Posts Tagged ‘london’

Cartography, The Musical

I like maps. Even if you’ve never read posts on this site, the name “Mostly Maps” should probably be a giveaway. What you may not know is that I don’t really like musicals. Now granted I’ve seen Rent and Spamalot, but that’s because Alison and I were in New York and the former was recommended by one of my best friends and for the latter I’m a massive Python fan. Maps and musicals aren’t something that go together. But that may be about to change.

Cast your mind back to the dawn of history, before mobile phones were smart and when GPS was just an Australian rugby club, which is sometime in the very early 2000′s. If you lived in London, your essential navigation guide wasn’t a maps app, but a copy of the A-Z as the Geographer’s A-Z Street Atlas was better known. This was the map you carried around London rather than a mapping app on your phone. I still have several editions on the bookshelf at home, each one being bought when its predecessor got so dog eared as to be unusable or just started falling apart.

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The probably apocryphal backstory is that the A-Z’s founder, Phyllis Pearsall got lost in 1935 following a 1919 Ordnance Survey map on the way to a party and decided to make her own map. To do this she got up at 5.00 AM and spent 18 hours a day walking the 3,000 odd miles of London’s 23,00 or so streets. This tale is disputed, with Peter Barber, the British Library’s Head Of Maps, being quoted as saying “The Phyllis Pearsall story is complete rubbish, there is no evidence she did it and if she did do it, she didn’t need to“. Given that Pearsall’s father was a map maker who produced and sold maps of London, he’s got a point.

But regardless of the accuracy of the legend around Phyllis Pearsal, it’s a great story, especially for those of us who used the A-Z each and every day around London. But is it a musical story? Neil Marcus, Diane Samuels and Gwyneth Herbert seem to think so and they’re the team behind The A-Z Of Mrs. P, a musical about London’s iconic street atlas and its founder that’s currently playing at the Southwark Playhouse. Reviews have been mixed, but anything that throws some attention on the A-Z is welcome in my book, even if it is a musical.

A-ZofMrsP

You may have noticed that at the foot of each post I always try to provide source and attribution for photos or images that I use. I think I’m going to have to expand this to include the inspiration for each post. In this particular case, credit is due to Alison. If it’s not a sign of true love when your wife texts you to tell you about something map related she’s seen, then I don’t know what is. I guess you don’t spend nearly 15 years being married to a self professed map nerd without knowing a good map related story when you see one.

The A-Z Of Mrs. P poster by Su Blackwell.
Written and posted from home (51.427051, -0.333344)

The Collective Noun For Geo People Is A GeoMob

The Greek Philosopher Heraclitus was fond of saying “the only constant is change” (actually he said “nothing endures but change” but let’s not split hairs). He probably wasn’t talking about meetups and get-togethers in London but this still fits rather well. Events come and go as their themes either go mainstream or fade. But some remain and London’s #geomob is one of those.

Started in 2008 by fellow WhereCamp EU co-conspirator Chris Osborne, #geomob was conceived as London’s answer to Silicon Valley’s popular (and still running) WebMapSocial meetup group. After a brief hiatus in May 2010 when Chris hung up his hat and offered the event to anyone willing to spend the time and effort in running it, #geomob restarted in September of the same year, this time fed and watered by Ed Freyfogle and Vuk Trifkovic of Lokku, the people behind Nestoria and Open Cage Data. It’s been going strong ever since.

geomob

But what is #geomob? The name was originally a contraction of London Geo/Mobile Developer’s Meetup. Officially it’s a quaterly meetup for location based service developers. But the geo industry is still small and friendly and I prefer to think of #geomob in the most literal sense of the word, as a mob of geo enthusiasts.

Each meetup takes the same form; a couple of hours of people talking about geo, location and maps related stuff, sometimes with slide decks, sometimes not. The topics range from startups pitching the next big thing, from people who want to share their thoughts and views to topics which are just so out there you wouldn’t believe it (geolocation by subsonic sounds from industrial facilities anyone?). It has to be experienced to be believed. Afterwards, the time honoured tradition of retiring to a nearby pub and the ritual of geobeers is observed.

geobeer

I’ve been fortunate enough to speak at #geomob not once, not twice but three times. This may be something of a record. The speaker list for the first #geomob of 2014 is already up and you can go and show your interest on Lanyrd too. Did I mention the whole thing is free?

