Sunday, 22 June 2008

Everything is Connected

One of the things I said I'd be blogging about is urban issues and things to do with urban life, specifically as they relate to planning. However, I thought it would be good to do a quick post on the topic of connections and how it's really impossible to fully separate the urban from the non-urban or rural. This is a topic which a colleague of mine, Andreas Schulze Bäing explored in his PhD thesis and one which I do research on, but without so much focus on the rural dimensions. I'm also aware that I come from an area that is not exactly an exemplar urban area (the Highlands of Scotland), even though I've lived all my adult life in cities (Glasgow, Columbus (Ohio), Liverpool). So, if you're from a rural area like this...

... it doesn't mean that cities are irrelevant. In fact, given that they are now seen as the drivers of economic growth in many advanced industrial economies, we really should be aware of how things are connected. When you look at the major migration patterns in the UK, these kinds of connections are more obvious.


When you look at the patterns in even more detail, in this 3D image I created for migration patterns in the North West of England (high in-migration areas in red, out-migration areas in blue), we start to get a better understanding of the ways in which cities import people (mainly students and young people). However, they do export families who generally tend to rely on urban areas for a living but don't want to live there... But that's another matter.



So, everything is connected to everything else. This is exactly what Waldo Tobler's First Law of Geography states and I am a firm believer in it. Nothing should be studied in isolation (especially in planning) and that's why much of my work includes a spatially dynamic element. The relative importance of this connectivity may vary, but it is invariably important. We need to see the big picture if we are to understand what's going on in our own back yard, so to speak.

Friday, 13 June 2008

From Data to Knowledge using Google Maps?

About time for another post I think. This time about things I'm doing with data which I turn into useable information in the hope that it can generate new knowledge. Well, that's the basic idea. Specifically, I've been playing around with google mashup editor, kml and kmz files, and Index of Multiple Deprivation data for 2007. What I've been trying to do is work my way round methods to display IMD data on google maps so that anyone can view it, understand it and maybe even remember it.

One of the main problems with using IMD data is that it means using lots of polygons and when you try to load them in google maps they render very slowly and sometime you get a script error in your browser (IE and FF). This is something to do with the way it all works 'under the hood' but I've been trying to investigate ways to make rendering polygons quicker... We'll see. Here's an example I created quickly with google mashup editor for an area in North Liverpool:

http://jrf-googlemaps-test.googlemashups.com/ - see how polygons load slowly


I've been reading and listening and watching online and it seems once you get beyond about 100 polygons everything goes awry. The solution would appear to be image/tile overlays but then this has some limitations that go against what I'm trying to achieve (query clickability, for example). I know people at CASA have used similar approach with their Gmap creator (I've used this and it works very well) and I can understand why but I just wonder if there is another way...


Since I'm on the subject of CASA, everyone with an interest in GIS/spatial analysis should go and see MapTube. This is really part of a much wider project about spatial literacy - which I am all for! I've said enough today. Will try a less technical post next time.