November 24, 2011

The “Thanksgivingest” place in the United States

By popular request (Ok, one person mentioned it) we are pleased to re-post our analysis of Thanksgiving from 2010. Besides we didn't manage to pull together a new holiday post in time. Happy Turkey Day!

---- Originally posted Thanksgiving 2010 ----

Given the interest last year in our “Search for Santa” posting it seems only natural for us to also analyze the spatial dimensions of other holidays. Given the upcoming Thanksgiving break (which has resulted in a campus wiped as empty as a post-dinner sweet potato and marshmallow casserole dish) the remaining cadre of the FloatingSheep faithful turned their penetrating gaze (much like Uncle Lester when the pumpkin pies come out) to the age old question: what is the most “Thanksgivingest” place in the United States?

OK, maybe we just made that question up but it makes a nice rhetorical flourish.

Drawing upon Google Maps data from November 2010, we calculated the presence of the keyword “thanksgiving” in the geoweb (or cyberscape) layer of 14,000 unique points in the lower 48 states. The map below illustrates the resulting spattering of thanksgivingness across the golden brown skin of the United States with large metropolitan areas representing moist succulent slices of holiday spirit; the veritable “breast meat” of Thanksgivingness.

Raw Thanksgivingness, November 2010
The raw score, however, is merely the appetizer of a multi-course analysis, such as standardizing for the overall size of the geoweb at each point. (Hopefully the first map has not ruined your appetite). This metric is akin to a per capita measure (e.g., income per person) except it represents Thanksgivingness per Geowebnicity. Points that scored high on this measure had a larger proportion of their spatial web activity focused on Thanksgiving (see the map below).

Thanksgivingness per Geowebnicity , November 2010
Just as tilting your dinner plate will shift the location of cranberries, this standardized measure reconfigures the spatial visualization of Thanksgivingness. Interestingly much of the Eastern United States and large metropolitan areas drop out of this visualization. In contrast, areas such as southern Utah and northern Arizona, the central valley of California and the Cascade range in Washington and Oregon rise faster than a Butterball pop-up turkey timer. Clearly by this standardized measure the Western U.S. is Thanksgivinger than the East. Although the site of the original Thanksgiving (Plymouth, MA), Key West and the interior of Maine also seem to have gotten “their turkey on”.

The final entrĂ©e of this research is a hot spot analysis (based on the Getis-Ord Gi* statistic) that looks at both the values of individual points but also the values of its neighbors. Concentrations of spots with statistically significantly high values are designated “hot” while locations with uniformly low values are “cold”. The map below highlights the contours of “hot” and “cold” concentrations (based on standardized data) for Thanksgiving. Areas without dots were not found to be statistically significant concentrations of hot or cold.

Hot and Cold Spots for Thanksgivingness per Geowebnicity, November 2010
One sees hot spots (represented in shades of red) of “Thanksgiving-ness” spread like a rich (albeit seemingly randomly distributed) gravy over the landscape of the western U.S. Upon closer inspection, however, it is easy to distinguish the “wishbone of thanksgiving” expanding from its base south of El Paso, TX across New Mexico and Arizona before cleaving into twin clavicles at the apparent fulcrum point at Las Vegas, one of the few major metropolitan areas that ended up as a “hot spot”. Must be all the buffets.

From Vegas, one branch of the wishbone expands eastward through northern Arizona and Utah before a splintering end at the edge of Montana and the Dakotas while the other moves up California’s central valley and along the Cascades before settling in at Seattle. A hot spot of Thanksgivingness is evident along the Big Sur coast between Monterey and San Luis Obispo where evidently people have a lot to be thankful for. The same goes for Key West and also apparently (and rather surprisingly) the interior of Maine.

But with the hot also comes the cold and we need consider those areas trending more towards “Thanksgivinglessness” (represented in shades of blue). Spreading from Michigan to the gulf coast like an unappetizing mound of congealed mashed potatoes, these cold spots dominate much of the non-coastal Midwest and South. Even FloatingSheep’s headquarters in Lexington, KY seems immersed in a decided cool (verging on gelatinous) spot in distribution of Thanksgivingness per Geowebnicity.

Of course this analysis is based on the level of Thanksgiving in the geoweb so interpret it with that in mind. Still it does seem that Key West, Las Vegas and the Big Sur coast demand further fieldwork on this topic. So it seems like my winter break plans are in order.

And central Maine? Sounds like an excellent chance for the enhancement of graduate student education.

Happy Thanksgiving….

p.s. Many thanks to Jeff Levy who generated the maps for this posting.

