Posts Tagged ‘Africa’

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 . . .

Save Darfur Map Poster

Monday, March 15th, 2010

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[Editor’s note: Plays off catch phrase: “Thought About Saving Darfur?” Saw this paper flier posted at a sandwich place near work in DC last week.]

Republished from SaveDarfur.org.

Natural Earth Vector Preview: Cities (Part 2)

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

Announced at NACIS in Sacramento, California in October, we’re closing in on final release of Natural Earth vector and raster map data.

Bill Buckingham wrapped up processing the Natural Earth Vector cities (populated places point locations) this week. I’ve been honing our admin-1 and admin-1 rankings and feature names (only 4,000 states and provinces around the world, wew!).

Bill’s added population estimates for each city based on LandScan. The technique allows the user to know both the relative “regional” importance of a town, regardless of it’s population, based on which map scales the feature should be visible (thanks to Dick Furno) at AND to know how many people live there.

By taking a composite of both, you can still show small population cities that are regionally important at a small type point size along with larger populated places at the smaller map scales.

We have about 6,500 cities in Natural Earth Vector. Over 90% of those have population estimates (the ones that don’t are usually out in the boondocks). Together, our cities capture over 3 billion people or half of humanity.

For comparison, most other populated place GIS files have only 2,000 some cities and they focus on country and first order administrative capitals with a bare smattering of other towns. For instance: Lagos, Nigeria or San Francisco, California.  This makes smaller countries with lots of administrative divisions (like Slovenia, Vietnam, or Jamaica) seems way more populated than larger countries with larger administrative divisions (like the United States). See the North America screenshot below for an example and look at the Caribbean versus United States.

They also don’t estimate populations, and if they do they use official census number that hide the true “metro”-style counting of people that should inform a thematic map regardless of formal administrative boundaries at the smaller map scales that Natural Earth excels at.

Now for some screenshots:

(Scale ranks, followed by population view color coded like the scale ranks with nodata green dots, then cyan dot version is ESRI cities overlayed)

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More continents o’ dots after the jump.

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Somalia in Despair (National Geographic)

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

somalia-map

[Editor's note: This month's National Geographic Magazine looks at Somalia and other so-called failed states (map above). I sometimes wonder if Mogadishu should even be shown as a capital city under the circumstances. In the north, Somaliland is a full fledged break away country and Puntland, also in the north, is semi-autonomous from the south. The accompanying chart illustrating the 2009 Failed States Index is a great example grouping by region and then ranking (not pictured here).]

Republished from National Geographic Magazine.
Sept. 2009. By Marguerite B. Hunsiker and M. Brody Dittemore.

While peace largely reigns in northern Somaliland, militias are battling for control in the south, and pirates flourish along the coast of semi-autonomous Puntland in the northeast. Conflict and drought have triggered a humanitarian catastrophe–more than a million people have fled their homes; 3.5 million need emergency food aid. Yet the lack of security makes it harder than ever to deliver help.

Continue reading at National Geographic Magazine . . .

Sudan’s Border Dispute Over Abyei. Do They Agree? Yes, No, and Sort Of (Economist)

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

cma980[Editor’s note: Update your 1st order admin maps! The long simmering feud between northern and southern Sudan was partially arbitrated by The Hague last month. The south will decide in a 2011 referendum the question of seceding from Sudan. Many observers see secession getting the thumbs up. The freshly shaped Abyei state will vote on joining or staying individually while all others in the south proper will vote en mass.]

Republished from The Economist.
Jul 30th 2009 | JUBA AND KHARTOUM

A ruling from The Hague pleases the north and vexes the south

OFFICIALS in Sudan’s government in Khartoum could hardly believe their luck when, on July 22nd, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled on the fate of the disputed Abyei state, which sits astride the oil-soaked border between Arab northern Sudan and the ethnically African (and largely Christian) south Sudan. Surprisingly, the court reversed an earlier commission’s ruling and redrew Abyei’s borders, snipping out the lucrative Heglig and Bamboo oilfields (see map) and giving them to the north.

The ownership of these oilfields has soured relations between the north and south Sudanese ever since a peace accord was signed between them in 2005, ending a civil war that had raged on and off for nearly half a century at a cost of some 2m lives. So tense had the situation in Abyei become that last year much of its capital was burned to the ground in fighting between militias from the two sides. Now, however, the north seems to have got what it wanted by law rather than by force.

Continue reading at The Economist . . .

