Tag Archives: Ralph Straumann

Maps and mappers of the 2016 calendar: Ralph Straumann

In our series “Maps and mappers of the 2016 calendar” we will present throughout 2016 the mapmakers who submitted their creations for inclusion in the 2016 GeoHipster calendar.

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Ralph Straumann

Q: Tell us about yourself.

A: I’m a senior information management consultant with Ernst Basler + Partner in Switzerland as well as a Visiting Researcher at the Oxford Internet Institute (OII) of the University of Oxford in the UK. In my day job I consult clients regarding effective and efficient data infrastructures, data processing, and information-centric workflows. With the OII, I work on various topics in the field of Information Geographies, e.g. who and where produces, disseminates, accesses, and reproduces information on the internet. Besides these topics, I have a strong interest in information visualisation, and cartography, obviously.

Q: Tell us the story behind your map (what inspired you to make it, what did you learn while making it, or any other aspects of the map or its creation you would like people to know).

A: My map in the 2016 GeoHipster calendar is part of a small series of maps and visualisations in the Geonet project of the OII. My collaborator, Mark Graham (Senior Research Fellow at the institute), and I started the series with an updated version of the OII internet population map, or rather: cartogram. This was followed by an analysis of how internet access has evolved over time, both from a global and explicitly spatial, and a more regional perspective.

Further, we wanted to look specifically into those countries and territories that tend drop out of internet population maps because of their very low internet penetration rates. Thus, we mapped the places where internet penetration is below 10% (i.e. only 10% of the population have accessed the internet at least once over the last year) or for which the World Bank offers no data or estimates. Seeing the shape of it, we called this region the Archipelago of Disconnection.

To highlight this region and the implications to a wider audience, Mark and I came up with this very simple map design and a very subtle colour scheme. Because the message of the map itself seemed so powerful to us, it didn’t need much embellishment or emphasis. The Archipelago of Disconnection is geographically centred on Sub-Saharan Africa where 28 countries have internet penetration rates lower than 10%. To think that in these places very few people have access to all the vast online resources that much of the rest of humanity is so accustomed to! Effectively, these countries and their residents are largely barred from participating in the cultural, educational, political, and economic activities that the modern internet affords. This is what Mark and I wanted to draw attention to.

Q: Tell us about the tools, data, etc., you used to make the map.

A: Quite simply, the data we used encompassed the World Bank’s Worldwide Development Indicators dataset and spatial data from Natural Earth (a fantastic resource!). The input data needed some work in order to make the identifiers of territories truly congruent (not all of them are well-defined and globally agreed upon).

Then we used ArcGIS 10.3 to design the map; the overall production involved clearly much less work than the aforementioned cartograms. I somewhat atypically opted for manual labelling as I found tweaking labelling placement rules did not give satisfying results with a sensible time investment.

All in all, the map which can be seen in full detail here (with accompanying text and the annotations the calendar team opted to remove) is a pure ‘GIS map’.

 

'Archipelago of Disconnection' by Ralph Straumann
‘Archipelago of Disconnection’ by Ralph Straumann

13 maps in 13 days: Ralph Straumann

Sending off the year 2015, we present to our readers the mapmakers who contributed their work to the 2015 GeoHipster calendar.

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Ralph Straumann

Q: Tell us about yourself.

A: I’m a senior information management consultant with Ernst Basler + Partner in Switzerland as well as a Visiting Researcher at the Oxford Internet Institute (OII) of the University of Oxford in the UK. In my day job I consult clients regarding effective and efficient data infrastructures, data processing, and information-centric workflows. With the OII, I do research on Information Geographies. Besides these topics, I have a strong interest in information visualisation, cartography, politics, journalism and blogging.

Q: Tell us the story behind your map (what inspired you to make it, what did you learn while making it, or any other aspects of the map or its creation you would like people to know).

A: My map in the 2015 GeoHipster calendar was inspired by my interest in politics and the MAUP (modifiable areal unit problem). Switzerland (where I live), through its approach of direct democracy, has frequent votes on popular initiatives and referenda. For illustration: since 2000, 225 votes have been held at the federal level alone! (There are also votes on cantonal (state) and municipal levels)

In Switzerland, political division often shows itself not so much between language regions (anymore) but between urban and rural parts of the country. At the federal level, metropolitan areas don’t have direct representation, but cantons do (and of course citizens through political factions). However, some of the bigger Swiss cities represent a clearly larger population than a considerable number of small cantons or half-cantons. Thus, there are ongoing debates about the political representation of cities’ particular challenges and policy interests at the federal level.

Additionally, in many situations, for a vote to pass it doesn’t only require the majority of voters agreeing but also the majority of the cantons and half-cantons. Here, small cantons and half-cantons (that are found mainly in rural parts of the country) can have what some people perceive as unfair political weight – especially compared to their political counterparts, the metropolitan areas. So we have discussions if the voting weights of cantons and half-cantons should be adapted to also reflect their population size in some way.

Within this setting, I wanted to come up with an innovative display of the actual weight of cities as compared to cantons. I opted for combined and linked cartogram, map and bar diagram. In March 2013 and while I was still working on the visualization, Switzerland held a controversial vote that met the agreement of 54.3% of the population but did not pass, because it didn’t get the required majority of cantons. This result was quite particular because of the rather solid majority of the people in this case.

