New Orleans: ‘Totally Unrealistic’ Fantasy City

Don’t miss writer and game designer James L. Sutter critiquing New Orleans as though it was a city from a fantasy novel. A major criticism of fantasy maps, whether of cities or worlds, is their lack of realism: unrealistic rivers, mountains and so forth. New Orleans, with its totally unrealistic terrain, doesn’t pass the test. “Please clean up your map and resubmit when it follows the rules of a real-world city,” Sutter concludes.

Globes Exhibit in Abu Dhabi

Here’s something to do if you’re in the United Arab Emirates. Opening tomorrow (23 March) at the Louvre Abu Dhabi and running until 2 June, Globes: Visions of the World presents works from the Bibliothèque nationale de France and other loaned works, including more than 40 globes.

Starting with the great minds of ancient Greece, the exhibition follows humanity’s never-ending quest for knowledge and adventure. Uncover the vital role played by the pioneering scientists of the Islamic world, and track the ancient science of astronomy as it passed through Muslim Spain in the 10th and the 11th centuries. See the earliest-known celestial globes from the Islamic world and one of the earliest known Arab astrolabe in the world.

More at the Khaleej Times. [Tony Campbell]

Atlas Obscura Readers’ Dream Islands: The Results

I mentioned Atlas Obscura’s call for readers to submit maps of their perfect dream island, but I neglected to post a link to the resultsAtlas Obscura: “We received submissions from readers young and old, all full of fun and creative details. Entries included islands full of cats (there were several of those, in fact), political strongholds, simple sandbar paradises, intricate hidden bases, guinea pig sanctuaries, and poetic dreamscapes.”

Traffic Congestion, Mobile Apps and Game Theory

There have been numerous complaints that mobile map apps have been dumping traffic from freeways onto nearby residential streets (previously). But a team of researchers, including Berkeley’s Alexandre Bayen, have been looking at the problem from the perspective of game theory (see papers here and here). Basically, the apps operate selfishly, and lead to results for all drivers that are less good than if they had been working cooperatively. It’s an example of the Nash equilibrium. More at Boing Boing and CityLab.

Don’t Put Shetland in a Box

Wikimedia Commons

Shetland’s representative to the Scottish Parliament has moved an amendment to proposed legislation that would require public authorities to portray Shetland “accurately and proportionately” in Scottish maps: BBC News, iNewsThe Scotsman. Because Shetland is so far to the northeast of the island of Great Britain, it’s usually shown in an inset map; this move would, it seems, prohibit this, and presumably require Scottish maps to show vast tracts of ocean (as above). [NLS Maps]

Alejandro Polanco’s Minimal Geography

Our friend Alejandro Polanco has produced a nifty infographic poster map that is centred, for a change, on the Dymaxion projection. The central map is surrounded by lots of little inset maps and infographics. Called Minimal Geography, it’s available for sale via Kickstarter as a €6 digital download in two print sizes. A second reward level adds a full edition of Alejandro’s Maptorian.

U.S. Supreme Court Rejects Republican Appeal of New Pennsylvania Congressional Map

CNN: “The Supreme Court has denied a request from Pennsylvania Republicans to block new congressional maps that could tilt several key races in Democrats’ favor from being used in the midterm elections.” The new map was imposed by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court after the state’s governor and legislature failed to come up with a replacement for the previous map, which the court had declared unconstitutional; see previous entry.

Meanwhile, last month Wired published a piece that looks at how experts used math and computer simulations to prove to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court that the congressional map exhibited partisan bias. It’s an interesting look at some interesting methodologies.

Van Duzer Assesses Urbano Monte’s Work

David Rumsey Map Collection

More on Urbano Monte’s 1587 world map, a copy of which the Rumsey Collection acquired last year (see previous entry). Chet Van Duzer presented his findings on the map and the mapmaker at Stanford last month, LiveScience reports. His conclusion? Monte was “both a mastermind and a copycat”—and not a very good artist, either. But the map is still very interesting. [WMS]

OpenStreetMap and Its Women Contributors

When I started contributing edits to OpenStreetMap in earnest, I couldn’t help notice certain idiosyncrasies in its tagging: for example, there was a tag for brothels, which I didn’t need to use, but there wasn’t one for daycares, which in Quebec there are rather a lot of. That seemed odd. And it was indicative of a project whose contributors were overwhelmingly male. On CityLab, Sarah Holder examines OSM’s abysmally low female participation rate (only two to five percent of contributors are women), makes the case for better representation, and looks at where women are making a difference to the map. Because a map built overwhelmingly by men can have some massive blind spots.

When it comes to increasing access to health services, safety, and education—things women in many developing countries disproportionately lack—equitable cartographic representation matters. It’s the people who make the map who shape what shows up. On OSM, buildings aren’t just identified as buildings; they’re “tagged” with specifics according to mappers’ and editors’ preferences. “If two to five percent of our mappers are women, that means only a subset of that get[s] to decide what tags are important, and what tags get our attention,” said Levine.

Sports arenas? Lots of those. Strip clubs? Cities contain multitudes. Bars? More than one could possibly comprehend.

Meanwhile, childcare centers, health clinics, abortion clinics, and specialty clinics that deal with women’s health are vastly underrepresented. In 2011, the OSM community rejected an appeal to add the “childcare” tag at all. It was finally approved in 2013, and in the time since, it’s been used more than 12,000 times.

Interestingly, when you look at crisis mappers, the female participation rate jumps: to 27 percent, based on a survey of the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team community.

Comparing Cartograms


Datawrapper has added population cartograms to its map collections, and in its blog post discusses the advantages and disadvantages of cartograms vs. geographical maps, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of some of the different types of cartograms. Turns out that cartograms are kind of like map projections: each has its pros and cons; each is better suited to some uses than to others. [Caitlin Dempsey]

Ogilby’s Britannia

John Ogilby, The Road From London to the Lands End, 1675.

Something I missed when I posted about Alan Ereira’s biography of 17th-century cartographer John Ogilby: scans of all 100 plates of his 1675 atlas, Britannia—considered the first road atlas of Great Britain—are available online at this site. [Tom Harper]

Previously: New Biography of 17th-Century Cartographer John Ogilby.