After we came up with Tag Maps at Yahoo! Research Berkeley, Morgan Ames (then one of our star interns) pointed out the surprising similarities to a study that was done 30 years earlier, by Stanley Milgram, the famous social psychologist. In his study, Milgram asked 30+ participants to list names of attraction in Paris. He then visualized these on a map, in a size according to the number of times each was mentioned. Here are the automatically-created, Flickr-based TagMap of Paris (based on geotagged photos taken in that area), and the same exact area as represented by Milgram’s visualization.
I have been showing both these images in my talk for a while now — can’t seem to get sick of them, even if my audience might just be…
I’ve also been talking for a while on how we can use the aggregate contributions on Flickr to mark boundaries of geographical objects, such as, say, neighborhoods, using all the photos tagged with a neighborhood name. Talk is cheap, but the smart people at Flickr not only figured out how to do it (with slightly different data than tags) but also released the data and the source code for anyone to use. Blame Aaron Cope and Rev Dan Catt.
Well, here’s the thing: turns our a famous scholar also beat Flickr to it, some 40 years ago. Kevin Lynch, in his groundbreaking essay/book The Image of the City, collected people’s descriptions and hand-drawn maps of three cities (Boston shown here, also Jersey City and downtown LA). In one study, he extracted the “maximum boundaries” for each neighborhood as drawn by all the interviewees, and plotted them on the map.
Here are the automatically-created, Flickr-based map of Boston Neighborhoods, visualized using the excellent Tom Taylor’s Neighborhood Boundaries, and Lynch’s maximum boundaries of neighborhoods in the same area.
I have pre-ordered Milgram’s book of essays, to arrive in February. Might as well find out what’s there before we re-invent something else!