Maps and mappers of the 2020 GeoHipster calendar: Megan Gall, June

 

Q: Tell us about yourself.

 A: I started my career as a shovelbum, digging holes and mapping Fort Ancient Indian villages in West Virginia. We used survey equipment to inform the hand drawn maps, but one day I went into the office and someone had turned my hand drawn map into an image on a computer. My imagination caught fire. I’ve been a sociologist since I was 5 years old, noting and questioning patterns I saw in the ways humans behave and organize themselves. I knew that GIS would give me a foundational set of hard skills to build a career doing what interested me most — thinking about and studying group behavior. I looked for people who were using maps to study living people and current problems, and I found critical mentorship in them. 

Since then I’ve used spatial analytics to research and inform policy makers and non-profit groups on issues around homelessness, justice reform and crime, education inequality, housing discrimination, and historical predicates of current racial and ethnic inequality. I’ve been working in voting rights for years now. I draw maps for redistricting, but that’s only a sliver of what spatial folks can do in this field. I use spatial analyses to support the work of the civil rights lawyers ensuring compliance with the Voting Rights Act of 1965. I use the same types of analyses to support the work of advocates who want to understand voting and demographic patterns.

We need more spatially-minded people working on civil rights and social justice issues. This is a serious issue throughout the civil rights space but is particularly acute in voting rights. I invite folks who are either starting or re-inventing their careers to think about contributing their skills and considering this path. Please reach out to me via Twitter (@DocGallJr) if you want to explore ideas, ask questions about the nitty gritty of the work, or just chat about this type of spatial work. I’m always happy to talk shop.

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: One day a friend asked me for a map of Prince shows. This was obviously a great idea. I’d used the final data set for several iterations of a Tableau viz (the latest, not quite done version here), but I also wanted to use these data for a static image because it presents new and interesting challenges for visualization. I’d been working with these data for years now, so this was a new take on how to use them. The GeoHipster calendar seemed like the perfect impetus and avenue for that goal.

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

A: I originally consulted two unofficial tour listings from princetourhistory and princevault. I geocoded shows to the venue. When a venue address wasn’t available, I geocoded to the city – the only other geography I had. Because of that, I had to add some jitter to the mapped data. I used R programming and the tmap package, by Tennekes et al, for the final product. I initially tried to make the map with the ggplot2 package, by Wickham et al, but had more aesthetic control with tmap so switched over at some point in the creation process. Although I was trained in GUI based GISystems, I taught myself to code in R several years ago because it adheres to the notion of scientific reproducibility in ways that GUI GISystems can’t. This map took about 50 lines of code – fully reproducible. Again, an invite, I’d love to hash out the differences between ggplot2, tmap, leaflet, and other spatial packages in R. Please reach out if that sounds like a great time to you, too!

 

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