September 29, 2010

Youtube Censorship

An editorial in the NY Times this morning reminded me that Google is making some interesting data available about user created content, censorship and Geography on the Internet, namely Google's Transparency Project. It includes both data on government requests to censor and traffic flows by country. The direct requests to censor is a difficult variable to understand (i.e., not well specified, see the FAQ) but the traffic data reveals some really interesting patterns.

One of the most striking examples of censorship relates to Youtube which is also clearly tied to user generated content (of great interest to Floatingsheep). Using the Google interface one can see how access to this stream of user content has been restricted over time and space.

This is essentially one look at the flip side (location of consumption of user created content) of what Floatingsheep normally looks at (location of the production of user created content)

Some of the more striking examples are below (or play with the data yourself).

Given Canada's strong protection for personal liberty it is a good comparison to other countries. Note: all countries have some variation likely tied to normal congestion/outages on the Internet. The key is to look for big changes (i.e., drops) in the level of access. You can also compare the general level of access to Youtube between countries, e.g., compare Canada to Cuba.

CANADA, an example of a country with strong
protections for personal liberty

IRAN: Note the drop right after the disputed
2009 elections and protests

CHINA: Youtube is just not an option

TUNISIA: Also blocking Youtube

CUBA: Some access but lower than Canada

PAKISTAN: Access but an effort to censor during
a specific time period

TURKEY: Perhaps the most interesting, declining availability
of Youtube over time.

September 24, 2010

Visualizing Digiplace

Two of the basic concepts we use here at Floatingsheep are:

Cyberscape, or the cloud of geo-coded information through which we move everyday (handy visualization of cyberscape here).


Digiplace, or the sorting of cyberscapes, often by software algorithms such as Google’s pagerank, to filter content and avoid information overload. A key part of digiplace is how it makes some parts of the cyberscape more visible while peripheralizing other areas.

We’ve never had a good visualization of digiplace…at least until now. But Taylor’s recent search (via his iPhone) on Google Maps for the keyword "Kroger grocery" resulted in a nice example. In the image below, Kroger’s is in the upper left and is marked by a red push pin. Interestingly, Meijer's, another grocery store chain, also shows up as a sponsored link. Digiplace in action.


While Google Maps does clearly label Meijer’s as a “sponsored link”, i.e., "paid for placement”, the digiplace produced by this search does change visibility within the retail landscape.

For further reading, see:
Zook, M. and M. Graham. 2007. The Creative Reconstruction of the Internet: Google and the privatization of cyberspace and DigiPlace. GeoForum 38(6): 1322-1343

Zook, M. and M. Graham. 2007. Mapping DigiPlace: Geo-coded Internet Data and the Perception of Place. Environment and Planning B 34(3): 466-482.

September 22, 2010

Floatingsheep in Mapping America

As any of you who have kept up with Floatingsheep for very long may know, we get quite excited when our work appears elsewhere - on the web, in books, in journals, on t-shirts and even beer steins. Most of the time such appearances are unexpected, and we just happen to stumble across them. Other times, the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing and 2/3 of the Floatingsheep crew is wondering how in the world one of our maps ended up in a new book, when the other 1/3 had spent his precious summer hours making a map quasi-acceptable for said publication...

Bitterness aside, a very fresh and revised version of our map depicting the prevalence of abortion providers and abortion alternatives has been published in a new book, Mapping America: Exploring the Continent by Fritz Kessler. Thanks to Martin Dodge for taking a picture of our appearance in the book and alerting some of us to its existence for the first time.

September 16, 2010

More Fun with Correlations

As we explored in an earlier post there are some interesting correlations (at the state level) between the number of references to beer and Christianity in the geoweb relative to obesity. (Recap: while it looks like Christianity is causing obesity it really a matter of income).

We're starting to look deeper at the interrelation of content on the geoweb but before we do, we thought we finally post a couple more obesity correlations. And to reiterate, the obesity data is coming from the CDC, not us.

This time around we compared the relative frequency of geoweb references to "feminist" and "gay" to the offline level of obesity at the state level. As the two graphs below demonstrate, states with more references to these two topics are less obese. Again, per capita income is likely an important (albeit not the only) factor in shaping these variables.

It is, however, interesting to look at the outliers from the general trend, e.g., Colorado in particular. Although it has the lowest level of obesity in any of the states, the relative number of references to "gay" and "feminist" in its cyberscape is much lower than states with similar obesity. In other words, to fit into the overall norm of U.S. states, Coloradans need to either (1) gain a lot more weight or (2) start using the terms "gay" and "feminist" more.

Food (pun intended) for thought. Stay tuned as we belly up for some falafel, wine and shepherd's pie.

Feminist and Obesity

Gay and Obesity

September 02, 2010

Recent Working Papers from Floatingsheep

In addition to blog postings we have written a number of academic papers which form the Floatingsheep Working Paper Series. Email us if the links don't work for you.

**** Floatingsheep Working Paper Series ****

  • Zook, M., Graham, M. and C. Wallace. 2010. Ubiquitous Information or Digital Archipelagos? Variable Geographies of User-Generated Content. (under review). Email us
  • Shelton, T., Zook, M. and M. Graham. 2010. The Technology of Religion: Mapping Religious Cyberscapes. (under review) Email us
  • Graham, M. and M. Zook. 2010. Visualizing the Global Cyberscape: Mapping User Generated Placemarks. Journal of Urban Technology. Forthcoming. Email us
  • Zook, M., Graham, M. and T. Shelton. 2010. The Presidential Placemark Poll. In Atlas of the 2008 Elections (S. Brunn Editor). Forthcoming. Email us
  • Zook, M. and M. Graham. 2007. From Cyberspace to DigiPlace: Visibility in an Age of Information and Mobility. Chapter in Societies and Cities in the Age of Instant Access Eds. Harvey Miller and Howard Rheingold. 231-244. Email us