June 27, 2012

IronSheep 2012: Team LAMB R0A5T and the Sheep Evacuation Map

We wanted to pass along a much-belated, final map from the IronSheep event in February from Team LAMB R0A5T, who produced a really cool evacuation map for the roaming herds of sheep in Central Park in the event of the zombie apocalypse (and many other threats to the NYC sheep population).

Team LAMB R0A5T report
by Ryan Burns, Alan McConchie, Adrienne Ottenberg, Jochen Wendel

When we heard there would be extra points for including sheep in our maps, we knew we had to do it. But how? Where were the sheep in our data? After spending far too much time brainstorming possibilities for a map of the whole US, we decide to focus on New York City because there were so many more datasets available.

In our Exploratory Data Analysis phase we searched the Flickr and Twitter data looking for mentions of "sheep". We didn't find any interesting patterns in the data, other than clusters of points around the Sheep Meadow in Central Park, and Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn. We knew that somewhere between these two locations we would find our inspiration.

Thinking about Sheep Meadow in Central Park, we recalled a story in the news recently about legislators from Alaska and Wyoming proposed reintroducing wolves into Central Park. Since wolves are the natural enemy of sheep, perhaps our fluffy, hooved friends (if there actually are any in Sheep Meadow) would need to be relocated if this were to happen. Perhaps Sheepshead Bay could be their new home?

We were also incredibly tempted (who wouldn't be?) by some of the more peculiar datasets available, namely the zombies, rednecks, and alien sightings. We posited, for some reason, these three groups are all threats to our precious sheep. Thus, we had our assignment: determine the best route to evacuate sheep from Sheep Meadow to Sheepshead Bay, avoiding any concentrations of aliens, rednecks, and zombies. The result is the map you now see below.  I much nicer pdf version of the map (complete with interesting background information on sheep) is available here.

And there is this ugly interactive version as we left it after IronSheep.

June 25, 2012

Introducing Sheep Droppings: Floatingsheep's Weekly News Roundup

Here at Floatingsheep Headquarters (also known as 'the tubes'), we've been having some discussion as of late as to what the blog should look like moving forward. While we've had much less in the way of original maps and research over the past year or so, we fully plan to continue providing sneak peeks of our research in progress in order to solicit feedback and continue promoting research on internet geography and the geoweb, more generally. But one way we've decided to move the blog forward is by providing a weekly news roundup (at least loosely inspired by Aaron Bady's Sunday Reading), including links to recent posts from the blog, new papers, relevant news items and other marginalia floating around in the universe we all inhabit. So with that, we provide you the Inaugural edition of Sheep Droppings: FloatingSheep's Weekly News Roundup!

As I'm sure many of you know, we had a little event called SheepCamp last weekend, bringing together nearly two dozen researchers from around the country to talk all things geoweb and big data. If you want to know more, you should check out the #geowebchat transcript from this past week, when we had a discussion of SheepCamp and possibility of similar events in the future.

One of the things we worked on at SheepCamp was a submission to the Knight News Challenge. You can read more about the DOLLY Project here, as well as about Mark's projects on Geographies of Wikipedia and Wikichains.

Another really awesome thing to come out of SheepCamp was the creation of geoweb-r, a listserv dedicated to academic research on the geoweb (thanks Alan!). If you haven't already, you should join the 200 or more of your closest friends in sharing what is sure to be a great informational resource for the community.

In other sheep-related news, the past week has been big. The Oxford Internet Institute won a big award from the Wikimedia UK Foundation, largely as a result of Mark's work on the geographies of Wikipedia. Mark and Monica also won another award for a related infographic on Wikipedia from the OxTalent awards competition at Oxford.

And that doesn't even include the fact that Mark and Monica had a featured graphic published in the most recent issue of Environment and Planning A, as well as the acceptance of a paper by Mark, Matt and Andrew Boulton into the Transactions of the IBG.

In non-sheep-related publication news, friend-of-the-sheep Muki Haklay has posted an excerpt from his forthcoming paper, "Neogeography and the delusion of democratisation", which will be included in a special issue of E&PA entitled Situating Neogeography, guest edited by Mark and Matt 'Two-Dot' Wilson.

While we may be experimenting with the formats of future Sheep Droppings (you know, they come in all shapes and sizes), be sure to pass along any leads that you think ought to be included to any one of the Floating Sheeple. 