If you live or work in or around London and you want to see what this city is thinking about when it comes to maps, geo or location, I can’t recommend it enough. Once experienced, you’ll never look at a social meetup quite the same again.

Written and posted from Cafe Royal, 101 Cajon Street, Redlands CA (34.05451, -117.18196)

Doctor Who And The Underground Map; Enough Is Enough

Oh look. It’s another reworking of Harry Beck’s London Underground map. Ken Field probably won’t like it. This one is Doctor Who related. All the usual suspects are present. Each line representing one of the Doctors? Yes. Stations representing monsters and adversaries? Yes. Vague notions of interchanges between the lines? Oh yes.

Now I’ll freely admit I’ve been more than guilty of writing about re-workings of this particular map, at least 12 times. Doctor Who has been on, then off, then back on our TV screens for 50 years; longer than I’ve been around, but only by 2 years.

dr-who-map

But I’ll also freely admit that Ken has a valid point. The tube map rework has been done to death. This is not to denigrate the amount of work that’s been put into such a map. Far from it. This is an obvious labour of love and many hours have been put in to make the map not only what it shows but how it shows it.

But it’s time to move on. Time to choose another way of representing interesting data. Time to move away from yet another map based around either the Underground map or some other, mass transit, map.

Though I often break them, my New Year’s Resolution for 2014 will be no more posts on variations of the London Underground map.

Doctor Who Tube Map by Crispian Jago
Written and posted from Workshop Coffee, Clerkenwell, London (51.52244, -0.10245)

King George III Was A Fellow Map Addict

The Wikipedia entry for George William Frederick of Hanover, better known as King George III of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, is full of details but misses out one key aspect of his life. In addition to concurrently being King, Duke and prince-elect of Brunswick-Lüneburg he was also a map addict and avid map collector.

During the course of his reign between 1760 and 1801, George amassed a collection of around 60,000 maps and views, all of which were housed in a room in Buckingham House (which eventually became Buckingham Palace in 1837) which was right next to his bedroom.

Upon his death, the map collection was bequeathed to the nation and now resides in the British Library and last night a lucky group of people, Alison and myself included, were given a rare chance to get to grips with some of the collection that focused on London. I use the phrase get to grips in the most literal sense. This was no viewing of maps in frames or behind glass. The maps were spread over the table of the library’s boardroom and we were encouraged to get really close and do what we so often want to do with an old map but aren’t usually allowed to. We got to touch them. We were even allowed to take photos too.

Created with Nokia Smart Cam

But how did George manage to amass such a prolific collection in 40 odd years? The collection started as the everyday working map library of previous British monarchs, dating back to 1660 and including maps from the times of Charles II, James II and Anne. With this smaller collection as a starting point, George continued his childhood fascination with maps and grew the collection by almost any means possible. When you’re a King almost anything and any means are possible.

Some maps were formally commissioned by George, or were presented to him as gifts as a sort of cartographic backhander. Some came into the collection during times of war or conflict, particularly some of the military maps in the collection. Some were stolen outright from foreign sources, whilst some came from much closer to home, from his own subjects.

Created with Nokia Smart Cam

There are stories that George would make random and unannounced visits to people who just so happened to have fine maps on their walls. If George expressed a liking for a map, this was supposed to be a signal that the map’s owner, might, just possibly, want to consider giving the map to the King, as a gift you understand. Most people who were the beneficiaries of one of the King’s unannounced visits took the hint and the collection grew steadily. But people also got wise to having their houses gatecrashed by their monarch and learned to keep their good maps hidden away. Just in case the next knock on the door turned out to be the King.

