Spatial Thinking in Action

Data may contain a variety of avenues for analysis, whether geographic, temporal, quantitative, or qualitative, which can be difficult to analyze simultaneously. Visualizing data spatially can reveal patterns in the data which would otherwise remain hidden in traditional analysis.

Here we have collected examples of ways in which agencies have used spatial analysis to understand complex data.

Equalized-Density Mapping

Worldmapper presents an entirely new way of understanding the standard world map. The maps presented on this website are equal area cartograms, otherwise known as density-equalizing maps. The cartogram re-sizes each territory according to the variable being mapped. Some of their most interesting maps animate world data, slowly transforming the familiar world map, based on a density-equalized variable, into a startling new image.

Visit the website here

(This world map has been readjusted to depict the size that countries would be if they were scaled relative to size of their population living under a dollar a day. Click the image to view a larger version)

Drug War in Mexico

In this interactive map, variables for analysis can be clicked on or off to express components of the drug war in Mexico. In data for the years 2004, 2007, and 2010, total homicides can be compared to drug related homicides, as can the density of marijuana, opium poppy, and drug lab seizures. Also mapped are major trafficking routes into the United States. This is an example of how data, harnessed by individuals like Diego Valle-Jones, can be used to spread information about controversial topics.

Read more about the project here

Visit the map here

(Click the image to view a larger version. In this map, total homicides are displayed alongside marijuana use)

Recovery in New Orleans

In this interactive map from the New York Times, the recovery of New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina has been mapped regarding resettlement patterns.  More detailed information can be obtained by clicking on the key neighborhood links, or on any part of the map. A button in the lower right corner displays areas with the worst flooding, which allows for an interesting comparison between resettlement and flooding. Best of all, this map is animated temporally. Click on the “play” button in the upper left corner to depict the change in resettlement from 2006 to 2010.

Explore the map here

(In this map, the information for New Orleans East has been selected. Click the image to view a larger version)

Growth of Wal-Mart in America

This animated map depicts the growth of Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer and private employer in the world, from the first Wal-Mart in 1962 up to 2010.

Watch the animation here

(This image depicts the locations of Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club in the year 1992. Click the image to view a larger version)

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