On the way back from a trip to the mountains I got news of the forecasts of this vote and I decided on the spot that I had to finish the (interactive) visualization on this day and put it online. I managed to do just that and the results did indeed draw much attention: the map has been broadcast on Swiss national TV as well as re-published in various media and reports. So I gladly think it helped foster discussion.

Q: Tell us about the tools, data, etc., you used to make the map.

A: Let me take a step back and talk about the contiguous, hexagon-based cartogram I made and acknowledge its source: This is an idea I got from Leicestershire (UK) when I was researching cartograms. The UK has the concept of Lower Super Output Areas (LSOAs). These conveniently contain roughly 1,500 residents each. So Leicestershire Statistics and Research Online could use them as base-units for their hexagonal cartograms; which in turn served as my inspiration. I talked to a Leicestershire representative and he kindly told me that their cartogram design workflow included the use of a lot of post-its. This was clearly not a viable approach for me 😉

Instead, I used a combination of ArcGIS, a custom tool from Jenness for hex grids and Scapetoad to design my hexagonal cartogram. The process is not too complicated but [for] quite some thinking and also (in my opinion: indispensable) manual work went into it. I explain all the various aspects, data sources and tools in two blog posts. For the interactive version of the visualization I used Mike Bostock’s D3.js. The version in the GeoHipster calendar was made using Crowbar (to extract the SVG shapes) and in Inkscape.

Given the production history of this visualization in which I got input from various people (from Leicestershire, but also e.g. Danny Dorling and Adi Herzog), I felt a duty to document my approach and methodological considerations in order to help others in the community to build on my work. I was very pleased to see Mike Bostock, Stefano de Sabbata, Xaquín Gonzalez and Andy Tow picking it up. And I re-used and refined the approach for work with the OII on Wikipedia and internet access as well as for the Guardian’s coverage of the Generel Election. They often get a bad rap, but I think there is a niche where cartograms are valuable.

'Governance and Population Distribution of Switzerland' by Ralph Straumann
‘Governance and Population Distribution of Switzerland’ by Ralph Straumann

2016 GeoHipster calendar showcases technological and cartographic artistry

Last month GeoHipster put out a call for maps for the 2016 GeoHipster calendar. The response was overwhelming, with nearly two dozen maps being submitted. The submissions represented a cross-section of the cartographic talent and imagination of the geospatial industry. The GeoHipster advisory board certainly had its work cut out for it.

We would have loved to have simply used all of the maps we received, but Pope Gregory XIII gave us a calendar that only had room for twelve. So we are happy to announce the authors whose work you will be seeing throughout 2016 (in no particular order): Meg Miller, Asger Petersen, Jacqueline Kovarik, Terence Stigers, Katie Kowalsky, Rosemary Wardley, Ralph Straumann, Gretchen Peterson, Jonah Adkins, Stephen Smith, Mario Nowak, and Andrew Zolnai. Congratulations to each of you, and thank you for your support of GeoHipster and your dedication to the craft of mapmaking.

GeoHipster has adopted a mission of exploring the state of the geospatial industry from the eyes of those working in it, and the response from the community has been humbling. Part of that mission is celebrating the great work and creativity resident in the community. As part of that celebration, GeoHipster will be publishing a feature on each map throughout 2016 so our readers can learn a bit more about how and why each map was created. We will be doing this not only for the 12 maps selected for the calendar, but for all of the maps submitted this year, in recognition of the support and creativity shown by all who participated. We are excited to expand GeoHipster to include the art of our community.

Finally, we’d like to give a shout out to Mapbox for their continued support of GeoHipster’s independent content, this time by sponsoring the 2016 calendar. Their support will help expand the types of content we offer next year, including reprising the “young professionals” showcase of up-and-coming talent that was debuted this month.

The calendar is currently being designed, and will be ready to order by the US Thanksgiving holiday. It makes a great gift, and is a super way to answer the inevitable question we all field from our family during the holidays: “So what is it that you do?”

The 2015 GeoHipster Calendar is available for purchase

We are excited to announce that the first-ever GeoHipster wall calendar is ready for production. We thank all who submitted maps for the calendar, Christina Boggs and Carol Kraemer for co-originating the calendar idea, and Christina again for her ongoing assistance with logistics and curation.

The 2015 GeoHipster Wall Calendar makes a great holiday gift for the geogeek on your list, so pick up a few. The proceeds from the calendar sales will help GeoHipster offset our operational costs, stay ad-free, and maintain independence.

The 2015 GeoHipster Calendar is available for purchase from CafePress. All calendars are made to order (you need to specify January 2015 as Starting Month (as opposed to the default setting — the current month)).

The calendar features maps from the following map artists (screenshots below):

  • Gretchen Peterson
  • Jonah Adkins
  • Ralph Straumann
  • Markus Mayr
  • Bill Morris
  • Andrew Zolnai
  • Stephen Smith
  • Damian Spangrud
  • Farheen Khanum
  • Christina Boggs
  • John Van Hoesen
  • Steven Romalewski
  • Joachim Ungar
GeoHipster 2015 Calendar cover layout
GeoHipster 2015 Calendar cover layout

IMPORTANT! The screenshot below is intended ONLY to give an overview of the overall layout — which map goes on which page, etc. When you order the 2015 calendar, you will get the 2015 calendar. You can verify this by reviewing each individual page online before you order.

GeoHipster 2015 Calendar 12-month layout
GeoHipster 2015 Calendar 12-month layout