June 21, 2012

Floating Sheep Proposals for the Knight News Challenge

One of the things to emerge from SheepCamp last weekend was a decision to submit to the Knight News Challenge, which is running a competition to "accelerate media innovation by funding breakthrough ideas in news and information."

The Floating Sheep Collective submitted a couple of proposals including:
  • Mapping Wikipedia: Understanding Uneven Geographies aims to create interactive visualisations of Wikipedia that promote participation from under-represented cultures, inform researchers and journalists, and fascinate a general audience. We are building on our existing prototype so that we can ultimately create an easy-to-use tool to visualise Wikipedia's biases and geographies.
  • Wikichains: Encouraging Ethical Consumption through Open and Transparent Data intends to build a user-generated platform that allows people to better understand the histories and geographies of the things that they buy. We plan to employ Semantic Mediawiki technology and multi-platform mobile apps to build an open and free wiki allowing people to share information about any aspect of any commodity chain of any product. It will allow people to make more informed ethical and political decisions about how they spend their money. 
Please check them out and like/comment on them either here or at the Knight News blog.  

June 18, 2012

Announcing geoweb-r: a new listserv for geoweb researchers

Of the many great products of this past weekend's Workshop on Big and User-Generated Geographic Data was Alan McConchie's idea for a new discussion forum for academic researchers working on topics related to the weekend's event, geoweb-r. Alan's introduction to this list is as follows:
"geoweb-r" is a new email list for researchers who work at the intersection of spatial data and social media (what we call the geospatial web or geoweb). The list will provide a forum for critical discussion and announcements related to the geospatial web, "Volunteered Geographic Information", crowdsourced cartography, and similar topics. We intend to use this list for the usual CFPs, job postings, etc.
You can subscribe to the list here:  Please post early and often.

SheepCamp 2012 Post-Mortem

Now that the Inaugural Workshop on Big and User-Generated Geographic Data (aka SheepCamp) has officially wrapped up, we'd like to extend a big thank you to everyone who made it to Lexington this past weekend to teach each other, learn from each other and begin forming some lasting collaborative relationships.

For those of you who did NOT make it to Lexington, we'll be reflecting and rehashing many of these discussions as part of our bi-weekly Twitter chats, organized by Alan McConchie under the hashtag #geowebchat ( on Tuesday at 3pm EST. Twitter conversations from earlier this weekend are grouped together under the Twitter hashtag #sheepcamp.  Also, a semi-permanent pdf version of the tweets from the weekend.

There was lots of good and serious discussion over the weekend working on a research agenda for the geoweb, a repository of tools for collecting and analyzing big and user-generated geographic data, planning for an AAG symposium and possible grants.  But we were also sure to keep tongue firmly in cheek (as is the fashion of the Floatingsheep crew). This includes trying our hand at memes (see above and below), as well as taking a stab at more mainstream book publishing (from Monica's lightning talk):  

We'll be posting  videos and slides of willing participants from the weekend's lightning talks in the coming weeks. Otherwise, we hope everyone enjoys the spatially and temporally distanciated experience of SheepCamp, and that maybe you'll all be able to join us at future iterations. If not sooner, see you all in L.A.!

The Last Night of SheepCamp, Taking a break

June 14, 2012

Geography of new gTLDs Applications

Currently there are about 300 top level domains (e.g., .com or .uk) in existence and they represent a key way in which the Internet is organized and accessed.  For example, we once looked at the online popularity of farm animals (including sheep) by comparing the frequency with which the names appeared in .com domains.  Plus, one of the floatingsheep collective got their start studying domain names so it remains an interest.

ICANN has been engaged in a process by which people can apply for new top level domains (TLDs).  On June 13, 2012 ICANN released information on who applied for new TLDs and we thought it was worthwhile take a quick look.  You will start seeing some of these as early as next year.

We thought it would be interesting to visualize different aspects of these applications with Wordle.

Relative Popularity of New TLDs
(size of TLD indicates the relative number of applications)

There were a total of 1930 applications for 1409 different TLDs.  The most popular TLDs included .APP(13 applications), .HOME(11 applications), .INC(11 applications), .ART(10 applications), .SHOP(9 applications), .LLC(9 applications), .BOOK(9 applications), .BLOG(9 applications). Btw, .MAP has three applicants, Google, Amazon and United TLD Holding Company.  