November 18, 2011

Geography of Dirty Hipsters

Did you every wonder where the highest concentration of results for the search term "dirty hipster" would be? Well we did, and building upon our last post the findings (limited to the U.S.) are below.

Largest Concentration of References to "Dirty Hipster"

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Second Largest Concentration of References to "Dirty Hipster"

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November 16, 2011

The tea party, hipsters, and the methodological limitations of Internet mapping.

America traditionally likes to party. Well, at least engage in the throwing tea off ships into harbors and annoy-the-English kind of party. And let's face it, who doesn't enjoy annoying the English now and again?

Arguably poking fun at the English is the only activity that the two groups we are comparing today -- the new "tea party" movement and "hipsters" -- may share in common. Or not. Both groups probably enjoy a party and the occasional beer. Of course, "tea partiers" will be complaining about taxes on alcohol and "hipsters" will be drinking the beer ironically whilst watching other people party and discussing bands you've probably never heard of.

Unfortunately, parties really have very little (OK, nothing) to do with this post, but they are a (rather forced) way of introducing our comparison of online references to 'hipsters' and the 'tea party'.
Interestingly, America is covered by far more references to the tea party than to hipsters. There are a few pockets of expected hipsterdom: San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York City, and of course Seattle. But otherwise the country is characterized by far more online attention given to the tea partiers. But we need to ask why that is? Is it because tea partiers have an identity they like to flaunt, whereas hipsters might tend to see the essence of hipster identity in others rather than themselves? After all, who really ever admits to being a hipster?

Or perhaps the technology itself is an explanatory factor here. Whilst (hipsters love to use the term whilst) we are somewhat shocked that the tea party, or at least people who talk about them, are harnessing the power of a technology designed and sponsored by the American/socialist/fascist/Kenyan government that is the subject of so much of their ire, they nonetheless maintain an impressive web presence.

Hipsters on the other hand, undoubtedly are proficient social media users, but we doubt they are using the word "hipster" on their sleek tumblr pages. Perhaps it would simply not be ironic enough? Other varieties of hipster, like their tea-throwing brethren of yesteryear, might eschew modern technology altogether and communicate using hand written notes or retro typewriters or cool early 20th century printing presses requiring months of careful restoration. In any case, in contrast to tea partiers, hipsters' general lack of self-professed identity means that they are less likely to create digital traces explicitly referencing themselves online.

And, ultimately, this is the point of this post. Mapping keywords in Google is often an incredibly useful exercise, but it can take hipsters and tea partiers to demonstrate some of the significant methodological limitations of such an exercise.

November 14, 2011

Mapping Wikipedia Globally

Wikipedia is an incredibly impressive coming-together of human labour on a scale that the world rarely sees. Over the last few years, we've also seen a few maps of the encyclopedia (including some work on this blog) which have shown that the project is far from complete (whatever that might mean).

That doesn't mean we should stop mapping the project though, and as part of a multi-year project to study Wikipedia in the Middle East, North Africa, and East Africa, we present this global-scale maps of every article in the November 2011 version of the English Wikipedia.
The English encyclopedia is by far the largest, and currently hosts almost 700,000 geotagged articles (click on the image for a larger and more detailed version):

Each one of these yellow dots represents human effort that has gone into describing some aspect of a place. The density of this layer of information over some parts of the world is astounding. Some of our future posts will look more closely at measures of inequality in Wikipedia, but it is still hard not to be awed by this cloud of information about hundreds of thousands of events and places around the globe.What we can also do is compare the English Wikipedia to the Arabic, French, Hebrew, and Swahili versions (these languages are chosen because they are the subject of the research project mentioned above).

This map should be interpreted with caution for a few reasons. First, it only displays content from six Wikipedias (there are currently 282 of them). Second, many articles in multiple languages appear in the same place. The reason for this is that they are articles about the same feature, event, or place: albeit in different languages. This means that when mapping those features, the dots in each language will show up on the map in exactly the same place. As such, we get a lot of overlapping dots. And dots that higher up in the legend will then necessarily show up on top of others.

The map still remains useful to show some of the different geographical foci of different linguistic groups. In Iran, for instance, there are more articles in Persian than any other languages in our sample. We see more articles about Quebec and parts of North Africa in French, and then a complicated mix of Arabic, Hebrew, English and French in the Levant.Nonetheless it remains that there are far more English language articles than articles in any other language. As such, it remains that if your primary free source of information about the world is the Persian or Arabic or Hebrew Wikipedia, then the world inevitably looks very different to you than if you were accessing knowledge through the English Wikipedia. There are far more absences and many parts of the world simply don't exist in the representations that are available to you.

