Re-imagining The London Tube Map With Curves And Circles

Another day, another map and another #mapgasm post. Actually another 2 maps, both of which are by Max Roberts and both of which have appeared on Annie Mole's Going Underground blog.

Continuing my fascination with the map of the London Underground, which I may have posted about before, Max has been wondering what the Tube Map would look like if it was all curved.


Or maybe, just maybe what it would be like if the Tube Map was circular, in the most literal of fashions.


I wonder what Harry Beck would think of these re-imaginings of his iconic map; I think he'd probably approve.

Photo Credits: Max Roberts and Annie Mole on Flickr.

The Greenland Problem And Playing With Mercator's Map

It seems that writing about map projections is a little bit like waiting for one of London's iconic red buses; you write one and immediately another one comes along. As I mentioned in my last post, rightly or wrongly, the most commonly used map projection is the Mercator projection. It's not without it's problems or detractors.

A Mercator map gets more distorted the further north or south of the Equator you move. This is often referred to as The Greenland Problem. Greenland has an area of roughly 0.8 million square miles. Africa on the other hand has an area of roughly 11.6 million square miles. So on the map Africa should be roughly ten times the size of Greenland. Right?

But on a Mercator map it doesn't appear so; both Greenland and Africa look to be approximately the same size; and don't even get me started on how Antarctica is now smeared across the bottom of the map.

People Who Care About Map Projections ... And People Who Don't

Whenever you look at a map, be it on the web, on your mobile or on your wall there's a compromise. The compromise is the map's projection. Or to put it another way, the way in which the roughly spherical lump of rock we live on can be unwrapped and displayed in a flat, two dimensional manner.

There's lots of way of doing this and the ways come with wonderful, almost eccentric sounding names. There's the pseudo-cylindrical projections; Sanson-Flamsteed, Luximuthal or Kavrayskiy's Fifth Projection (no idea what happened to the first four). There's the conic projections; Lambert's Conformal or War Office Polyconic. There's the pseudo-conic projections; Stabius-Werner and Bonne. Or there's the modified azimuthal projections; Wiechel's or Winkel's Tripel Projection.

There's just so many ways of projecting the Earth onto a map. But there's also the one we're all familiar with. It's Gerardus Mercator's Projection and we've been using it, probably without knowing it, since 1569 and it's showing no sign of going away.

Not Your Average User Contributed Map

Today I contributed to a map. I did this yesterday as well. I even did this last week. In fact I've been doing this since the end of July 2009. As of right now I've done this 11,880 times. I'll probably end up contributing to this map again later on today and will almost definitely do it again tomorrow.

But this isn't your average user contributed or crowd sourced map. It's not one of the usual suspects; it's not OpenStreetMap, or Google MapMaker or Nokia MapCreator. It's none of these, but it's a map nonetheless and it looks like this.

2013 - The Year Of The Tangible Map And Return Of The Map As Art

Looking back at the conference talks I gave and the posts I wrote in 2012, two themes are evident.

The first theme is that while there's some utterly gorgeous digital maps being produced these days, such as Stamen's Watercolor, the vast majority of digital maps can't really be classified as art. Despite the ability to style our own maps with relative ease, such as with Carto and MapBox's TileMill, today's maps tend towards the data rich, factual end of the map spectrum. Compare and contrast a regular digital map, on your phone, on your tablet or on a web site in your laptop's browser with a map such as Hemispheriu[m] ab aequinoctiali linea, ad circulu[m] Poli Arctici and you'll see what I mean (and if you don't browse the Norman. B. Leventhal Map Center's Flickr stream you really should).

Making PostgreSQL, PostGIS And A Mac Play Nicely Together

Most things in life are a journey and the destination of this particular journey was to try and create a custom map style that represented the unique features and challenges of Tandale.

Which meant I needed to download and install TileMill, an interactive map design tool.

Which meant I needed to learn Carto, the CSS-like language for map styling.

Which meant I looked for a template project so I didn't have to start from scratch.

Which meant I found OSM Bright.

Which meant I needed to start small and find a map extract of Tanzania to work with.

Which meant I needed to install and configure PostgreSQL and PostGIS on my Mac.

Which brings me to the starting point of the journey and the reason for this post in the first place.

Having My Eyes Opened, My Heart Broken And Finding The True Meaning Of Maps In Tandale

In a really perverse way, first impressions were not unlike the opening lines from Will Crowther's Colossal Cave Adventure game on the PDP-11. But rather than those impressions being this ...

You are standing at the end of a road before a small brick building. Around you is a forest. A small stream flows out of the building and down a gully.

.. my first impressions were this ...

You are standing in a gap between concrete buildings south of the equator. The sun beats down. Around you is a mass of similar buildings with corrugated iron roofs. A small stream flows in a gully between the buildings. The stream is made up of water and human waste. A river tries to flow nearby, but it's blocked by tons of rubbish and what water there is is black and bubbles noxiously. The smell is overpowering and overwhelming. People live here.

But this isn't a game and this place really exists. It's called Tandale and the polite way of referring to it is an unplanned development. Tandale is almost a city in its own right. It occupies a small area to the North West of Tanzania's largest city, Dar es Salaam. Tandale is an enclave, surrounded by the growing suburbs of Dar es Salaam. In 2002, a census showed there was a population of just over 45,000 people living here. Now, towards the end of 2012, the number must be much much higher.

Three Days. Three Cities. Three Continents

There's a saying that travel broadens the mind. It's a cliche but cliches generally come about because they're true. This week my mind has been considerably broadened, visting the Tandale slum on the outskirts of Dar es Salaam and attending and judging the Sanitation Hackathon, but more about that in a later post.

The week started in Chicago, the Windy City, which lived up to its name, being cold, windy and with crystal clear skies. It's a classic example of the American style of high rise architecture and the view from one of the meeting rooms in Nokia's offices were spectacular.

The Case Of Sandy Island; Mapping Error Or Copyright Trap?

There's a phrase in Latin that goes errare humanum est which roughly translates as everyone makes mistakes. This is true of so many things and maps are no exception. However much we try to make today's maps as authentic, up to date and accurate as we can, the occasional mistake slips in; it's more a case of when rather than if.

But if you find a mistake in a map, is it really a mistake or it is a deliberate error, placed there as a copyright trap to provide evidence of the origin of a copied map? This is a vague area at best. Some map makers are up front about this.