The New Mappae Mundi


Written by Hatti Whitman
23 Monday 23rd January 2012

Visualising Friendships 

Paul Butler, an intern at Facebook, manipulated the user data for ten million pairs of friends into this beautiful and informative illustration of friendship activity across the world (main picture). The fact that this looks like such a comprehensive world-map is actually quite misleading – as Paul explains on the image page, the only lines are those representative of friendship activity, spaced out according to longitudinal and latitudinal data, so the appearance of recognisable global geography is pretty amazing, and rather clever. Paul’s explanation is long and complicated but very interesting if you have time to read the whole thing.

The Wilderness Downtown

The Arcade Fire set the bar pretty high for imaginative and innovative uses of online mapping technology with their interactive video for the 2010 single ‘We Used to Wait.’ Described as a ‘Chrome Experiment’ you do need to have Google’s browser to make this work properly (gimmick alert) and it’s not a video that you can just have open in the background. That said, it’s not the sort of video that you’d want just running in the background. The website uses your postcode (or whatever postcode you choose to enter when prompted) to integrate your neighbourhood into its Day of the Triffids-esque green takeover. All set, of course, to the musical greatness that is ‘We Used to Wait’.

Peugeot RCZView

This neat little slice of advertising wizardry clearly owes a small debt to the techno-brilliance that came up with The Wilderness Downtown. This works on a similarly interactive principle, inviting you to enter a start and finish point for a journey, ideally one that you know well. The site then chunks through what seems (from the wait) to be an enormous volume of data before generating a personalised stop-motion video composed from Streetview-style images. It works best for short journeys through urban areas, and has clearly been optimised for New York and Paris, but it’s still pretty fun, and the experience of seeing a commute through London through the eyes of the internet is pretty novel.

A World of Tweets

Keep an eye on who’s tweeting and where on a global scale with this real time map of global Twitter activity. From the moment you open the site it keeps track of tweets, creating either a heat-map or a ‘smoky-cloud’ effect (somewhat disturbing if you’re using satellite view) to show just how prolific the twitter-users of Japan and the Philippines really are, and to demonstrate that, weirdly enough, Twitter has not yet caught on in China and Russia. You can also view it in 3D if you’ve got some red-cyan glasses to hand, which makes you look really cool.

Anagram Tube Map

One for the Londoners, this takes the name of every underground station in London and turns it into the weirdest possible anagram of itself. London Bridge becomes ‘Blood Rending,’ which doesn’t quite sound like what you’d want if you’re headed to Borough Market of a Saturday morning; Tottenham Court Road is the dangerous sounding ‘A Retard Cottonmouth’ and Mornington Crescent, perhaps appropriately for anyone who’s ever listened to too much Radio Four comedy in one go, is ‘Concerning Torments.’

Walking to Mordor

Someone at Google Maps has an extraordinarily geeky sense of humour, as if you go to their 'Get Directions' tab, select 'walking' and enter 'The Shire' as your start point and 'Mordor' as your destination, you'll be met with the above warning message, and directions to an appropriate drinking establishment. Definitely worth constructing a pub-crawl around.

Scale of the Universe

Not strictly speaking a map but too good not to include, this mind-blowing site demonstrates the relative size of just about everything in the Universe (kind of). The most incredible fact I discovered? Not the amount of space between subatomic particles (although, to paraphrase Professor Brian Cox, it is amazing) but the fact that the USA is wider across than the diameter of Pluto. No wonder it lost out on planetary status.

Got a favourite online map or infographic? Link us up in the comment box below!

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