August 23, 2011

Summer Vacation

August is the season for summer vacations and things are no different here at Floating Sheep. The collective has been taking it easy this month but we're gearing up for the Fall mapping season. This includes some detailed analysis and maps of crowd sourced data on the geography of the underground economy of marijuana. Stay tuned!

Until then we thought it worthwhile to revisit our analysis of the Geography of Vacation which we first posted back in February 2010.


Over the past few months, we've published a number of maps showing the automatically- and user-generated online representations of place, from the seedy to the holy to the hoppy. Perhaps you've found yourself thinking, "I'd sure like to go there!", wherever there may be. So where exactly is it that people want to go?

The following maps show the incongruities between these automatically- and user-generated representations of place when searching for "tourism" and "vacation" in Google Maps. The values in each of the four maps were normalized using the national average for each search term, with any points not 20% greater than the average (indexed value >1.2) being excluded. These maps thus specifically show the places in which there is a higher-than-average concentration of placemarks (either user-generated or directory) mentioning the words "tourism" or "vacation".

Tourism: Directory

Tourism: User-Generated

Perhaps the starkest contrast between these maps of tourism is the much smaller number of user-generated placemarks as compared to the automatically-generated directory placemarks, usually drawn from pre-existing sources like the Yellow Pages. In moving from directory to user-generated representations, almost all rural locations disappear from the map, although the vast areas west of the Mississippi River with no information at all show that even some urban areas don't possess larger-than-average amounts of tourism-related information.

Vacation: Directory

Vacation: User-Generated

Shifting our attention to searches for "vacation", it is interesting that in this case, user-generated representations still have considerable coverage across the United States. Moreover user generated references to vacation differ from the "official" map of vacation based on Google Maps directory listings.[1] That is, "vacation" shows up most often in New York City in the Google Maps directory but user-generated representations show that Orlando, Florida, the home of Disney World, is the place to go on your coveted break each year.

God help us all.

Take note as well, that coastal areas all across the United States are prominent in the peer produced constructions of vacation, from the coastal Carolinas and Georgia to the Gulf Coast, and even throughout California, Oregon and Washington. So perhaps there is hope of eluding our mouse overlords after all.

Most importantly, these maps call our attention to the significant variances in how place is perceived online, depending on what measures are being used to represent these constructions. Even if it's possible to dig a hole through the planet on Google Earth, the difference between, and within, places remains as important as ever.

[1] This is also one of the few cases in which the maximum value in a map deviates from one of the nation's largest urban areas.

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