translate standard German sentences into local dialect. The results were used to compile an atlas of linguistic diversity. The new paper shows that Wenker’s dialect regions still define the comfort zones in which Germans prefer to live. When people migrate within Germany, they tend to go to places where dialects resemble those spoken in their home region 120 years ago.

German dialects, formed by geography and political and religious fragmentation, express deep-seated cultural differences. These persist even though borders between petty princedoms are invisible (and often no longer audible). Even small differences count. Swabians share Baden-Württemberg with Badeners. Both spoke Alemannic dialects. But Swabians, who say Haus (house), have a bias against living in the neighbouring old grand duchy, where they say Huus.

That trade is livelier among regions that share a language is well known. The paper’s authors think they are the first to find a similar effect within a single language in one country. They measure migration not trade, because the data are better and cultural factors matter more. The best predictors are still Wenker’s maps. “Even when we don’t speak dialect, the cultural territory is still there,” says Alfred Lameli, one of the authors.

Does this confuse cause and effect? Regions may have similar dialects because earlier generations migrated and their descendants follow suit. To rule this out, the authors looked at the way communist East Germany weakened social links that encourage migration. After unification, they found, the old migration patterns came back, suggesting that migrants respond to cultural factors more than to social ties. It seems that neither television, nor the autobahn, nor even the Kaiser, has created a single country in Germany.

*“Dialects, Cultural Identity, and Economic Exchange” by Oliver Falck, Stephan Heblich, Alfred Lameli and Jens Südekum, IZA, February 2010

Food Photos: Around The World In 80 Diets

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

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[Editor's note: A new coffee table photo book from Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio. "Menzel's photographs are accompanied by D'Aluisio's text, which delineates each diet but also gives cultural context." Above, a camel broker in Egypt. Thanks Aly!]

Republished from NPR.

How many calories do you consume in a day? Is it more or less than the recommended 2,000? How does it compare to the butter-rich 4,900 of a Tibetan monk — or the scant 800 of a Maasai herder in Kenya? These are the questions asked by photographer Peter Menzel and his wife, Faith D’Aluisio, in their new book, What I Eat: Around the World in 80 Diets.

“I want people to understand their own diets better — and their own chemistry and their own biology,” Menzell tells NPR’s Michele Norris. “And make better decisions for themselves.” To do that, he and D’Aluisio decided to lay it all out. Literally.

Continue reading at NPR . . .

Steps into Mapping the Unmapped (Rural Focus) – Mapping on Mount Elgon (Mapping: No Big Deal)

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

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[Editor's note: Humorous take on surveying and ground truthing from the neogeography perspective in Africa. Topics include season planning, mental maps, asking for local knowledge, keeping a trip diary, and sharing results back with the surveyed community.]

Republished from Mapping: No Big Deal.

Mapping hardly accessible, rural areas, is always a challenge. Each area differs so you have to tackle it in its own special way. Yet some basic steps are always the same. I have written some of them down.

In July, Mildred and I went mapping on Mount Elgon as contractors for the National Democratic Institute (NDI) on behalf of Map Kibera. They needed information regarding polling stations in the area for their work on election monitoring. The information included geographic location, accessibility – both physical accessibility and the availability of cell phone service, information related to infrastructure of these stations, and speed of travel to each individual station.

Here is how we tackled the problems step by step:

1. Season planning.

The first and most important step in planning the mapping project is season planning. Obviously you want your work to run smoothly, without too many interruptions which is most of the time not the case. Season planning saves time, energy, money and nerves, takes the nature out of the equation, and lets you focus on other – project related problems.

While mapping on Mount Elgon we overlooked this very crucial step because the results were urgently needed. In an ignorant human and naïve researchers manner we  thought we could conquer nature or at least go over every obstacle it put on our way. We should have known better. June and July being the peak of winter, it was cold and raining all the time. We only had a window of six hours per day when we could work, and the other eight hours we tried to save ourselves from the mountain. Because of the rain, roads became impassable and everything came to a standstill. I can comfortably say we lost at least two to three days of mapping because of the rain and as a result we lost money.

Continue reading at Mapping: No Big Deal . . .

Exploring Place through User-generated Content: Using Flickr to Describe City Cores (Spatial Info Sci)

Monday, August 9th, 2010

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[Editor's note: Good focus on vernacular geography, on how we name and describe space, with a particular focus on downtown city cores explored thru millions of photos on Flickr. "Importantly, it deals with regions which are typically not represented in formal administrative gazetteers and which are often considered to be vague." Never seen Flickr geography before? Check out Aaron's flickr shapetiles (map), shpfile browser, and geotagger world atlas.]

