What about London should I map?
February 21, 2008 1:23 PM   Subscribe

What about London should I map?

I'm in an Advanced GIS class for which I need to produce a final cartographic project. The project must begin in ArcGIS but from there I'm free to use anything else (Illustrator, Flash, Google Earth, etc). In the spirit of John Snow, I'd like to make my upcoming trip to London a force for academic good.

I have a GPS unit, a DSLR camera, a student's budget, and a winning personality. What should I map? I'm open to all suggestions as long as they meet the following criteria:

1) The map should present complex and interesting information. I'm not too worried about this one because questions soliciting suggestions on this site often generate very interesting answers.

2) The project/map should be focused.
I'll be in London for only a week and I'd like to make the data collection effort into a sort of overarching theme for my visit. That means I should probably confine my map to one neighborhood or area (I'm staying in Soho, but don't let that restrict you).

3) The data can come from any (accessible) source.
I'd like to have a little fun gathering the data, but if your suggestions for a map can just as easily be constructed with data from other sources, I'd be happy to hear them. I live in the United States, so any return trips are out of the question this semester.

Thanks in advance. If I choose to go with one of the suggestions, I'll keep you updated.
posted by viewofdelft to Travel & Transportation (20 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I'd always wondered what a smell map of London would look like.
posted by randomination at 1:35 PM on February 21, 2008

You could map the pubs in the area. Perhaps you could show beer selection densities and how they vary. Of course this would call for extensive research.
posted by d4nj450n at 1:38 PM on February 21, 2008

How about a map of street people? There was one woman I used to see every day off Charing Cross Road the year I lived in London. It was a total shock to return seven years later and see her in exactly the same location.
posted by roger ackroyd at 1:45 PM on February 21, 2008

1) Restaurants serving vegetarian food. Huge bonus points if you can indicate which of those have consistent, not-just-pasta vegan options. You would be a hero, especially if you could find clusters near certain housing options (i.e., find the "veggie districts" and lodging in those districts).

2) Ancient (Roman) wall ruins. That fascinated me when I visited London recently, though I only saw one wall ruin.
posted by amtho at 1:56 PM on February 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

2nding the pubs. You can show the area influence of pubs! Something in this vein.
posted by xorry at 2:07 PM on February 21, 2008

How about a modern version of Charles Booth's poverty maps? While you are here you could take photos from a sample of surviving buildings (and their replacements) to provide a visual reference then combine that with material from the UK census and other sources to map the persistence and/or movement of poverty.
posted by tallus at 2:08 PM on February 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

Pubs with cats
posted by zemblamatic at 2:23 PM on February 21, 2008

Just location maps would be boring. If, however you found ways of tying pub locations/vegetarian restaurant locations/some other place locations with population statistics, like income/average household age/so on and so forth, it might be more interesting.

I think transit maps are awesome, so I'd probably try to do something showing people migrations during the day and evening, with transport methods and such.
posted by that girl at 2:25 PM on February 21, 2008

Best answer: On behalf of non-mefite Tom Carden, "CCTV cameras or queues, or green routes, or the congestion charge zone. mapping every bus and black cab you see could be fun too... be a nice photo map."
posted by migurski at 3:04 PM on February 21, 2008

At night, there are urinals that pop out of the sidewalk for all the drunken revelers. A map of these would be indispensable.
posted by awesomebrad at 3:24 PM on February 21, 2008

