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Saturday, 30 June 2012

More simple maps in current affairs


Geocurrents.info posted an interesting item on UNESCO World Heritage Sites list. I suggested that their otherwise lovely static maps could be augmented via dynamic maps. They're not computer mappers, so I pointed them to Google Fusion Tables as the simplest way to post simple aggregate maps by country. Here is what their maps on World Heritage Site count looks like (note this is still 'beta', as for example Côte d'Ivoire and DR Congo do have sites, and I had to match country names to Google):



Does this raw count however reflect various countries' interest in preserving heritage? Or does this map simply reflect, say, the sheer size of population? I reflected earlier how the distribution of Islam is toned down when factored by population.

Where Fusion Tables get interesting is the ability to link other tables, and to view the results by country. Let's link the UN Data World Population  for example, and see how easy it is to use right now:
  • Open the World Heritage Site table and click on Merge
  • on the left hand side, arrow down and "states_name_en"
  • at the top right, type in or select "unpop.csv" and leave Country selected
  • at bottom "Save as a new table" named as you wish that will then open
  •  go to Visualize then Intensity map
  • select Area (World Heritage Site) or Value (UN population) to compare

What I did next is downloaded this to clean it up a little - some country names don't match and result in empty rows in the merger - I also went to the World Bank and got the country surface data also on UN Data website. I then consolidated the World Heritage Site counts by class and merged the UN population and World Bank area data. I also created a table with WHS by area and by population density and area (removed density > 1000, that's only Bahrain and Bangladesh, to have  better data plots as views didn't appear to work in intensity maps). This removes the effect country size or population have on the World Heritage Sites count.

It shows that World Heritage sites are much equalised when normalised against area:



Whereas against population density, it's the reverse of the original map - it's the less populated countries that appear have relatively more sites:



Note: all these data are publicly available on my Google Docs (free sign-in required).
These very simple maps from data by country show a variety of ways data can be easily linked and posted in order to enhance static maps. Research data are often far more varied than single maps can portray - however beautifully - and simple web mapping techniques described here can enhance their scope. As maps are important political and policy tools, the ability to easily portray data in as many ways as possible is critical.