Republished from the Journal of Spatial Information Science.
By Livia Hollenstein and Ross Purves

Terms used to describe city centers, such as Downtown, are key concepts in everyday or vernacular language. Here, we explore such language by harvesting georeferenced and tagged metadata associated with 8 million Flickr images and thus consider how large numbers of people name city core areas. The nature of errors and imprecision in tagging and georeferencing are quantified, and automatically generated precision measures appear to mirror errors in the positioning of images. Users seek to ascribe appropriate semantics to images, though bulk-uploading and bulk-tagging may introduce bias. Between 0.5–2% of tags associated with georeferenced images analyzed describe city core areas generically, while 70% of all georeferenced images analyzed include specific place name tags, with place names at the granularity of city names being by far the most common. Using Flickr metadata, it is possible not only to describe the use of the term Downtown across the USA, but also to explore the borders of city center neighborhoods at the level of individual cities, whilst accounting for bias by the use of tag profiles.

Continue reading via their PDF . . .

The Agnostic Cartographer: Google’s maps are embroiling the company in the world’s touchiest geopolitical disputes

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

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[Editor's note: Like other mapping company operating internationally, Google has to meet multiple objectives when delineating national frontiers.  This article from the Washington Monthly discusses some of the hot water the company has gotten itself into. Google recently rolled out higher-precision boundary lines in it's Maps and Earth products to address some of these concerns. Image above: Picturesque but contentious: Google Maps made this village Chinese, temporarily. India wasn’t pleased. Photo: Annabelle Breakey. Thanks GeoStuff!]

Republished from Washington Monthly.
By John Gravois

One fateful day in early August, Google Maps turned Arunachal Pradesh Chinese. It happened without warning. One minute, the mountainous border state adjacent to Tibet was labeled with its usual complement of Indian place-names; the next it was sprinkled with Mandarin characters, like a virtual annex of the People’s Republic.

The error could hardly have been more awkward. Governed by India but claimed by China, Arunachal Pradesh has been a source of rankling dispute between the two nations for decades. Google’s sudden relabeling of the province gave the appearance of a special tip of the hat toward Beijing. Its timing, moreover, was freakishly bad: the press noticed that Google’s servers had started splaying Mandarin place-names all over the state only a few hours before Indian and Chinese negotiating teams sat down for talks in New Delhi to work toward resolving the delicate border issue.

Google rushed to admit its mistake, but not before a round of angry Indian blog posts and news articles had flourished online. Some commentators posited outright conspiracy between Beijing and the search engine. “Google Maps has always been more biased towards China over the Arunachal Pradesh border dispute,” surmised an Indian blogger. Even more ominously, one former member of Parliament told the Times of India, “The Chinese know how to time their statements ahead of a bilateral meeting.”

Google responded in a manner that radiated chilly omnipresence—by posting a statement in the comments section of what appeared to be every single Web site that had discussed the mix-up. “The change was a result of a mistake in our processing of new map data,” Google announced. “We are in the process of reverting the data to its previous state, and expect the change to be visible in the product shortly.”

One mystery remained, however: how did such an error happen in “the product” in the first place? Why did Google have that perfect set of Chinese names lying around, ready to swap in for the Indian ones?

Continue reading at Washington Monthly . . .

Maybe places are more about time than location: Retrofitting Geo for the 4th Dimension (Fekaylius)

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

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[Editor's note: Thanks Sylvain!]

Republished from Fekaylius’s place.

We are in a period of mass-market place ambiguity.

Places drift, jump, and fade, physically. Some places have a much higher propensity towards noticeable drift than others, but location, in general, is not stable. The geo-web of the past few years has mostly ignored this as a low impact edge case. The era of the Google Maps API dramatically boosted developer productivity and interest within the geo space because it simplified and lowered the barriers to entry, while simultaneously reinforcing a few paradigms that find easy adoption within rapidly moving startups and business, ideas like “the perfect is the enemy of the good” and “solve for the 80% use case”. Startups are constantly faced with a to-do list that can never be 100% complete, but these catchy ideas formalize and automate the painful process of deeming some desires unworthy of your attention. Since 80% of the places that most people are searching for, or reviewing, or visiting feel relatively immune to change (at least in the “several years” lifespan much of today’s software is being designed for), we have very quickly built up a stiff and rigid framework around these places to facilitate the steep adoption of these now ubiquitous geo-services. The rigidity is manifest in the ways that place drift isn’t handled, places are assumed to be permanent.

Continue reading at Fekaylius’ place . . .

TRAVERSE ME: Warwick campus GPS map (gpsdrawing.com)

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

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[Editor's note: One step closer to Johnathan Swift's 1:1 map of the world. "Walking 238 miles with a GPS generates a beautiful, freehand-looking map of college campus." Thanks amproehl!]

Republished from GISdrawing.com.

Traverse Me is a map drawn by walking across campus with a GPS device to invite the viewer to see a different landscape to that which surrounds them. It questions the possibilities of where they are and inspires a personal reading of their movements and explorations of the campus.

I responded to the structure of each location and avoided walking along roads and paths when possible.
The route was recorded with GPS technology and was walked in stages over the 300 hectare site.

Continue reading and view photos at GISdrawing.com . . .

