Gabasova, Evelina. “ Star Wars Social Networks: The Force Awakens.”

  • What better way to introduce us to networks than the Star Wars films? Gabasova uses the scripts of movies 1-7 to create networks. She uses F# and R to do this analysis, and walks the readers through the results. Characters are connected by a link if they speak in the same scene, and two significant silent scenes had links added manually (as were Chewbacca and the robots, who don’t technically “speak”). The width of the link represents the frequency of co-occurrence of the two corresponding characters, and the size of each node represents the number of scenes where that character speaks. From there, we can look at elements such as richness, subnetworks, character importance, network structure and density, and clustering (are your friends also friends with each other?).  

Battersby, Sarah, Michael Finn, E Usery, and Kristina Yamamoto. “Implications of Web Mercator and Its Use in Online Mapping.” Cartographica 49, no. 2 (July 1, 2014): 85–101.

  • Online interactive maps have become a popular means of communicating with spatial data but in most online mapping systems, Web Mercator has become the dominant projection. While the Mercator projection has a long history of discussion about its inappropriateness for general-purpose mapping, particularly at the global scale, and seems to have been virtually phased out for general-purpose global-scale print maps, it has seen a resurgence in popularity in Web Mercator form. 
  • Advantages of the Mercator Projection include: it simplifies the standard Mercator projection by mapping the Earth to a sphere, which allows for simpler (quicker) calculations; it readily supports Web map service requirements for indexing ‘‘the world map’’ and allowing for continuous panning and zooming to any area, at any location, and at any scale; it is a conformal projection; as a cylindrical map, the Mercator projection has the property that north is always the same direction anywhere on the map. 
  • Issues with the Mercator Projection include: it does not preserve the shape and relative angles at each point, and if scale factor at a point needs to be calculated with a high level of accuracy, then the computational efficiency of Web Mercator is slowed; but more importantly, projection issues mean that anywhere outside the equatorial region is substantially distorted and can mislead readers. 
  • Moving forward, the authors suggest asking ourselves the following questions: 
    • A possible risk of democratizing map creation and allowing users to make their own mashup is that more inappropriately designed maps can be distributed farther and faster, as the projection of the base maps is likely going to be inappropriate for most purposes. How do we address this issue? How do we train designers who may have little to no training in map projections to address issues of distortion in their maps? How do we design Web maps that are ‘‘smarter’’ and can help guide designers in successful compensation for distortions in the projection? 
    • Can better projections be used? Can these projections be incorporated into the base Web maps to minimize distortion in a seamless way, and is this computationally feasible for systems where millions or billions of maps are served every day? For instance, can we incorporate base maps that respond to user panning and zooming? 
    • Is the return to a Mercator-type projection going to bring back the feared Mercator cognitive map that was discussed heavily in the 1980s and led to the resolution against ‘‘rectangular’’ map projections for global-scale data? 
    • In many Web maps, we provide options for satellite views and map views, as well as overlays of traffic, weather, and other themes – would it help if map readers were provided with distortion views or overlays to clarify distortions of values such as area and distances? 
    • Is a better ‘‘replacement’’ map projection available for online mapping that keeps the desired traits of Web Mercator while, at the same time, improving the fidelity of mensuration associated with high quality cartographic standards, particularly with respect to large areas (large regions to continental scales)? 
    • Can this replacement projection for online mapping be consistent with Web mapping tile-caching schemes already in widespread use in the GIScience community and thus meet the larger spatial data infrastructure and interoperability requirements? 
    • Can APIs using the Web Mercator be designed with intelligence to warn the user of incorrect results because of the projection? 

Chambers, David Wade, David Turnbull, and Helen Watson. “Maps are Territories.”