Directional Signage and Maps in San Francisco

Friday, April 24th, 2009

Here are several pictures taken at the new California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco and at SFO airport last week. The museum’s exhibits and aquarium make extensive use of maps and directional signage. They even feature an lenticular foil showing before and after glacier loss. The California Beef Council map was seen at the Fry’s parking lot in San Jose. The bathroom signage is from the SFO airport where they have both an in and an out for the restrooms :)

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Gitmo In Limbo (Wash Post)

Wednesday, February 18th, 2009

[Editor’s note: While President Obama has committed to closing the military prison at Guantanamo Bay within a year, it’s hard to know what to do with some of the prisoners.

This graphic reminds me of the old adage about people being able to deal only 5±2 things at once. There are almost 200 countries in the world. It’s hard to keep track of them all. But there are only 7 continents, and those are easy to remember because it fits the 5±2 rule. To instead of listing out all those countries alphabetically or ordered by number of detainees, sometimes it is more useful to group them first by geographic “region”. Note: Washington Post style views the Middle East as a separate continent-level region from Asia. Thank also to Laris for formulating these ideas with me.

Why wasn’t this information shown on a map instead of listed in a structured table with charting? For several reasons: Geography, while useful as an metaphorical principle, does not function as a the most important thematic (organizing) principle in the distribution. We know nothing about where the individual detainees are from in each country so we would have had to create a by country choropleth map which would have given a false importance to larger countries like China, and been hard to show the three thematic subcategories. We could have placed the thematic symbols (1 for each detainee and color coded to their status, like in the table) on each country, but then it would have been harder to compare each country between countries for number and type of detainee as each entry would not have shared a common baseline. A table with charting accomplishes our goals: We list the countries sorted by number of detainees and grouped by continent. This serves the same function as a map would have in terms of giving in indication as to where each country is (metaphorical principle, reminding readers of the country’s location in the network topology). And we get to easily compare the quantities and thematic types associated with those countries at a glance because of the common chart axis baseline.

What exactly are continents anyhow? Geology seems to have moved on to plate techtonics with 20-some major plates that often meet or rip apart the middle of “continents”, but continents remain popular I think exactly because of the 5±2 rule.

Some cartographers are moving beyond the physical geography “continents” into top-level cultural regions. Allan Cartography’s Raven world map does exactly this, take a look. The same holds true for any large set of thematic data. Find the trends, group them together, and use that hierarchy (topology) as an access metaphor. And remember geography doesn’t always need to mean map. Your users will thank you.]

Republished from The Washington Post.
Orginally published: 16 February 2009.
Reporting by Julie Tate.

About a third of the detainees held at Guantanamo are either facing charges or approved for release. The rest are judged to be enemy combatants, and it is unclear whether they will be prosecuted, be released or continue to be held.


RELATED ARTICLE:
4 Cases Illustrate Guantanamo Quandaries
Administration Must Decide Fate of Often-Flawed Proceedings, Often-Dangerous Prisoners

Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 16, 2009; Page A01

In their summary of evidence against Mohammed Sulaymon Barre, a Somali detained at Guantanamo Bay, military investigators allege that he spent several years at Osama bin Laden’s compound in Sudan. But other military documents place him in Pakistan during the same period.

One hearing at Guantanamo cited his employment for a money-transfer company with links to terrorism financing. Another file drops any mention of such links.

Barre is one of approximately 245 detainees at the military prison in Cuba whose fate the Obama administration must decide in coming months. Teams of government lawyers are sorting through complex, and often flawed, case histories as they work toward President Obama’s commitment to close the facility within a year.

Much of the government’s evidence remains classified, but documents in Barre’s case, and a handful of others, underscore the daunting legal, diplomatic, security and political challenges.

As officials try to decide who can be released and who can be charged, they face a series of murky questions: what to do when the evidence is contradictory or tainted by allegations of torture; whether to press charges in military or federal court; what to do if prisoners are deemed dangerous but there is little or no evidence against them that would stand up in court; and where to send prisoners who might be killed or tortured if they are returned home.

Answering those questions, said current and former officials, is a massive undertaking that has been hampered by a lack of cooperation among agencies and by records that are physically scattered and lacking key details.

Continue reading at Washington Post . . .

Geography Awareness Week, 2007 Edition

Tuesday, November 13th, 2007

Google and National Geographic are getting into the spirit and have released one of the best Google Earth KMLs I have seen to commemorate Geography Awareness Week (Nov. 11th-17th). Disclosure: I used to work at National Geographic.

The map loads quite a few individual markers but zooms into just one and expands it’s “bubble” (providing an entry point into the graphic) and then proceeds thru the markers as the reader answers quiz questions on a variety of topics about Asia, this year’s featured continent. A far cry from the franticness of NG’s Ivory Wars KML data dump. You will need version 4.2 or better of Google Earth.

Check out the Asia Quiz KML: http://ngsednet.org/documents/ultimate_gaw07.kmz
General info: http://www.google.com/educators/gaw2007.html

Geog Awareness 2007