Visualizing events over time, geographically
February 12, 2014 10:12 AM   Subscribe

I have a database that contains many thousands of time-stamped events each of which has a geographic location. What visualization projects could I use to explore this data?

I'd like to graphically show these occurring on a world map, similar to the way this visualization of nuclear tests works.

Are there existing libraries or projects that would jump-start my work, or should I roll my own in Processing? What would you do?

What other interesting things would you do with a pile of this kind of data?
posted by odinsdream to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Do you have access to GIS software? ArcMap has an animation processor. I've only played around with it though, so I'm not sure how powerful it is. To do anything meaningful with it, you'd need to have a pretty good GIS background. ArcGIS or something similar (QGIS) would be a good starting point, but you'll most likely want separate software to process video or do any cartography work.

Mapbox and Tilemill might be of interest to you.

I'm not a huge fan of spatial video animations like the one you linked. I think a far more meaningful and usable way of presenting that data would be to use a draggable timeline slider that would allow the user to move through the visualization at their own pace.

I do this stuff all the time for my geography major, so feel free to MeMail me if you need input on any technical GIS stuff. From what you've said, this sounds like a fun dataset to work with. I'm curious about the nature of the data.

I'll try to think of more ideas and post back if I come up with anything brilliant.
posted by rensar at 10:33 AM on February 12, 2014

Take a look at Tableau Public as well. You're required to save data publically, but they've got some really great visualization tools (including geographic options)
posted by jourman2 at 11:18 AM on February 12, 2014

As a further bit of info: the geographic locations are not scattered randomly. Think along the lines of shipments received at a warehouse, where the warehouse has a specific place but the list of warehouses is fairly small compared to the shipping events.
posted by odinsdream at 11:19 AM on February 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

CartoDB is pretty friendly and can work well for the type of display that you are proposing.
posted by zachxman at 11:32 AM on February 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

There's a visualization library for Javascript called D3.js (factoid: D3 was created by the guy who does visualizations for the NYT). You'll need to write some code, but it gives you a lot of tools related to time and cartography. There are also a huge number of samples to steal take inspiration from.
posted by adamrice at 2:50 PM on February 12, 2014

I'd probably use Leaflet DVF, which is a big-monkey of a plugin for the mapping library Leaflet, for adding data/chartlets to maps.

At day-job, I've shown time series on maps with a slider (with some extra javascripty glue); but depending on what you're trying to map, you could use a colour function to colours markers such that recent markers are bright get progressively less prominent going back through time.
posted by ambilevous at 3:51 PM on February 12, 2014

Seconding CartoDB. Their tool Torque is made specifically for animating time-based events. If you sign up on their academic page, you can get a slightly larger free account for playing around. If you're the crafty type, all of their tools are open source, and can be set up on a server somewhere.
posted by indeterminacy at 6:46 AM on February 13, 2014

CartoDB is really neat! Thanks everyone!
posted by odinsdream at 8:16 PM on February 20, 2014

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