There are also a number of new geographic TLDs that are tied to city (.sydney and .hamburg) and regional (.bayern and . wales) locations.  The current TLD system only allows for country code TLDs.

Relative Popularity of New Geographic TLDs
(size of TLD indicates the relative number of applications)

Location of Applicants for New TLDs
(size of country name indicates the relative number of applications)

The United States represents the bulk of applications but there are some interesting "off shore" locations as well such as Gibraltar, the Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands.

Number of Applications submitted by Applicants
(size of applicant name indicates the relative number of applications)

The largest number of applications (101) came from Charleston Road Registry, Inc which is apparently the entity set up to handle Google's TLDs.  Amazon with 76 is the next largest although interesting they used their European branch location in Luxembourg.

Stay tuned...

June 13, 2012

Augmented Reality in Urban Places: Contested Content and the Duplicity of Code

We are very happy to report that a paper that that Mark, Matt, and Andrew Boulton have been working has just been accepted for publication in the Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers.

The paper is titled Augmented Reality in Urban Places: Contested Content and the Duplicity of Code and the abstract is below:

With the increasing prevalence of both geographic information, and the code through which it is regulated, digital augmentations of place will become increasingly important in everyday, lived geographies. Through two detailed explorations of ‘augmented realities,’ this paper provides a broad overview of not only the ways that those augmentations realities matter, but also the complex and often duplicitous manner that code and content can congeal in our experiences of augmented places. Because the re-makings of our spatial experiences and interactions are increasingly influenced through the ways in which content and code are fixed, ordered, stabilised, and contested, this paper places a focus on how power, as mediated through technological artefacts, code and content, helps to produce place. Specifically, it demonstrates there are four key ways in which power is manifested in augmented realities: two performed largely by social actors, distributed power and communication power; and two enacted primarily via software, code power and timeless power. The paper concludes by calling for redoubled attention to both the layerings of content and the duplicity and ephemerality of code in shaping the uneven and power-laden practices of representations and the experiences of place augmentations in urban places.

Please send Mark an email if you would like a pre-publication copy. We would welcome any thoughts and comments you have about the paper.

(we'll leave it to you to work out what nyancat has to do with anything in this post)

June 12, 2012

Sheep Camp Approacheth

This weekend (June 15-17) the "Working with Big and User Generated Geographic Data" working retreat, aka SheepCamp will be taking place at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, KY.

We invite all locals to join us on Friday night (June 15) from 6 to 10 pm at the Bingham-Davis House, at the Gaines Center for the Humanities for a reception (food by Gumbo Ya Ya) and series of lightning talks.  These talks will be short (an interactive) introductions (5 to 7 minutes) to some of current, exciting research on user generated geo-data (such as Flickr, Twitter) as well as some critical reflections on it.  Talk titles include:
  • How Flickr data represents the U.S.-Mexico Border 
  • Countermapping DigiPlace at the Vancouver Olympics
  • The promise and peril of gleaning "socially relevant" neighborhood boundaries from social media
  • Balloon Mapping
  • Mapping Zombies: A Guide for Digital Pre-apocalyptic Analysis and Post-apocalyptic Survival
  • User-generated political geographies
  • Mapping Experience and Emotion
  • Brothels, Strippers and the Gendered Democracy of OpenStreetMap
  • User-generated data and journalism  
Given the unconference/camp structure there is NOT a formal set of events on Saturday and Sunday  but the twenty five participants from around the country will be discussing a range of topics including:
  • What sources of user-generated, geocoded data are there?  What are the strengths and weaknesses?  Who is collecting/using it? (This will include an overview of the New Maps Twitter project at the University of Kentucky.)
  • What has been written on user-generated and VGI data?  What are key questions?  What are common problems?
  • Setting a research agenda and organizing a Symposium for the AAG meeting in Los Angeles next year.
  • Bringing user generated data into education
  • How to visualize VGI and social media
  • And a range of fun stuff such as MapAttack and Werewolf
 Stay tuned for videos of the talks and posts on the discussion that emerges from the weekend.