  • This project consists of 11 exhibits, each of which looks at maps from a range of times, places and cultures. These maps were chosen because they raise, and shed light on, a number of fundamental questions about how humans see and depict the natural world. What are maps and what is their function? What is the difference between a map and a picture? What is the relationship of the map to the landscape it represents? How do you ‘read’ a map? The exhibits are:
  • (1) Maps and Theories: The “theory as map” metaphor is a pervasive one. But why? It appears to be that space is fundamental to ordering our thoughts, but this raises two difficulties: First, it’s hard to explain the nature of maps without resorting to map-like structures in the explanation, and second, what actually counts as the ‘relative location’ of particular objects may not be quite so basic and may be one of the variables that differentiate the way cultures experience the world. Maps are selective: they do not, and cannot, display all there is to know about any given piece of the environment. If they are to be maps at all they must directly represent at least some aspects of the landscape, either through iconic representation (which attempts to directly portray certain visual aspects of the piece of territory in question) or symbolic representation (which utilises purely conventional signs and symbols, like letters, numbers or graphic devices). 
  • (2) The Conventional Nature of Maps: Maps are conventional in a number of ways, First, that the mapmaker determines what is and is not included in the map. Second, in their use of projection, none of which is the best or the most accurate, but is chosen based on a variety of other factors, including functionality, aesthetic, or convention. 
  • (3) Maps and Pictures: What is a map? What is the difference between maps and pictures? In short, the authors claim, maps are pictures. They are pictures with different and additional functions and purposes to those of perspectival representation. Pictures may sometimes be entirely subjective, but maps, to be capable of transmitting information, have to be intersubjective.
  • (4) Bringing the World Back Home: These maps are from societies that were once called ‘primitive’, and contrast with technically accurate maps of contemporary Western society. European maps have standardised representation, but native maps served specific functions in particular contexts. That so-called ‘primitive’ maps serve specific functions in particular contexts clearly makes them indexical. The temptation is to assume that modern projective maps are non-indexical, which would mean  they could be understood independently of their context of use, the world view, cognitive schema or the culture of the mapmaker. The authors argue  that this distinction is false or overblown, and that all maps are in some measure indexical, because no map, representation or theory can be independent of a form of life. All systems, even of longitude and latitude, are human constructs and therefore arbitrary, conventional and culturally variable. 
  • (5) Aboriginal-Australian Maps: Paintings by Aboriginal Australians may not be immediately recognizable as maps, but they are recognized as such in their culture, and sometimes by Western anthropologists. The bark artifacts are called dhulaŋ, and they are representations of the footprints of the ancestors. In talking of their people or clan, a speaker refers to a specific series of stories, songs, dances and graphic representations, as well as to the country defined by those stories, songs, dances and graphic representations. Ancestors traversed the land and in the process created the topography. What they did then provides the names of places along the path; the identity of each place is established by its connections to other places. Their actions also link groups of people. In turn, these links are given a social form and determine the social and political processes of Yolngu life. Thus the landscape, knowledge, story, song, graphic representation and social relations all mutually interact, forming one cohesive knowledge network. The landscape and knowledge are one as maps, all are constituted through spatial connectivity.
  • (6) The Story So Far: A list of questions concerning the maps we’ve viewed so far, including:
    • Are any of the functions of the society, state, interest groups, military served by this, or any, map?
    • Does the map contain more information than is specifically recorded by the cartographer?
    • Is there any information lost?
    • Does it contain all the possible information? Can there be multiple maps of the same place?
  • (7) The Function of Maps: We tend to assume that the peak of mapmaking is the large-scale Western topographic map because it seems so accurate. But accuracy is separate from, although linked to, functionality. Likewise, indexicality cannot be equated with mere practicality. Without proper training, cultural assumptions, and systems of measurements, Aboriginal maps, Ordnance maps, and traditional Western maps are all unreadable. All maps, indeed all representations, can be related to experience and that instead of rating them in terms of accuracy or scientificity we should consider only their ‘workability’ – how successful are they in achieving the aims for which they were drawn – and what is their range of application.
  • (8) Maps – A Way of Ordering Knowledge: Descriptions are arguments.  he strongest sense in which that is true is illustrated by maps. They invariably carry less information about the environment than is out there, since they are necessarily selective, but they also frequently carry more information than was actually recorded. Some maps, like those used for navigation, can have data plotted on them and deductions as to position and distance to destinations made from them. But new knowledge can be gained from a map in profound and significant ways. There is an even deeper sense in which maps are like theories in that they are ‘argumentative systems of statements’; they embody or express a cognitive schema. Observation statements are not clearly separable from theoretical statements, and theoretical statements in turn embody sets of assumptions about how reality is ordered.
  • (9) Maps – A Way of Ordering Our Environment: Just as maps can provide us with new knowledge by ordering it spatially, so do they provide ways of ordering and knowing our physical environment-the territory. It might be thought that the superiority of Western maps lies in their use for navigating on unknown waters or in unknown territory. But in order to find our way successfully, it is not enough just to have a map. We need a cognitive schema, as well as practical mastery of way-finding, to be able to generate an indexical image of the territory. Having a map makes it easier, but it’s not necessary if you have these others. So like the Aboriginal maps, European maps are not autonomous. Likewise, they can only be read through the myths that the people (in this case, the Europeans) tell about their relationship to the land.
  • (10) Maps and Power: It’s more productive and accurate for us to compare Western maps and Aboriginal maps in terms of useability rather than accuracy. But we cannot separate these considerations from the concept of power. Documents, texts, diagrams, lists, and maps embody power in a variety of ways; they set the agenda of what kind of questions (and answers) are permissible or impossible. Aboriginal maps have some social and technical limitations; Western maps contain power because they enable the associations that then enable the building of Western empires, concepts of land ownership that can be subjected to Western judicial systems. But interestingly, it is because of the common social element in networks of power that Aborigines are able to use maps of their country, as shown by the dreaming tracks, in supporting land claims in white courts of law. 
  • (11) Maps and Theories Concluded: Maps are conventional, selective, indexical, embedded in forms of life, dependent on the understanding of a cognitive schema and practical mastery. They can be enormously powerful and can sustain not just successful exploration of foreign parts but whole empires. At base there is something more than merely metaphoric about maps and theories; they share a common characteristic which is the very condition for the possibility of knowledge or experience-connectivity. Ultimately maps and theories gain their power and usefulness from making connections and enabling unanticipated connections. Science is an atlas not because all its theories are connected by logic, method and consistency. There is no such logic, or method or consistency. Science is riddled with contradiction and disciplinary division. Science is an atlas because the essence of maps and theories is connectivity. Maps and theories provide practical opportunities for making connections whenever and wherever it is socially and politically strategic.