Mobile phone base stations
posted by grouse at 3:55 PM on February 21, 2008

Best answer: Ever since I moved to London I've been curious about the damage from the Blitz - what areas were bombed and how much was razed, the quality of the neighbourhoods that were lost compared with the quality of the develoment that replaced them. For instance, I live smack dab in the centre of a loop in the Thames; roads lead concentrically to Tower Bridge in the east, Waterloo, London etc Bridges directly north, and Vauxhall Bridge in the west. And between here and the river is a vast swathe of city which is just *dead* - big post-war buildings, wide, empty streets, no neighbourhoods, no business, no streetlife. And I suspect that thoughtless, quick rebuilding after the war might be the cause
I guess what I'm wondering is, as a thesis, whether you could map the areas of devastation with a 'quality of neighbourhood' indicator of some kind. E.g. there's an excellent website called 'FancyaPint.com' that maps and ranks the city's pubs. That information - generally an indicator of a thriving neighbourhood - could be compared with mapping of bombed areas. Maybe not pubs, maybe there's some other indicator of vibrancy that would be more accurate. I guess I'd just like to know why such a vast area south of the Thames is just a black hole.
posted by Flashman at 4:20 PM on February 21, 2008

Best answer: it would be cool to have an accent map (a la henry higgins). Not sure if the boundaries are still clear enough, or if you'd have time to do it in a week.

you could map density of a physical feature (ie church steeples or instances of graffiti) vs. any of a variety of demographic features (ie household size or income) to gauge the effectiveness of such visible landmarks as indicators of neighborhood character.

you could produce a city image map.

you could do a raster map of the age of the city (the earliest time anything was built on a given parcel) and project it in 3D like a sinkhole or lake. Maybe easier to do with gov't data, not self-collected on GPS.

has the thames shifted its banks during the history of the city? there could be a way to map that or man's response to it, and it wouldn't have you running all over town quite so much.

you could do a dominant religion map... ok, another thing you won't want to research on foot.

you could map home value vs. proximity to parks or cemetaries.

something related to damage from air bombardment during WWII?

something related to shifting patterns of development as the automobile supplanted rail transport?

I surf strange maps occasionally and they might give you an idea I haven't thought of.
posted by Chris4d at 4:24 PM on February 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

flashman beat me to it while I was writing. It does sound like something you could tackle in a week, especially if you do your mapping and interview locals while you're there and compile the data when you return.
posted by Chris4d at 4:26 PM on February 21, 2008

How about street markets? There are many more than just the well-known ones like Camden Market, Petticoat Lane etc. Evey little neighborhood has a street market of one kind or another, and these days I am betting that they reflect the ethnic make-up of the neighborhoods rather than just the usual fruit and veg stalls.
posted by 543DoublePlay at 4:52 PM on February 21, 2008

Whatever you do, try to somehow import it into the OpenStreetMap. If you have questions or want help doing it, let me know.
posted by yellowbkpk at 5:01 PM on February 21, 2008

Nothing that can now be found at London Remembers, because it's already been done. "The aim of this site is to document all the memorials in London. That's the plaques, monuments, statues, fountains, etc, that commemorate a person, an event, a building, etc. It's an aim we don't think we will ever achieve but we will enjoy the attempt."
posted by eccnineten at 7:28 PM on February 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

Re: bomb damage from the blitz (@Flashman), the London Topographical Society put out a fantastic book in 2005 (that's now out of print and difficult to find) that shows bomb damage throughout London and is color coded from black ("total destruction") to yellow ("blast damage, minor in nature").

It could be pretty cool to pick some neighborhoods that were badly damaged and document what's sprung up since.
posted by reflexed at 4:38 PM on February 22, 2008

First, get a copy of Mapping London, because anything in it has (obviously) been done already. Also, it's an interesting book (rather sloppily edited, as seems to happen a lot these days -- in a few cases it seems like they forgot to send the high-res images and the printer used proofs, and there are copy editing shortcomings -- but overall an enjoyable purchase).

I think from my recent trip I'd want to map something like taxi frequency or operating hours of convenience stores (which I bet would correlate with the ethnicity and religious observance of their owners, but that might appear a bit Orwellian). For something less potentially inflammatory, you could map coffee. Starbucks vs Caffe Nero vs Other. Actually coffee might tell you a lot, as density of coffee places is an indicator of disposable income. You might also find micro-level disparities in pricing, but then again you might not.
posted by fedward at 8:54 PM on February 22, 2008

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