November 10, 2011

The Rise of the Slacker Strata

"The key to economic growth lies not just in the ability to attract the creative class, but to translate that underlying advantage into creative economic outcomes in the form of new ideas, new high-tech businesses and regional growth."--The Rise of the Creative Class, p. 244
We suspect that many of our readers are familiar with Richard Florida’s argument about the creative class and its connection to economic development. His very provocative and controversial ideas about how cities and regions can strategize for home-grown innovation and economic growth offer a welcome relief to many from stadium building boondoggles in urban areas across the world.

But of course, given the streak of contrariness (or sideways thinking) that epitomizes the FloatingSheep collective, we began wondering what the opposite of the creative class might be: The Boring Bourgeoisie? The Insipid Intelligentsia? The Lackluster Lineage? The Dull Derivation? The Mundane Moiety? Apologies, but once you get started it is hard to stop.

Even more fun, is thinking about the kind of public policy initiatives that could be put in place to attract these populations. Although we admit we’re at a bit of a loss as to why it would be in cities’ interest to do so.

Then it occurred to us that our two most popular maps – the Price of Weed and the Beer Belly of America – contained within them the means to provide a metric of sorts for the anti-creative class. Or at least places where the ability to be usefully creative would be severely compromised, i.e., where the price of marijuana is low and the available of bars is high [1].

In other words, we're looking for the Slacker Strata of America, the list that no city wants to be on.

Given the short attention span of our target audience for this map (the Slacker Strata) we kept our analysis simple and just “smushed” the Beer Belly map together with the Price of Weed map and added some more appropriate symbology.

The Slacker Strata

(please click for a larger version of this map)

Given the decidedly flippant approach to this map, interpret with care. One thing that does jump out is that many places that have a relatively high level of geotagged information about bars, also have relatively high prices for marijuana. Wisconsin and Minnesota (with the high concentration of PBR cans in the map) consistently show up as high price locations according to the Price of Weed data. Likewise, the places with the lowest marijuana prices generally do not have high numbers of bars, with the possible exception of Northern California and Taylor’s hometown of Louisville, KY.

Nonetheless, this visualizes an intriguing relationship, leading us to make an initial hypothesis that these two goods largely act as substitutes to one another, at least when considered at the macro-scale. This idea, of course, still needs testing so hold off on any public policy decisions!

btw, this map is now available in t-shirt form!

Stay tuned for our next post when we map hipsters!

[1] We’re sure that some readers are bound to argue that they are at their most creative when partaking. We have our doubts and request that said readers review the documentary evidence provided here, here, and here.

November 07, 2011

Where are visitors to Floating Sheep coming from?

Recently we were wondering about our own user generated geographies and took a look at Google Analytics to see some stats on our visitors. We were hoping to download and geocode/map IP addresses but Analytics doesn't seem to keep that. So instead here are some of the maps (which annoyingly use the Mercator projection) that were available.

First, we've had visits from 201 countries/territories. If anyone knows someone in Turkmenistan, Western Sahara, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Niger, Chad, the Central African Republic, Congo, Gabon, or Suriname please pass the link along. We'll take care of getting our long time nemesis Kim Jong Il of North Korea to look at us.

Dropping down to the city level, we note that we've had visitors from over 19,000 different cities. The top cities are (1) New York, (2) London, (3) Chicago, (4) San Francisco, (5) Washington, (6) Lexington, (7) Madison, (8) Seattle, (9) Los Angeles, (10) Minneapolis, (11) Sydney, (12) Portland, (13) Oxford, (14) Austin, (15) Denver, (16) Milwaukee, (17) Dallas, (18) Houston, (19) Atlanta, (20) Melbourne, (21) Philadelphia, (22) San Diego, (23) London, (24) Singapore, (25) Tucson, (26) Paris, (27) Toronto, (28) Berlin, (29) Cambridge and (30) Moscow.

But enough navel gazing...we'll get back to our regular maps next post.

November 03, 2011

Geocoding Historic Photographs in Lexington, KY

As part of my undergraduate iWorlds class this semester, I assigned students the task of geocoding historic photographs of Lexington, KY. The photos, which are available online in digital format, are housed at the Kentuckiana Digital Library at the University of Kentucky and have metadata that includes street addresses, albeit usually embedded in a paragraph rather than as a separate field.

After aggregating all the students' work, I played around a bit with some kml code and ended up a map of 500+ geocoded historic photographs. I’ve posted the kmz file which can be opened in Google Earth. Click on a placemark and you can see the photograph and a link to the KDL entry. Thanks to Matt Wilson for alerting me to these photos and Deirdre Scaggs for helping us access them easily.