Gregory P. Downs and Scott Nesbit, Mapping Occupation: Force, Freedom, and the Army in Reconstruction,, published March 2015, accessed August 10, 2020. 

  • This project visualizes the areas where the United States Army could effectively act as an occupying force in the Reconstruction South. It maps the Army’s presence, including not only troup numbers but also the mobility of the region, the racial demographics of both troops and civilians, and election results. Viewers can sort by any of these criteria as well. The creators hope that this reorients our understanding of the Reconstruction that followed Confederate surrender. US power – such as the ability to enforce emancipation through “practical freedom” – existed in the regions where the US army was present, and these regions were largely connected by railroads. 

Nelson, Robert K. “More than ‘Map Porn?’: The Pleasures and Pitfalls of the Historical  Gaze.” October 1, 2014. and

  • The Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States is a digital edition of Charles O. Paullin’s 1932 Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States. Maps have been digitized, georectified, animated, and made interactive. The subject of the various maps varies from native peoples to churches to elections to crops.  The article in Perspectives in History came after the release of this atlas, as the authors wrestled with the public description of their project as “map porn.” Although originally concerned that the project was obscuring the general public’s access to history rather than broadening it, the authors drew the conclusion that it was their own definition of history that needed broadening. Many people were interested in history because it was related to something they were passionate about – whether that was a video game or their religious roots. Nelson concluded “I’d worried that the public’s interest in the past was so shallow that they might miss the history in the maps. What I found instead was that my sense of history was too narrow, too disciplinary, too professional, so much so that I almost missed appreciating many of the diverse ways people made use and sense of the past. People used the project and what it conveyed about history in ways that spoke to their individual interests and curiosities and needs, connecting it to activities that entertained them, to the faiths they practiced, to their families’ journeys, and to their sense of the politics of their locale and their nation. And, not least and not vainly, many of them took some measure of pleasure in poring over maps about the past.”

Patterson, Cliff.  Public Sector Digest. “A Guide to Open Source GIS Software for the Public Sector,” June 10, 2020.

  • This guide is meant to give public sector organizations some background information about open source GIS software so people can make more informed decisions moving forward.
  • Defining Open Source Software: The main differences between free open source software (FOSS) and commercial off-the-shelf software (COTS)  is that FOSS is free, the source code is modifiable, and it is created by dozens of hundreds of volunteers instead of a small group of paid employees, which means that issues are often caught quickly and software updates are released frequently. 
  • Benefits of Open Source Software: The most obvious benefit of FOSS is the lack of cost, but there are other benefits as well. FOSS eliminates the red tape, surprise cost increases, time. effort, and paperwork required for COTS. The software can also be more intuitive and feature rich, with more customizability, interoperability, and extensibility. 
  • Open Source GIS Software:  Open source GIS software can be categorized into seven broad categories: 
    • Content management systems and metadata catalogs (such as GeoNode and GeoNetwork) 
    • Desktop applications and associated geospatial libraries (such as GRASS, SAGA, and QGIS)
    • Web-based GIS (such as OpenLayers, Leaflet, qgis2web, GeoMoose and Map Bender)
    • GIS servers (such as Geoserver, MapServer, and QGIS Server) 
    • Spatial databases (such as PostgreSQL and Geopackage)
    • Mobile data collection applications (such as QField, Fulcurm App, and Mergin) 
  • Enterprise Open Source GIS: With all of these options available, it is possible to assemble an enterprise GIS solution. It is this type of solution that allows public sector organizations to build a more sustainable GIS department without the burden of excessive software licensing costs.