You Are Here: Data Visualizations at the Hyperlocal Level

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The Social Computing Group at the MIT Media Lab has launched an ambitious hyperlocal cartography project called “You Are Here” which has a goal to produce 100 maps showing a slice of life in 100 various U.S. cities (for a total of 10,000 maps).  The project is starting out with launching one map per day with the goal of eventually producing multiple maps per day (otherwise, as the FAQ notes, it will take the creators of the project 27 years to complete it).  Led by led by Sep Kamvar the Social Computing Group is made up of “computer scientists, mathematicians, artists, designers, and educators, working on creating design patterns, social processes and technical tools to make cities more vibrant, livable, healthy places“.

The debut map for the project was launched on March 31, 2014 and visualized the 746 bicycle crashes in the city of Cambridge, Massachusetts that occurred from 2010-2013 (pulling data from Cambridge Police Department Bicycle Accident Reports).  Python was used to extract the data and geocode it (using Google Maps API).  The map itself was developed using JavaScript and D3.  A street chart can be pulled down by clicking the Details menu at the top right of the screen.

Map showing bike crashes in Cambridge, Massachusetts from 2010-2013.

Map showing bike crashes in Cambridge, Massachusetts from 2010-2013.

Since then, with the exception of no map published on April 1, one map per day has been made available.  Current mapping topics involve biking and coffee shop data visualizations.

The latest maps take a look at micro communities surrounding independent coffee shops in Cambridge, San Francisco, Brooklyn, and Boston.  The researchers explain:

Independent coffee shops are positive markers of a living community. They function as social spaces, urban offices, and places to see the world go by. Communities are often formed by having spaces in which people can have casual interactions, and local and walkable coffee shops create those conditions, not only in the coffee shop themselves, but on the sidewalks around them. We use maps to know where these coffee shop communities exist and where, by placing new coffee shops, we can help form them.

The locations of all independent coffee shops were geocoded and then the Google Distance Matrix API was used to calculate routes of walkability surrounding each location (defined as within one kilometer or 0.7 miles).

Map of every independent coffee shop in San Fracisco and the walking-shed community associated with it.

Map of every independent coffee shop in San Fracisco and the walking-shed community associated with it.


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