Map: Top Secret America, A Washington Post Investigation (Kelso via WaPo)

Monday, July 19th, 2010

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[Editor's note: The government has built a national security and intelligence system so big, so complex, and so hard to manage, no one really knows if it's fulfilling its most important purpose: keeping citizens safe. Discover the top-secret work being done in your community via our map and search relationships within this complex world on our network diagram. Monday's story focuses on the growth in Top Secret America since 9/11. Next up we cover the government's increasing dependence on contractors and delve into the Top Secret America neighborhood around Ft. Meade, Maryland. The map is constructed in Flash using the Google Maps API with custom map tiles for zooms 0 to 5. The government and company locations and work relationships are gathered from publicly available records. This project has been in the works for over a year, I hope you enjoy!]

Republished from The Washington Post.

A hidden world, growing beyond control

By Dana Priest and William M. Arkin

The top-secret world the government created in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has become so large, so unwieldy and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work.

These are some of the findings of a two-year investigation by The Washington Post that discovered what amounts to an alternative geography of the United States, a Top Secret America hidden from public view and lacking in thorough oversight. After nine years of unprecedented spending and growth, the result is that the system put in place to keep the United States safe is so massive that its effectiveness is impossible to determine.

Watch the intro video at The Washington Post . . .

Read the article . . .

Interact with the map . . .

The end of movable type in China (idsyn)

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

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[Editor's note: Ever wonder what the Movable Type blog platform is named after? "While Western letterpress printing has made a recent revival, what was once considered one of the Four Great Inventions of Ancient China is no longer a sustainable practice in its country of origin." Thanks Design Observer!]

Republished from idsyn.

Wai Che Printing Company, preserved by its 81-year-old owner Lee Chak Yu, has operated on Wing Lee Street with its bilingual lead type collection and original Heidelberg Cylinder machine for over 50 years. Curious to learn more, I visited Wai Che—one of the last remaining letterpress shops in Hong Kong—to understand how Chinese movable type differed and why this trade has become obsolete.

Movable type, made influential by Johannes Gutenberg around 1440, was one of the greatest technological advances defining typography as we know it today. Invented in China by Bi Sheng 400 years earlier during the Song Dynasty, movable type was created as a system to print lengthy Buddhist scripture. As Chinese characters were mostly square, characters of uniform size and shape were easily interchangeable for printing. Kerning was not an issue; the letterforms had a balanced visual appearance by nature.

When entering the Chinese letterpress shop, an instant observation was the vast amount of characters in each set of type. Characters of the Latin alphabet were often organized either by uppercase and lowercase (so named because of the separate cases to differentiate between majuscule and minuscule letterforms) or more recently in a California Job Case. Instead of using a type drawer, Chinese characters were typically stored in cube shelving with the type stacked into a square or column, facing outward for easy identification. Using a pair of tweezers, printers carefully picked characters out of a wall of tiled type and placed them onto a composing stick before setting up the chase.

Continue reading at idsyn . . .

Nolli map of Rome, Interactive version of 1748 masterpiece

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

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[Editor's: I was reminded of Nolli's work by Michal Migurski this weekend. Fresh off the heals of his award winning interactive version of the 2001 Atlas of Oregon, Erik Steiner presents the original Nolli map in a Flash-based interface to toggle annotation layers and zoom into the engraving. Extensive scholarly background is also provided on the site. Eric is now the lab director of the Spatial History Lab at Stanford University.]

Republished from University of Oregon.

The 1748 Map of Rome, by Giambattista Nolli is widely regarded by scholars as one of the most important historical documents of the city ever created and serves to geo-reference a vast body of information to better understand the Eternal City and its key role in shaping Western Civilization. The Nolli Map Web Site introduces students to Rome and the structure of its urban form; it illustrates the evolution of the city over time; and it reveals diverse factors that determined its development.

Giambattista Nolli (1701-1756) was an architect and surveyor who lived in Rome and devoted his life to documenting the architectural and urban foundations of the city. The fruit of his labor, La Pianta Grande di Roma (“the great plan of Rome”) is one of the most revealing and artistically designed urban plans of all time. The Nolli map is an ichnographic plan map of the city, as opposed to a bird’s eye perspective, which was the dominant cartographic representation style prevalent before his work. Not only was Nolli one of the first people to construct an ichnographic map of Rome, his unique perspective has been copied ever since.

The map depicts the city in astonishing detail. Nolli accomplished this by using scientific surveying techniques, careful base drawings, and minutely prepared engravings. The map’s graphic representations include a precise architectural scale, as well as a prominent compass rose, which notes both magnetic and astronomical north. The Nolli map is the first accurate map of Rome since antiquity and captures the city at the height of its cultural and artistic achievements. The historic center of Rome has changed little over the last 250 years; therefore, the Nolli map remains one of the best sources for understanding the contemporary city.

The intention of this website is to reveal both the historical significance of the map and the principles of urban form that may influence city design in the future. During the last half of the 20th century, architects and urban designers have shown a renewed interest in what the Nolli map has to offer, leading to new urban theories and a model for the study of all cities.

Interact with the map at UofO . . .