At the British Library, George’s map collection is formally known as King George III’s Topographical Collection, often shorted to the informal KTop. Of the 60,000 maps in KTop over 1,000 are of London. Work has been started on cataloging and ultimately digitising at high resolution all of the London maps. We will all get to benefit from this as the images will be made available for all to come and see on the British Library’s website. This is no trivial endeavour. To catalogue and digitise just the 1,000 London maps in the collection will cost £100,000, of which £10,000 is hoped to be raised through public donations. Yet this is just the start. The final goal is to do the same with the remaining 59,000 maps in the collection.

Gary's UK Lumia 820_20131120_008

But until then, the collection remains safely stored somewhere in the depths of the library’s buildings on London’s Euston Road. I count myself very very lucky indeed to not only have seen some of the KTop with my own eyes but to have been able to reach out and touch a part of cartographic history.

Written and posted from home (51.427051, -0.333344)

Men Pointing At Maps? Hell, Yeah. But Where Are The Women?

Despite having a lot of NSFW content, estimated at between 2% to 4% by the site’s founder, Tumblr is also the microblogging site that some maps and cartography aficionados call home. The scope and range of these is simply staggering. But now there’s a new, albeit tenuously, related maps Tumblr in town.

For general maps enthusiasm, there’s Fuck Yes Maps!, run by a boy and two girls who blog about maps because they’re awesome. No disagreement from me on that point.

Slightly more cartographically centred but similarly named is Fuck Yeah Cartography! that sets out to explore interesting representations of space. Apparently. There’s also Fuck Yeah Maps, not to be confused with the Yes variant mentioned earlier.

If maps and globals are more your thing, the aptly named Maps and Globes might appeal, which is curated by Emily who’s addicted to planar surfaces.

Tumblr also seems to be populated by blogs about people … doing … stuff. Think Stormtroopers Doing Things if you will. So it’s probably a logical extension to this that there’s now Men Pointing At Maps. No, really.

men-pointing-at-maps

All of which is good for showing just how many carto-nerds and map-geeks there are out there on today’s Interwebs. But it does beg a question. Where are the women pointing at maps? Surely maps and pointing aren’t a purely patriachal occupation. Someone should start a rival about women pointing at maps. Someone probably will …

Written and posted from Starbucks, St. Martin’s Lane, Covent Garden, London; where the coffee is poor but the wifi is fast (51.510509, -0.127062)

From Wasserklo to Grashügel by way of Königskreuz St. Pankraz; The London U-Bahn Map

Yesterday I took the S-Bahn from my local train station in the suburbs of London. At the terminus at Wasserklo I took the Nördlich U-Bahn Linie to Königskreuz St. Pankraz, changing onto the Städtich Linie and finally alighted at Grashügel. No. Wait. That’s not right.

What I actually did was take the South West Trains suburban line into London Waterloo, hopped on the Northern Line to King’s Cross St. Pancras and then changed onto the Metropolitan Line and got off at Farringdon. What’s going on here?

london-u-bahn

This is the London Underground map, but not as we know it. Horst Prillinger has taken all the station names and translated them, sometimes literally, sometimes using the underlying etymology of the name. As Horst says in his accompanying blog post, back in 2004 when this first surfaced …

The results range from sensibly boring to downright absurd, and the weird thing is that some of the funniest translations are in fact not made up, but the actual etymological meaning of the place name.

Obviously, you need to have a pretty good command of German to find this funny.

I have only a cursory command of the German language but I was still able to find this clever and funny in equal measures.

Written and posted from home (51.427051, -0.333344)

I Am Not At State Of The Map 2013 But There Is A Viral Map

Today is the 7th. of Maptember 2013 and that means I should be in Birmingham for the OpenStreetMap State Of The Map conference. But I’m not; I’m still at home in the suburbs of South West London. But I will still be appearing at SOTM. Virtually.

Due to the age old cliche of circumstances beyond my control, I can’t be in Birmingham this weekend, despite submitting How To Make A Map Go Viral (In 8 Easy Steps) as a talk for the SOTM conference. But thanks to the wonders of modern digital technology, in other words, a screencast, my talk is still on the conference schedule, even if I’m not.