June 08, 2012

we found love in a coded space: augmented realities, bots, and code/space

"I am longing, shocking and unequal. Also imminent and square. I am lost."

These are the words of @shipadrift - a virtual floating boat that navigates the intersections between the material and virtual palimpsests that make up our being-in-the-world. If you haven't yet seen the project, we highly recommend you check out both the ship's current material/virtual location and it's travel narrative published through a Twitter account.

The way the project works is that the ship's direction and speed are calculated based on a wind speeds in London: allowing the ship to always have movement and position in material space. This is supplemented by scraping all of the augmented layers of place that exist over the ship's particular location: Wikipedia articles, personal ads, photographs, etc. The project is simply brilliant and we can't think of a better way to visualise and explain the digital augmentations of our planet.

We actually learnt about this project recently thanks to a video sent to us by Martin Dodge. The talk, by James Bridle, discusses the 'shipadrift' project, but also delves more broadly into what it means to live in co-created spaces; spaces that we share with bots; hybrid spaces that are shared between our physical presences, our imaginations, and the broader network. There are a lot of parallels here to some of the work that Mark and Matt have been doing on augmented realities, Martin Dodge and Rob Kitchin have been doing into code/spaces, and Stuart Geiger has been doing into the lives of bots. Bridle nicely brings all of these themes together and we definitely suggest that you check out his talk below:

June 06, 2012

#LexingtonPoliceScanner Twitter posts

When the University of Kentucky beat Louisville in the Final Four of the NCAA Men's basketball tournament there was literally rioting in the streets.  Two days later (April 2, 2012) there was a repeat of events.  We are happy to report (thanks for asking) that the entire Floating Sheep team was unharmed by these events and were either calmly sipping a glass of Chardonnay or running wild in the streets on-site documenting the events as they unfolded.

Of particular interest to us, however, was the use of the hash tag #lexingtonpolicescanner within Twitter to record the ongoing events those nights.  We missed the data on first riot but download the Tweets from the second one (about 11,000 over the course of four hours during the evening of April 2nd and early morning of April 3rd).

We were curious about what the data within the tweets could tell us so we first took a look at what words should up in the 140 characters of all the tweets.  We removed the hash tag (#lexingtonpolicescanner) as well as "RT" which stands for retweet and made a wordle cloud out of it.  A fairly unsophisticated analysis but it brings up some intriguing results of what was capturing the interest of the portion of the Twitterverse interested in Lexington that night.

Of course it also showed some obvious other words to filter such as Lexington, Kentucky and Twitter. When these common terms were removed, the Wordle cloud zooms more into focus with clear references to "fire" and "couch" and "car" which the combination provide some of the big events of the evening.  Why people celebrate by burning furniture remains one of the mysteries of the universe. Other interesting terms include "fireworks", "nude", "street", "fans", "shooting" and "entertainment". We'll leave the rest for you to interpret.

More intriguing (and a big part of this blog) is the geography of these tweets. Using user specified location (available for about 50 percent of all user profiles) we map the location of tweets referencing #lexingtonpolicescanner.  See the map below or try out the interactive version (see more information about this at the end).

Distribution of all Tweets with #lexingtonpolicescanner from April 2 to 4, 2012

Interestingly the map showed a relatively similar pattern of interest in Kentucky basketball as did our analysis of NCAA basketball nations from two years ago. The map below shows points in the U.S. where Google Map searches produced the most hits for an array of basketball teams including Kentucky (see the original post for the methodology).  While not a perfect match, the comparison of these two user-generated representations of Kentucky Basketball show a concentration centered within the Commonwealth with a dispersion that dissipates according to a fairly standard distance decay function.  Very few points further than a few hundred miles beyond Kentucky's borders show up.

  NCAA Basketball Nations
Finally, we (or more correctly Ate) set up an interactive interface with the data and it is well worth checking out.  You can slide the time bar and see how this database of tweets changes over time and space.  There is an initial rather geographically wide surge of interest as the actual riots play out but by the next morning the spatial extent of tweets to mostly just within Kentucky and Lexington.  As such it is a nice illustration of the temporal-spatial dynamics of a news event.

Note, this is a experimental/working version so it is still rather rough around the edges. It makes use of the versatile D3 visualization library. Since it incorporates all kind of HTML5 goodies, it works best in Chrome or Safari.