Cyberspace. Places. Users. SMUSH! Wow!
OK, how about a slightly longer version?
There is an increasing amount of data on the Internet that is geo-coded to a particular spot on the earth. This has huge implications for how we interact with our surroundings and each other.
This site is dedicated to mapping and analyzing user generated geocoded data. The results provide one glimpse of what internet users (in the aggregate) think about particular places. Where are people posting placemarks about swine flu? Which places are considered to be "fun" by the collective intelligence of the Internet users?
We view this new cloud of user generated data as cyberscape which provides an additional layer for human interaction. In addition to our five senses we can now access cyberscapes of information (see our visualization below) as a digital sixth sense. We can look around a physical corner and see what online information has been tied to that location. Since a large amount of this information is created by users we are no longer limited to the stale monotony (or security) of business directories or phonebooks. People can document their memories, feelings, biases and reactions to places and share them with the world.
Visualization of an Urban Cyberscape
But as these cyberscapes become crowded, the process of sorting the worthwhile from the mundane becomes ever more valuable. Thus, code (such as the Google search algorithm) enters as an actor which decides how to rank and order the cyberscapes we use. Some things are emphasized and others moved to the periphery. And through this process new places – digiplaces – are created in which we become aware of our physicality and the information about it in a simultaneous and mutually reinforcing way.
For example a search for a Kroger grocery store result produces both the location of Kroger (in the upper left marked by a red push pin) and a another grocery store chain (Meijer's) also shows up as a sponsored link. Digiplace in action.
Visualization of Digiplace
If you are more of a visual person, check out our post in which we compare the number of "bookstores" and "churches" across the U.S or the 2008 presidential campaign.
OK. How about a longer/academic version?
Check out our first posting. You can also get a sense of what we're doing from all the posts.
Academically minded folks should review our list of publications.
Where do you get the data for these maps?
The data that we are presenting here was gathered using specially written software programs designed for this project. The program conducts worldwide searches for Google Maps placemarks containing specific keywords and records the number of results generated for each keyword. This simple indicator forms the basis of our maps.
How can I make my own maps like these?
The short answer is that you can't. Or at least you can't unless you are willing to devote a lot of time and effort (as we have) to assemble the data. We're always looking for suggestions so please let us know what you'd like to see.
Who are you?
The founders of this website are Dr. Matthew Zook (an Associate Professor at the University of Kentucky, USA) and Dr. Mark Graham (a Research Fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute, UK). We've been researching and publishing on this particular topic for more than four years.
We are greatly assisted in this work by Taylor Shelton (a graduate student at the University of Kentucky).
Can I use these images?
Yes. The maps on this website are covered by a Attribution Non-commercial Share Alike license. This license lets you remix, tweak, and build upon our work non-commercially, as long as you credit floatingsheep.org and license your new creations under the identical terms, i.e., any derivatives will also be non-commercial in nature.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
If you have any questions contact us.
Are you available for press interviews?
Yes. You can reach us at zook at uky.edu or mark.graham at oii.ox.ac.uk
Are you available to give talks on these topics?
Most likely but it depends upon the timing and forum.
Why did you choose the name floating sheep?
Hard to say. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Our effort to explain it is detailed in this post.