The talk is an update to one of the same title that I gave at London’s GeoMob back in April of this year and was submitted to the SOTM committee with this abstract …

In February of 2013 I mashed up a geocoded list of global place names and made a map of them using nothing more than Stamen’s OSM based Toner tile-set and the Leaflet maps API. I then promptly forgot about it. But Twitter had other ideas and the Vaguely Rude Place Names map went viral resulting in a month’s worth of media madness. This is the story of how the map came to be and what happened when traditional media met social media … on a map. It’s also the story of how the combination of rude names, innuendo and maps briefly appealed to people the world over.

When I learned that I wouldn’t be able to go to Birmingham, the conference organisers kindly suggested that maybe I might want to pre-record my talk instead. Which is just what I’ve done. You’ll see it embedded below.

State Of The Map 2013 – How A Map Can Go Viral (In 8 Simple Steps) from Gary Gale on Vimeo.

Apart from a few cosmetic changes and updates, it’s the same talk as I gave in April and if you’re interested in my notes and slides, you’ll find them in my write up from April.

If you were lucky enough to have been at SOTM this year, I hope you enjoyed the conference and I hope you enjoyed my talk and that my disembodied voice wasn’t too off putting. This is the first screencast I’ve put together, so be gentle. See you all at SOTM next year. Hopefully.

Written and posted from home (51.427051, -0.333344)

How To Order Your First Holiday Beer? With A Map Of Course

Finally Summer has arrived in London just in time to coincide with the annual population exodus known as the summer holidays. But wait. When you arrive at your holiday destination, how do you order a beer? If you’re lucky, you’ll remember some rudimentary French or Spanish from your school days. But what about other languages? Surely there’s a map for this essential information?

Luckily and to paraphrase the mantra of there’s an app for that, there’s also a map for that. Whether it’s beer, bier, cerveza, pivo, birra or øl, this handy guide to beer throughout Europe and its environs will help you get that first cold beer of the holiday into your hands.

beer-map

A tip of the hat and a cheers on Untappd is due to Sitaram Shashri for sending yet another mapping gem my way.

Written and posted from the Nokia UK Office, Paddington, London (51.51939, -0.18160)

Mapping Posh London vs. Hipster London

If you live in a city for any period of time, you form a mental image of what quantifies certain areas or neighbourhoods. If someone mentions, say, posh London, I instantly think of the area around Mayfair and Knightsbridge. But you could put this personal and biased view on a map?

It turns out Yelp has done just that, producing a heat map of my home city of all the reviews that mention posh. It looks pretty much as I’d imagine.

london-yelp-map-posh

The same applies for the term hipster. I’d immediately associate the area around Hoxton and Old Street (AKA Silicon Roundabout) with all things hipsterish. As it turns out, so do Yelp’s reviewers.

london-yelp-map-hipster

All of which is oddly comforting. Maybe my mental map of a city isn’t so personal and subjective after all.

A tip of the hat is due to Chris Osborne for pointing out these mapping gems.

Written and posted from home (51.427051, -0.333344)

150 Years Of The London Underground Map. In Lego.

On the way through South Kensington Tube station this morning, I spied a new Underground map. That’s nothing new, the Underground map seems to be changing frequently these days. But this map was very noticeably different.

There was no Victoria or Jubilee lines at all. The Piccadilly line terminated at Hammersmith and Finsbury Park and had stations that have been closed for years; Brompton Road, Down Street and York Road. The Central Line stopped at Liverpool Street.

south-kensington-lego-tube-map

Did I mention the entire map was made of Lego?

It’s all part of the celebrations marking 150 years of the London Underground network. In addition to the South Kensington map, which shows the tube network circa 1927 and which also explains the closed stations and missing lines, there’s another 4 maps scattered across the network, if you know where to look.

kings-cross-lego-tube-map

At Piccadilly Circus there’s a map from 1933, the first of Harry Beck’s iconic designs. At Green Park there’s a 1969 map. At Stratford there’s an up-to-date 2013 map. Finally at King’s Cross St. Pancras there’s a view of how the map might look in 2020, with Crossrail up and running.

Photo Credits: picolin and vicchi on Flickr.
Written and posted from the Royal Geographical Society (51.50127, -0.17476)