Team Mutton at IronSheep 2012 won the "Best Map" (Sheep of Dreams) trophy for their truly terrifying vision of the sins of sheep. And yet Team Mutton's presentation also contained a kernel of hope, in short, a guide to the sheep of the world on where it was simply best not to tread.
But first some reflections on how to best compete.
**** How to Win at Iron Sheep ****
By now, you’ve probably heard that Team Mutton took home the “Sheep of Dreams” prize for having the best series of maps at Iron Sheep 2012. I’ve been asked to add some of my reflections on “process,” so I thought this might be best framed as “the process of winning.” Academic mapping and lightning mapping for entertainment are two very different sheep.
Here’s how to win:
1. You are no longer in academic space-time.
Three hours is not a lot of time for anyone. Traditionally motivated research questions were quickly tossed aside. “How can we make the world safe for sheep?” quickly devolved into “which of these datasets are point values?” and “how can we get chupacabras into this somehow?” You might critically suspect that we may not have heeded the competing epistemologies embedded in the data’s production and that this might have affected our geovisualization efforts, but we don’t have time for that. See rule #1.
2. Get Lize Mogel on your team.
Seriously. Her illustrations are what made our maps funny. They also created a compelling narrative that tied together the diverse datasets we accessed. Kernel-density mapping of point data isn’t that exciting, and adding additional illustrations to cartographic work is historically a crowd-pleaser. This probably gets you thinking about the power of the narrative in mapping and the various ways that counter-mapping can critically engage a public without relying on high levels of technical expertise, but knock it off already! See rule #1.
3. Presentation, presentation, presentation.
You have 60 seconds to present your maps, not 15 minutes to wax eloquent on their various nuances (see rule #1). Think more about flash than substance. We used Slayer’s “Angel of Death” as the soundtrack to our presentation – nothing’s flashier than death metal. It also helps if you have an over-caffeinated team member who can do a passable impression of a carnival barker. Maybe this is triggering a line of inquiry for you about the relationship between the cultural trend of these shorter, more “informationally dense” lightning presentations and the extraction of labor value through technologies that increasingly do more work in less time…
**** The narrative ****
The Seven Deadly Plagues (Of Sheep) will show up right before the second appearance of The MUTTON as told in the prophecy of the Silence of the lamb. Just those sheep that can avoid the deadliest areas will survive“ … and that‘s why spatial analysis was invented.
Most of the plagues will come as single spatial events in an uneven distribution over space. The more events are around you (as a sheep), the more likely you‘ll be dead. So Kernel density estimation is the key to the knowledge, where to go. The maps show a rough calculation of each of the distributions of plagues, where dark areas are the most deadliest ones.
**** The Maps ****: Holly Jean Buck, Joe Eckert, Stefan Kaup, Lize Mogel
 Note, that is is "of" not "with".